I know it’s been a while, Action Force. I’ve been busy, and it’s not as if this site gets a ton of traffic. Still, I know for some of you, my wit and wisdom is a highlight of your day (or so I assume), so I’m back.
By the way, this weekend I’ll be at OASIS in Orlando, Florida as Author Guest of Honor. I probably should’ve mentioned that earlier, but I’m very bad at this promotional stuff. So, hey, if you happen to be in the area, drop on in. You’ll be glad you did.
Meanwhile, I’m back to talk about a subject that literally no one demanded!
The Netflix Original animated series, Kong, King of the Apes.
FUN FACT: The first thing I ever wrote on the internet was an in-depth comparison of the various King Kong films. It was back in the ancient days of MySpace, but it might be out there still. This is the internet. So it feels like coming home.
Kong, King of the Apes is a show loosely built on King Kong. And I do mean loosely. The story takes place in the future. Kong doesn’t come from Skull Island but is rather the last wild gorilla who is captured by poachers as a baby, rescued by a kid, and eventually grows into a giant for no clear reason.
This is the first weird element. While I’m perfectly willing to accept a giant gorilla in a story called Kong, it’s weird that he starts out normal and grows huge. It feels especially weird when this is a science fiction setting and all that would be required was Kong eating a sci fi growth hormone or getting blasted by gamma rays to justify it. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Kong becomes part of a family with a scientist father and his twin sons. Right off the bat, we’re given broad characterization. Good Twin is all enthusiasm and positivity while Evil Twin is nothing but complaints and snark. None of it’s subtle, but this is a show aimed at children, so I cut it some slack.
On a side note, the animation, while decent, is a bit flat at times. It’s often lacks weight. Kong, despite his immense size, never feels heavy or titanic. But as animation goes, it’s better than a lot of stuff for TV. The biggest strike for me is probably Kong himself, who looks a little too friendly. I get that he’s not supposed to be a monster, but he comes across as a big ol’ teddy bear rather than a powerful beast.
A turning point in the story comes when Evil Twin and Professor Dad team up to create a cyborg dinosaur. It’s a way for Professor Dad to bond with his (clearly Evil-in-Training) son. Evil Twin isn’t interested in building a friendly dinosaur. No, he makes a T-Rex and even talks about modifying it to crush those who stand in their way. Professor Dad lauds Evil Twin for his efforts.
Look, Professor Dad, I’m not a father myself, so I don’t want to backseat parent, but when your son is building deadly robots to destroy his enemies, it might be time to have a talk.
Instead, Professor Dad and Good Twin remain oblivious to Evil Twin’s rising megalomania (as well as his unrelenting hatred of Kong), so they’re utterly surprised when Evil Twin tricks them into leaving so that he can polish his deadly robot dinosaur with equally deadly lasers!
Did I mention that Prof Dad’s laboratory has deadly lasers? And that Evil Twin is expressly forbidden from using those lasers? Because, again, I’m not trying to tell you how to parent, Prof Dad, but these seems like questionable choices.
Much to no one’s surprise, not even the children watching this, the deadly lasers go amuck. Evil Twin is nearly killed, but saved by Kong. Evil Twin, being Evil, blames Kong for the accident instead of taking responsibility for his actions. He is Classically Evil, right? He gets a cybernetic eye. A big red one that is in no way something an Evil Genius would have.
Flash forward to adulthood. Kong saves some people and comes to public attention. When it’s shown that he’s not dangerous, it’s agreed to transform Alcatraz into a sanctuary for Kong as well as other endangered animals because . . . it’s a TV show. Don’t think too much about it. Evil Twin is brought in to design a control collar that can inflict pain on Kong (for public safety, of course).
Speaking of Evil Twin, he’s clearly embraced his Evil side by now. He sneers and smirks and otherwise acts like an untrustworthy jerk. Nobody seems to notice or care. I get that Prof Dad isn’t the best parent, but this isn’t deep psychology here. When Evil Twin shows up with his Robotic Girlfriend and plans to build even bigger cyborg dinosaurs, I think some suspicion is in order.
Robotic Girlfriend became my favorite character by the end of the pilot movie. Her animation is very interesting. She deliberately moves more mechanically than the other characters, yet usually in a subtle way. Her expressions are a little more vacant (though she still does have expressions), and her voice is more monotone while still conveying some personality. Rather than being a mere servant for Evil Twin, she exhibits her own personality and thoughts. I guess Evil Twin’s love of science is such that he built a Robotic Girlfriend who can call him on his crap now and then.
Fast forward again. Kong Island is built and a tourist attraction. Evil Twin has built an army of cyborg monsters to playfully “menace” the visitors. Except that no one seems to mind that these are actually cyborg monsters. It’d be a bit like visiting the Haunted House at Disneyland and finding out that they’re real ghosts who want to devour your soul, but don’t worry, the Imagineers are on top of it. Evil Twin is bothered that people seem to like Kong and the real animals over his To-The-Death Dinosaur Fights, and here’s where I kind of agree with him. Sure, Kong’s unique, but I don’t care how rare a giraffe is in the future. We’re talking about Cyborg Dinosaur Battles!
Evil Twin’s next move is to make Kong look evil by screwing with his control collar. This leads to a rather strange scene where Kong is clearly wrestling with the collar while crying out in anger, and our heroes simultaneously realize that something is wrong with the big guy while never once questioning the pain device wrapped around his neck. The one he keeps clawing at. The one controlled by Evil Twin who has NEVER hid his resentment of Kong, whom he blames for both his cyborg eye and for taking the spotlight away from his dinosaurs.
I’m just suggesting that much of this could’ve been avoided if someone, anyone, had taken the time to notice Evil Twin was Evil.
Oh, and at some point, Prof Dad dies. I don’t remember when. It’s off camera and between transitions. So much for him.
Evil Twin’s scheme to make Kong rampage works. He unleashes his dinosaurs, and there’s a fight. It’s a decent scrap and surprisingly violent. I know that the dinosaurs are robots, but when Kong decapitates one, it’s only the wires and lack of blood that make that clear. Kong destroys the dinosaurs and flees.
He and Good Twin and the Housekeeper and the other heroes retreat to their secret base in the nearby forest because, yes, Good Twin built a secret base that can turn invisible in the nearby forest because this is a cartoon and stuff like that isn’t that weird in a cartoon. Evil Twin threatens an endangered liger and her cub, and our heroes spring into action. There’s another fight in the city, and Evil Twin has upgraded his dinosaurs with lasers now. I only question why he didn’t do this sooner, but maybe the lasers were being shipped. Kong fights off the laser dinosaur, and the ligers are rescued. Except they’re not. Mama liger dies (off screen), and the first episode / movie ends with the promise of more Kong / robot fights in the future as our heroes struggle to clear their names.
Did I not mention the Housekeeper? She’s not really important, but she’s a decent character. She has a cyborg parrot too who DOESN’T shoot lasers, which I feel is a missed opportunity.
Overall, Kong, King of the Apes is decent if unspectacular. It doesn’t do anything terribly memorable, but as kids shows, I’ve seen worse. I like aspects of the animation, particularly the character designs. The story itself is simple, and though it’s aimed at a younger audience, a little subtext would be nice now and then. Evil Twin is so obviously Evil that it’s hard to imagine anyone not noticing it.
I do hope in future episodes that Kong fights more than just dinosaurs. At one point, he wrestles a giant robot squid, and I would like to think that Evil Twin has enough imagination to build some cool monsters to challenge Kong, but that would require building and animating different models, which may be out of the budget of the show.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and do my actual job, which involves writing stories where robots fight slime monsters for the fate of the universe.
Truly, we live in an age of wonders.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,