Kong: King of AtlantisReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 11/21/05 22:33:39
I have not seen “The Mighty Kong,” the 1998 direct-to-video animated musical retelling of “King Kong” that featured Jodi “Little Mermaid” Benson as Ann Darrow and Dudley Moore as both Carl Denham and Kong himself. But I can’t imagine any possibility that would find that movie to be worse than “Kong: King of Atlantis,” a brand new (and yes, direct-to-video) animated musical spin-off of “Kong: The Animated Series.”Both the series and the movie come to us from BKN, the animation studio responsible for such televised embarrassments as “Extreme Dinosaurs,” “Highlander: The Animated Series,” and my personal favorite, “Rambo: The Animated Series.” In other words, if you have a lukewarm property and are looking for cheaply produced cartoons to help sell your cheaply made tie-in action figures (and don’t mind having the clunky words “The Animated Series” stapled onto the end of a title), BKN’s the company for you.
Anyway. A little internet research helped me understand just what the hell was happening in “King of Atlantis.” It seems that the “Kong” series (which, by the way, was completely unrelated to both “The Mighty Kong” and surprisingly has nothing at all to do with Peter Jackson’s upcoming remake) picked up after the 1933 classic, with a modern day Kong clone being made from the big ape’s DNA, mixed, for some reason, with the DNA of a human named Jason; the new Kong and Jason are now considered brothers, and with the help of some headphone thingie called the “Cyber-Link,” Jason can now enter and control New Kong’s brain. Oh, and when Jason/Kong gets really mad, the ape grows into “Mega-Kong.” I’d joke about the preposterousness of it all, but then, as a kid, I was into the “G.I. Joe” cartoon, which featured such fits of ridiculousness on a daily basis. So on the logic scale, “Kong” gets let off the hook.
As for the movie, if, like me, you go in without this knowledge, prepare to be lost. Not that you’ll be too disappointed, of course; the weak animation, lame-brained plot, and uninvolving action will trump any confusion you may have over the intricacies of the characters’ motivations.
“King of Atlantis” has something to do with the ancient empire returning to Earth, its evil ruler, “Queen Reptilla,” hoping to trick New Kong into becoming King of Atlantis (hence the title). You see, Atlantis (which exists undersea, or maybe in another dimension, or something) is a divided empire, with rebel forces out to take down Reptilla. But Old Kong used to be the king long ago, and if she can get New Kong to be king too, then maybe the citizens will become united again - but under her evil rule, you see, as Kong will be wearing some sort of mind-control crown.
I reluctantly credit the filmmakers for managing to make this sound halfway understandable as the story progresses.
If Reptilla is not stopped, Atlantis will wind up destroying Earth, or whatever, and so Kong’s human friends journey to the lost empire to find their big, purple pal. (Yup - Kong here is kind of a bluish-purple, making Grape Ape references inescapable.) Most of the story is typical Saturday morning idiocy - consider the one sequence in which Kong fights two dinosaurs wearing battle armor. You would not think that dinosaurs would need battle armor, but hey, it’d make a great toy, wouldn’t it?
There’s nothing here you haven’t seen in, say, “Captain Planet” or “Godzilla” or any of the countless other forgettable cartoons of the 1990s, which this film most closely resembles. We’re thrown a surfer dude character (who gets to say things like “Mondo headache!”), a friendly bear as a sidekick (he doesn’t talk, of course, because a talking bear would just be silly), and action scenes that push the dopey meter to its limits (did you know shooting an arrow at a log can make the log explode?).
Where “King of Atlantis” goes from being idiotic-but-ignorable toy commercial to mind-bogglingly bad cartoon is in its songs. Someone at BKN had the bright idea to dump a handful of songs into the mix - songs that sound like rejects from Disney’s mid-90s works, sloppy Broadway-lite numbers that range from asinine to unintentionally hilarious. Sample lyric: “Kong! Kong! Kong! / Don’t listen to him / the boy is wrong” and “Come save the island / Please trust me / I’m not lying.” Who knew “island” and “lying” rhymed?
And who thought grade school boys (who are obviously the target audience here) would want their explosion-filled action to stop every now and then so we can get a sappy ditty about friendship?“King of Atlantis” will go over well with kids, I suppose, in the same sense that most shoddy action cartoons somehow manage to go over well with kids; my own daughter enjoyed it enough, for reasons I do not fully understand. But it’s just no good at all, not in its production, its story, its anything. As a Kong fan, I didn’t even care about the bastardization of the title character. I just wanted seventy minutes of tolerable cartoon fun. And what I got was a flop that makes “James Bond, Jr.” look like “Challenge of the GoBots.” Or something.
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