Video: 5 stars
Audio: 5 stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'King Kong' first arrived on HD DVD in a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer, which featured the film's 187-minute version only. It was a highly-anticipated release, and as I noted in my original review, a five-star, reference-quality high-def presentation. The film now arrives on Blu-ray over two years later, and nothing much has changed. We now get the option of either the 187 or 200-minute versions (accessible via seamless branching and spread across a BD-50 dual-layer disc), and the source is the same. The additional footage is seamlessly integrated, making watching either cut a pleasure.
My personal feelings about the CGI notwithstanding, 'King Kong' is a visually sumptuous film. The production design, costumes and physical locations are simply some of the finest Hollywood has produced in recent memory (I guess when you have a $200 million production budget you can afford the best). I remain tremendously impressed by the cinematography by Andrew Lesnie. He gives the film a supple, rich and textured look that is both pristine yet realistic, modern and timeless. The film's luscious color scheme comes through wonderfully on high-def. Hues are perfectly saturated and fleshtones dead-on. There is a slight softness to the image that is consistent with Lesnie and Peter Jackson's use of filters and diffused lighting, but it does not affect this transfer's wonderful sense of depth and three-dimensionality. Sure, it is a cliche, but there are moments during 'King Kong' that are picture perfect, where your home theater screen becomes a window.
Given the film's extensive computer-generated imagery, some may find fault with the effects-heavy scenes that sometimes look a bit flatter and less sharp. In particular, the heavy motion blur applied to Kong and his various nemeses -- such as the dinosaurs -- does give those scenes a more muted and fuzzy look. But that's the way it goes with today's heavily-processed visual effects extravaganzas, and even the "worst" shots of 'Kong' still hold up with the best I've seen on Blu-ray. 'King Kong' didn't disappoint the first time around on HD DVD, and it doesn't disappoint now.The Audio: Rating the Sound
Universal has greatly improved 'King Kong's audio on Blu-ray, giving us a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) versus the Dolby Digital-Plus track on the HD DVD. The improvement is clear, and 'King Kong' roars even louder.
The majority of 'King Kong' sounds demo-worthy. The many bombastic fight scenes and Kong rampages are sonic nirvana. The Kong vs. Dinos scene remains my highlight, as is the extended climax on top of the Empire State Building. The 360-degree soundfield that is created is simply flawless and incredibly immersive as the bi-planes whiz around Kong's head. It's clear the sound designers outdid themselves in having fun with the mix -- transparency, pans and the sense of detail and realism to the discrete effects is second-to-none ('King Kong' didn't win the Oscar for Best Sound for nothing). Dynamics are also incredibly powerful, with low bass some of the best I've heard in recent months.
'King Kong' can be subtle, too. The sense of atmosphere is first-rate. The early scenes with Jack Black and company near the jungle island are alive with ambience and intricate sound effects. And when the crew is first surrounded by the island savages, the wall of sound that envelopes is quite effective. Dialogue is perfectly balanced in the mix. I never once had to adjust my volume control, which is a true rarity for a film like 'King Kong.' I didn't love the film, but I loved this soundtrack.http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1943/kingkong2005.html