Friday, June 12, 2015

Worth Mentioning - 21st Century Kong

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody takes a look at some King Kong animation.


Produced in reaction to Godzilla: The Series, the animated show that spun off from the 1998 American Godzilla film, this cartoon continuation of the King Kong brand uses the events of the original 1933 King Kong as backstory. All of those things happened. Kong was taken from Skull Island (called Kong Island here) to New York City, escaped captivity, climbed the Empire State Building, and was killed. So where did this show's version of the titular character come from? He is the product of cloning.

A scientist called Lorna Jenkins created this new Kong by combining the DNA of the original Kong with that of her grandson Jason's, because why not? By this point in time, Jenkins is also the only person in the world who knows the location of Kong Island, which makes her the target of a terrorist named Ramon De la Porta, who is seeking the thirteen Primal Stones that are hidden away beneath a temple on Kong Island, used to keep a demon called Chiros the Destroyer imprisoned. With the Primal Stones in his possession, De la Porta would have absolute power, control over all elements in the universe.

De la Porta is obsessive in his quest for the stones, forcing Jenkins' grandson Jason, his friend Tann, Kong Island native/shaman Lua, and Kong himself into a constant, globetrotting fight to keep the power-hungry madman and his henchmen at bay.

Adding a unique twist to the situation are headsets called Cyberlinks, which are able to merge the DNA of different subjects. When Kong goes into battle, Jason activates the merger sequence on his Cyberlink headset and is zapped into Kong's mind, the college kid and the animal inhabit the same body. It works the other way around, too. By activating a reverse merger sequence, Jason can have Kong zapped into his mind. This is easier for travel than having to haul a giant gorilla around, however Kong's animal instincts do get to Jason the more the merger sequence goes on for.

De la Porta's henchmen also have Cyberlink headsets, and when when they activate their merger sequence, their DNA is merged with that of any type of animals that might be near, and this is how new kaiju are worked into episodes throughout the series. Kong regularly has to get into tussles with a De la Porta henchman who has mixed a couple different animals together into a giant monster.

The show ran for 40 episodes, so of course the characters couldn't be up against just De la Porta in every single one of them. They also have to contend with the minions of Chiros, a big game hunter, Atlanteans, time travel, an Egyptian god, a gun runner, and other villains and complications.

There's not a whole lot to Kong, but it's an entertaining show that did its best to pack each episode with as much action as possible. Because of that, I think kids would probably enjoy watching it.


The Kong cartoon series ran its course, but when Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong remake started to come together, production company BKN International had a reason to bring its characters and concepts back to the screen.

The feature film follow-up to the animated series begins with island shaman Lua having a nightmare about Kong rampaging through New York City as the lost continent of Atlantis rises from the surface just off of New York Harbor. Lua fears it was no simple nightmare, but a vision that an ancient Prophecy of Doom is soon to come true. The solar eclipse about to occur and the tar pits that suddenly come bubbling up around the island lend credence to this fear.

Atlantis was always part of the cartoon's mythology; Kong Island was once connected to Atlantis and the original King Kong was its protector. He even banished a rampaging demon who threatened to destroy the continent. This film gives further details, revealing that a serpent woman named Reptilla took control of Atlantis sometime after that, and was so evil that King Kong had to help cause the sinking of the continent to stop her.

With Atlantis starting to rise again, Queen Reptilla's serpentine followers (there are shades of the Cobra-La in G.I. Joe: The Movie here) seek the new Kong's aid in helping them wreak havoc around the world. Kong is corrupted and turned to the dark side, a transition that will be made complete when he is crowned the King of Atlantis, with some kind of technology in the crown that will allow Reptilla to take full control of his mind.

Aided by the primitive rebellion forces of Atlantis's surviving humans, Jason, Lua, and Tann seek to convince Kong to reject the serpents and help them fight against Reptilla before it's too late.
Kong: King of Atlantis certainly isn't on the level of the average animated movie that gets released in theatres, they're not giving Pixar a run for their money here, but as far as animated B-movies go, it's pretty decent.

If you've ever seen an episode of the Kong cartoon, you know what to expect, because King of Atlantis sticks to its roots. It's fast paced and action packed. The main conflict is already in play by the 20 minute point, and the characters are dealing with it for the rest of the 69 minute running time.

One odd step was taken that makes the movie a little different than it would have been if it was just a three episode arc of the series. BKN International decided to take an old school Disney approach and add in musical numbers. On a few occasions, characters break out into song mid-scene to work through relationship issues, get their point across, or just because they're musically inclined. There were no musical numbers on the series, so imagine how jarring it is to see characters you've followed through 40 episodes suddenly burst into song. These songs aren't classics, but "Decide Now" might get stuck in your head.

Kong: King of Atlantis isn't a classic, but it's an entertaining enough 69 minute diversion.


Kong: King of Atlantis must have been rather successful because a sequel was made that was released in 2007, a year when there were no Godzilla or other King Kong projects to help it gain attention.

This animated franchise always had a tenuous connection to the original 1933 King Kong, but it never delved into the details in an in-depth manner. It was simply established that the events we know from that film occurred; Kong was transported to New York City, busted loose, and died in a fall from the Empire State Building. Sometime after that, the clone at the center of the series was created by Lorna Jenkins.

Through flashbacks and expository dialogue, Return to the Jungle finally gives the complete story, and in doing so actually removes the series from the '33 film's continuity. Here, it is said that Jenkins was part of an expedition to Kong Island that was led by a man named Hunter Stagg, and it was Stagg who captured the original Kong and transported him to New York City. That's not how it was in the classic movie that, at its core, this animated feature is essentially a remake of.

Stagg's grandson, Hunter Stagg III, has opened a hi-tech zoo on a manmade island in the New York Harbor that he intends to make the most unusual zoo on Earth. To accomplish this goal, he tracks college-age martial arts expert Jason Jenkins and his billionaire friend Tann back to Kong Island, where Lorna Jenkins now resides with her creation. Aided by vengeance-seeking terrorist Ramon De la Porta (who had been the primary villain in the TV show) and an army of heavily armed robots called Cyber-Hunters, Stagg raids the island and captures Kong, along with various other members of the exotic and prehistoric species that live in the island's jungle.

The animals are then transported back to Stagg's zoo. At first, there seems to be a touch of Jurassic Park to the villains' schemes, as there's a plan to use Lorna Jenkins's DNA research to clone the dinosaurs now in their possession. But as it turns out, the construction of the zoo was just a huge waste of money, because Stagg always intended for the Kong Island animals to escape captivity. He wants them to rampage through the streets of Manhattan. He'll blame De la Porta for the event, which will allow him to go on the ultimate "big game hunt" in the urban jungle.

Rampage through the streets Kong and the prehistoric animals do, as Jason, Tann, and Kong Island native/shaman Lua race to the city to try to stop Stagg before it's too late.

The Kong cartoon was never high quality to begin with, but Kong: Return to the Jungle is an obvious step down from the start. The hand-drawn animation of the forty episode series and King of Atlantis has been replaced with some very low-rent and clunky looking CGI animation. The characters and concepts are the same as what came before, but the presentation has changed, and not for the better.

The biggest issue with the movie aside from the animation is that the choice to remake the '33 film, albeit a remake with advanced technology at play in the story, is a strange approach to take forty episodes and a feature in. The series had a wider scope and a deeper mythology to work with than this. With that said, the way it's done is passably entertaining, and there's plenty of action that should keep younger viewers interested throughout.

Like King of Atlantis, Return to the Jungle has a musical element that was not present in the show, but thankfully the characters are not the ones singing this time around, instead songs just play over montages. That's much easier to swallow, although the songs themselves may still make you gag.

It's certainly a cheap, B-movie endeavor, but that's what this iteration of Kong always was. A simple, fluffy cash-in. That doesn't mean it can't be fun, and I found Return to the Jungle an enjoyable way to spend 82 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The only one I've even heard of is the animated series and it doesn't all that appealing. Great work clueing me on something I missed.