July 04, 2012
There are a number of things I liked about this edit but ultimately I think the narrative is ruined by overzealous cutting of too much backstory. Motivations for most of the characters are gone, and it's almost impossible to appreciate the story without keeping in the back of your mind the full version as released theatrically.
I re-watched Jackson's extended version of the film the other night, and although I still enjoy it very much the length does start to wear on you. Hoping to get an idea of how the movie might play out in the hands of a fan editor, I checked the data base and found that this cut was available. The reported length sounded promising, as did many of the positive reviews, so I took a look at it last night.
Some of the editing choices here are simply brilliant. The shortening of the T-Rex fight is masterful. Most of the stuff from Jackson's version that struck me as being self-indulgent has been cut and the technical aspects of the editing are fantastic. But--
Why is Jack Driscoll on this voyage? It's mentioned that he's the scriptwriter, but we never see him write. The fact that the picture starts without a finished script isn't adequately explained, so there doesn't appear to be any reason for Jack to have tagged along.
Why do Jack and Ann fall in love? We get a couple of scenes of their apparent annoyance and awkwardness around each other, then suddenly they're making goo-goo eyes at each other and holding hands. We need something to show why Ann would suddenly turn to Jack in a crisis after the cool reception they've been giving each other previously.
Why is Jimmy so distraught over Hayes' death? The edit gives us no clue as to the relationship between the two characters, so he seems pretty overwrought compared to his reactions to the deaths of others in the party. Cutting the whole Heart of Darkness stuff was a good idea, but we really need to see something of the relationship between the two to understand the impact that Hayes' death has on Jimmy.
How did the crew learn that Denham had no intention of going to Singapore? There's nothing left in the narrative to explain how they knew when confronting Denham about his real plans.
Why are Jack and Ann estranged after their return to New York? We see that she's a bit miffed when Jack holds her back from Kong during the capture scene, but without knowing that he wrote a play for her and she is missing from its cast when it appears on Broadway it comes as a surprise to learn that Jack doesn't know that Denham was forced to replace her in his show.
How did Ann know that Kong meant "beautiful" as he watched the sun rise over New York and patted his heart? The bit where Ann taught him the gesture while watching the sunset on Skull Island has been cut.
A couple of other editing choices also strike me as odd. I like the cutting of the Brontosaurs falling over the cliff edge, but I think it was a mistake to cut Denham discovering the Brontos and forcing Baxter into a scene with them. The later joke where Baxter forces his way out of the Alhambra Theater suffers by cutting the similar way he forces his way off camera when the Brontos start to get restless.
I do like the cutting of the underwater scenes from the encounter with the giant catfish (or whatever), but I probably would have omitted the entire sequence. It wasn't missed in the theatrical version, so cutting it here might have left some more time for adding back some narrative backstory and character motivation.
The DVD file I downloaded had some strobing-type effect in the early scenes on board the Venture so I'm knocking off a star for the video quality. However, I haven't seen anyone else comment on it so perhaps this is an artifact from my own computer.
Although I'm extremely impressed with the technical quality of the editing here, the cuts to the narrative unfortunately strike me as much too extreme, so I cannot really recommend this edit for others. I seem to be in a minority among the reviewers on this, however, so your mileage may vary.