It’s always odd when a film or TV series doesn’t have a section on Wikipedia. Relatively unknown films like Hunter Prey (one of the greatest science fiction films by the way) has a section, but something as big with the King Kong name? The entire King of the Apes show has been on Netflix for six days already, yet there’s no section. Not only that, but marketing has been extremely poor. Prior to its release, there was no trailer. I’ll say that again: Netflix didn’t release a trailer beforehand. Actual information had also been scarce, right up until release day. And even then, the show just released with virtually no one realizing it. If a colleague didn’t remind me I probably would have forgotten about it until I turned on Netflix. Putting these negative aspects to the side, perhaps the pilot film would actually be pretty solid. Unfortunately it’s not. It’s competently written, but in the most generic way possible.
There are somethings you know about five minutes in whether it’s going to be mediocre or not. I already knew then I wouldn’t be checking out the remainder of the episodes here, but for the sake of perhaps being the only website review on the planet for the show, I powered through. King of the Apes is produced by Avi Arad, whom is a veteran with various shows and films. Unfortunately his most recently produced cartoon was PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures, and we all know awful that was. With the similar CGI and few images Netflix released, Kong sadly looked to invoke a Ghostly Adventures feel. Of course, when you’re a reviewer you have to do your best to put out preconceived notions. I also actually like the Kong films and character, so I went in hoping a new Kong show (yes there was one where he was “King of Atlantis”…which was probably better than this one!) would be interesting. Sadly it’s not.
The show’s main character aside from the gorilla is Lukas. For the first quarter of the pilot the story showcases the relationship between him, his brother, and their father alongside Kong. This was definitely a smart way to establish the status quo for present day…in theory. Everything happens so fast despite the premiere having more than a hour to develop the characters. Lukas becomes Kong’s friend abnormally fast. What’s worst however is Richard, the brother of Lukas. If you thought Caillou was a brat, this kid takes it tenfold. He hates Kong for virtually no reason on the onset. When the explosion happens in the lab (which of course was caused by his blundering) the viewer wishes he would have died right there. (That’s a harsh statement I know, but in cartoon land it’s okay.)
The dialogue between the sons and father is completely forced and unnatural. The show even then tries to add deepness in a single sentence stating there was a divorce, but that plot point is quickly forgotten as the mediocre story continues. The entire point of showcasing the younger years was to show Kong’s friendship with Lukas and Richard’s rise to villainy. Richard is perhaps the most generic villain in the last few decades. All he’s missing is his twirling mustache. His motivation wasn’t clearly established back then, and it’s terrible in the present. It’s a scary thought that every episode will probably have him executing some one note plan that the heroes foil.
Quite a few of the characters have such mediocre designs. Lukas’ in particular embodies the generic “surfer dude”look for example. The voice acting is pretty awful and shows no one really cared about the product. Richard’s voice as a kid was so jarring I wouldn’t be surprised if some kids gave up after the sixth scene with him complaining. I did like the subtle building up to the giant robotic T-Rex from back then. Under different writing, this could have been fantastic, even frightening build-up. How about the action? Given the CGI nature and behemoth characters, the action scenes should be good. Unfortunately, they are incredibly lackluster. They’re more suited for a TV Y program. (To put this in perspective, My Little Pony, a TV-Y program, has better fight scenes.)
We’ll stop here. King of the Apes is incredibly mediocre. Kong himself is often portrayed as goofy rather than powerful, which longtime fans will find tough to get through. (Back in the day he could go one-on-one with Godzilla.) It’s true the show’s target audience is kids, but awful writing like this is no excuse. Why would you show your child this mindless entertainment (even calling it entertainment is a stretch) when there’s actual heart and thought put into other programs? Other shows on Netflix such as My Little Pony, Magic School Bus, Justice League, and many more offer better entertainment and makes the viewer think. If Kong had actually tried I could have forgiven it, but the problem is that it doesn’t try to be anything great.