Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong” in 2005 became a groundbreaking King Kong 360 3D attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2010.
But the new “Kong: Skull Island” offers the first and most stunning film of the giant ape in 3D that can be enjoyed at home. (Blu-ray 3D or Ultra HD Combo Packs released today, July 18, 2017, by Warner at $44.95.)
The 3D makes a dynamic impact immediately, beginning with the opening titles dovetailing into the image of man being flung out of a World War II plane seemingly from the center of the sun onto a beach where he is thrust into hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese solider.
Soon after, the story shifts to the 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War with spectacular “Apocalypse Now”-style footage in eye-popping 3D of helicopters flying over oceans, through storms, and into lush jungles filmed on location in Oahu, Hawai’i, Australia’s Gold Coast and Vietnam.
The nearly two-hour film from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) and starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly, is not a remake of the original — Kong never leaves tells the island — but rather a story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, where Kong is king over myriad giant creatures ranging from lizards to birds and insects.
After the dynamic opening half-hour setting up the characters and getting to the island, the story bogs down a bit for about 30-minutes before a solid hour of non-stop epic fights and battles between Kong and the humans as well as other island creatures, which are also presented for maximum 3D impact, though the gruesome scenes grow quickly wearisome. The action scenes take the place of a story that would make the film more compelling – a scene of Kong showing compassion for Brie Larson rings hollow with only a few seconds of set-up previously.
Along with the commentary, the Blu-ray includes hours of extras, including:
- “Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler” (7-min) follows the actor on locations in Vietnam, Hawaii, Australia, as well as humorous comments from actress Brie Larson who admits to being a big fan of her Game Boy.
- “Creating King” (24-min): A two-part documentary “Realizing an Icon” (11 1/2-minutes) / “Summoning a God” (13-min) explores each of the characters and their unique agendas, with Larson describing hers as an independent woman who doesn’t need saving; a description of the creatures, noting that Kong only attacks when being attacked; and Vogt-Roberts explaining that the film pays homage to the original while bringing something completely new: the scale is “vast” and Kong is half human/half gorilla.
- “On Location: Vietnam” (5 1/2 min) shows cast and crew in the northern part of the country that is unfamiliar to movie audiences since it’s one of the first major films to be shot there. The crew fell in love with the local people and culture.
- “Monarch Files 2.0” (8-min): additional unused pretend “archive” footage
- “Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography” (2-min): Vogt-Roberts explaining how he insisted that Brie, whose character is a photo-journalist — use a working camera, which she embraced and enjoyed.
- Deleted Scenes (4-min): four short inconsequential scenes including Packer’s (Samuel L. Jackson) introduction speech, the meeting of Packer and Conrad (Hiddleston), more of Packer in the jungle, and more interaction as the brigade walks through the bamboo jungle.
- Director’s commentary: Vogt-Roberts does a solo running commentary noting the following along the way: he took a videogame-like approach to the action scenes “in a positive way”; the first scene on the beach is his favorite and the first part of the movie is completely different than the last half – “it’s OK to laugh”; among the moments of homage to the original is when Kong is in chains; he loves movies that have people singing or playing music (the last scene on the island in which John C. Reilly sings “We’ll meet again” was an improvised risk); this film is “like a Vietnam war movie mixed with Ray Harryhausen”; audiences made it clear they identified with Marlow (Reilly), so he shot additional footage of Marlow returning home that plays during the closing credits; the post-credit button scene is foreshadowed seconds earlier in text during the credits for close observers who notice the credit noting that Godzilla, Mothra and other creatures were created by Toho Co.
All of the special features can be experienced on tablets and mobile phones using the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App. When a Combo Pack is purchased and the digital movie is redeemed, or the digital movie is purchased from an UltraViolet retailer, the App allows users to watch the movie and simultaneously experience synchronized content related to any scene, simply by rotating their device. Synchronized content is presented on the same screen while the movie is playing, thus enabling users to quickly learn more about any scene, such as actor biographies, scene locations, fun trivia, or image galleries.
— By Scott Hettrick