Hello travelers and welcome to the first ever Analysis Complete! I hope your vessels are sea worthy because it's time for the first special report of Kong Month. Actually, scrap the vessels regardless of sea worthiness, because unlike every other version of Kong, this king is land locked.
Kong: King of the Apes is a Netflix original animated series that was released in April of 2016. Season one is made up of 13 episodes, using 3D models, and follows a “problem of the week” narrative structure. Set in the year 2050, the main plot of this show focuses on Kong and his band of environmentally conscious friends duking it out with an evil scientist and his army of robotic dinosaurs.
Spoilers from here on out!
The Above Picture is Deeply Inaccurate...
- Environmental Messages: I really like that it seems the writing staff were all fans of Captain Planet growing up. Not an episode goes by without at least one ham-fisted message about protecting the environment and protecting wildlife. This is a pretty common theme with Toho's kaiju films, so it's nice to see it here. Also I support any media aimed at kids that tries to get them to love nature.
- Diverse Cast: Okay this is stretching it a bit. There are two Spanish speakers (...but one is the family maid) and a brother and sister of Chinese-American descent, though the brother is a huge missed opportunity. Oh, and they have an African-American guy who wants to bang a robot lady. Finally, robosexuals getting some screen time in a kids show. Speaking of banging robots...
Strangely Attractive Robot Dominatrix: This is a kids show right? What's happening here? Her name is Botila, which, I think they only do to set up one Godzilla reference in the later half of the show. Also there is a weird relationship between her and the main villain of the show who built her. Why am I having these feelings? Is this Stockholm Syndrome?
The “Bionobot” Opponents: Richard, the evil brother, has an affinity for long dead creatures (mostly) and has created a fleet of pretty cool looking robot dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Pterodactyls, a few Megalodon, and a Giant robotic squid. While I do like the designs, I have to stress that they copy and paste the models all over making the impact of these monsters run thin pretty quickly.
- Overuse of Iconic Scenes: Every episode, and I mean every single one, has a reference to Kong hanging off of the Empire State Building. The thing is, this show takes place in San Francisco and on “Kong Island” which is just a re-purposed Alcatraz. The animators seem to only vaguely remember the 1933 movie and went off of that for the character actions of Kong.
Everything about this Kong is Wrong: In the first episode Kong manages to speak (saying “Kong!” in response to what his name should be), then reverts to just monkey noises for the rest of the season. He grows in weird spurts that look like the animators randomly resized the model. His face is way too cute even though he's supposed to be frightening.
- “Problem of the Week" is Weak: I can't understand how they missed the opportunity to make this a “Monster of the Week” show. You have an evil scientist who can build robot versions of dinosaurs, clone dead animals, and fit living animals with control collars It really must come down to budget, and that's a real shame.
- Pretty Much Everything About the Animation After the First Episode:They use the same models, but Kong has a weird glide to him every time he runs and character models never directly interact leaving moments where people hover just above Kong's body. Mouths flap with little regard for what the characters are saying.
- Evil Brother is Evil Because...why?: The brother seems to have no real reason for being evil outside of the need for a villain. I don't need a complex layered antagonist, just some basic rational. Kid's aren't dumb, they can pick up on things if you put them there.
The Animal Whisperer: Danny Quon, arguably the replacement main character after the first episode, is welcomed onto the team as a “certified animal whisperer”. This is ridiculous for so many reasons, but I'm going to stick to three.
- That's not a real thing
Everyone can already understand Kong and Kong can understand them.
This one is more personal, but what a waste. If they wanted to have someone talk with Kong, why not have Danny teach Kong sign language. They are pushing an environmental angle and trying to have an inclusive cast of characters that speak different languages, so it would have been nice to have one more positive, inclusive message (and a reference to Koko the gorilla would have been nice for the kiddos).
- The Intro: In my 29 years on this planet I have never seen a lazier intro. It's a hyper cut of the very first episode with some of the show's low key background music. I've never seen a show skip out on the bear minimum of a intro credit song but we don't even get that.
- This Series is a Sisyphean Nightmare: Every episode ends with a character saying that something is going to change, but at the intro of the next episode all character progress is forgotten. But, no one has it worse than Botila, the Robot Dominatrix. At the mid-way point the writers decide that the show should have her turn on Richard. They keep flirting with this idea over and over, ending each episode with a sequence where she says that she's going to do something about him. Then she's just back into the fold at the start of the next episode. To be fair, they do have one episode where she takes over Richard's evil empire, but they roll that back by the end of the day.
Achievement Unlocked: As each episode plays you unlock these “Power Ups” that allow you to watch post-credit fight between Kong and an antagonist. These work like achievements in video games. If you get through the full episode, you get to unlock a special video with the power ups. I actually kinda like this gimmick? I would be down to see this in other Netflix shows, but instead of just a fight sequence maybe have it be tiny “Making Of” videos for the episode.
Kong's Bevy of Merchandise Based Technology: While, to this point in time, there is no Kong: King of the Apes merch (other than some children's pajamas) it is pretty clear that the show was built to sell Kong toys and peripheral attachments. Over the course of the show Kong goes through several tech upgrades including: Laser proof wrist bracelets, a helicopter harness, a Jet pack, and an Invisibility cloak. I know this is just how kid's shows make money, but it comes off as poorly thought out when you see Kong (who is supposed to have the intelligence of a 3 year old) zooming around on a jet pack.
So that's the show, a lazy poorly thought out mess. I'm having a hard time recommending it to anyone as it's not a good show, or even bad enough to be funny. As a kid's show it's visually entertaining enough to keep younger viewers distracted, so maybe it would work if you are a baby sitter taking a smoke break? I'm sure there are better ways to spend 7 and a half hours of your life, like watching any other Kong cartoons...
This has been Analysis Complete, and next time, we will be going back in time to the far off year of 2000.