King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries

For some, the answer will be a resounding “Yes! Yes! A Thousand Times YES!” with good reason, for not only does this set come with the 54 production diary videos which were presented on the website between September 2004 and April 2005 (which have since been removed), but includes a new five and a half minute introduction by Jackson, a bonus previously unseen Production Diary of the film’s second unit visiting the Wellington Zoo to get some shots of animals to be seen in the early moments of the film, and most importantly a seventeen minute featurette explaining how the Kong/T-Rex fight was set up, including the final product as seen in the film. Additional goodies include a 48 page (52 if you include the front and back covers), full color notebook filled with photos from the film and explanations about every video diary entry, a snappy case to hold said notebook and the two DVDs, four 8 1/2 x 11 inch full color prints showing some of the Kong conceptual art created at Jackson’s Weta Workshop and a Certificate of Authenticity from Jackson to ensure everything is on the up and up. The whole collection is then held in a highly detailed box made to look like one of Carl Denham’s briefcases.

Watching the diaries months after the fact, and in sequential order, may bring a new appreciation of the project to some. Jackson and his team are clearly uncomfortable with the cameras at first, unsure whether this experiment (and although more and more filmmakers are hoping on the bandwagon because of these diaries’ success, it was an experiment when they started) would be a benefit. As we are now able to burn through the first month of diaries in about half an hour, it appears those fears and trepidations quickly subsided, as everyone on the cast and crew start to really play to the cameras, to the point where several dairies are more about the craziness between camera setups than the actual production of the film (and those of us who have worked on film sets can attest to how nuts things can get waiting for things to happen). One could even argue these production diaries will become invaluable to future filmmakers, who can see firsthand the realities of filmmaking even more than most of the worthless “behind the scenes” footage seen on other DVDs and on television.

Running over three and a half hours, the production diary videos look much better on a large television screen (especially on a high definition receiver, as they are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) than the postage stamp size versions originally included on the web, with bright and crisp colors and the ability to see much more detail throughout the diaries. Sound has been mastered in 2.0 Dolby Digital, with imperfect qualities to be expected from footage shot on camcorders. The production art prints are beautiful works worthy of framing, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Your own personal enjoyment of the “King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries” DVD set may depend on your own fascination with the process of filmmaking. Watching most of these segments again, at least for this writer, was less satisfying the second time around. I still chuckled at the general wackiness which surrounded two other very famous directors coming in to assist Jackson, during Episode 53 (“Peter Calls in Help,” the flip side of which can be seen at the web episode site for one of those director’s new film), but overall, most of the episodes did not hold up to the scrutiny of extended viewing. (Writer’s note: The viewing of these episodes for this review came after the writer had seen the final film.)

To learn more about the “King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries” DVD set, visit the Universal Studios Home Entertainment website.

Rating: B-