King Kong: Deluxe Special Edition Peter Jackson

Like he did with all three The Lord of the Rings films, Peter Jackson presents an extended version of his King Kong update, and like LOTR, it’s improved overall by greater character detail and a more relaxed storytelling pace. He’s also added more than three hours of documentary - much more detailed and coherently presented than the web-based production diaries offered last year - as well as deleted scenes, bloopers and commentary. The result is as much Kong as one would want; Jackson is compulsive about not repeating himself through various iterations of these products, so the full understanding of his work as a filmmaker is in fact accumulating through all his documentary features on the 1933 Kong reissue and LOTR, as well as work seen here. In new Kong, Jimmy (Jamie Bell) benefits the most. The forlorn orphaned castaway - who seemed nothing more than an unwritten, irritating nuisance in Jackson’s original cut - is suddenly part of a larger ensemble of shipmates, better fleshed out and whose death (along with many others) suddenly has an emotional impact. The biggest new scene is a swamp raft sequence inspired by Kong ’33 that accounts for more than a handful of crew deaths and ramps up the tension (and running time) before we really get to the big gorilla. And that’s what feels different about this Special Edition - while knowledgeable viewers fidgeted through the Venture’s journey, muttering, "get to Skull Island, gotta see Kong,” this longer cut does the film’s work right, setting up a tense and unknown adventure story as if we don’t know what’s coming and where it ends up. It only plays about 20 minutes longer, but in balance, tone and character, it’s well worth it. So too is all the other bonus material here, which fleshes out Jackson’s original, pre-LOTR attempt to make Kong (which was more like The Mummy in tone), plus conceptual artwork, interviews, commentary with Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens, and much more. (Universal)