Not many people know that King Kong, the greatest American monster movie in history, had a direct sequel (less still know that it was bashed out a mere 9 MONTHS after the release of the massively iconic original) but it’s always nerve racking when a child has to follow their parent in the field that’s made them famous, there’s always that expectation to live up a insurmountable legacy while risking suffocation in their immense shadow, an issue such names as Scott Eastwood, Rumer Willis and Jaden Smith will only be too familiar with.
Cheap shots against the children of the Hollywood elite aside, when it comes to the quality of Son Of Kong you really do have to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room, literally, and that is that this incredibly rushed sequel is frankly pretty awful.
It’s been barely a month since King Kong made his massive impact in New York (tough to do anything else once you’ve fatally fallen from the top of the Empire State Building) and Carl Denham, the foolhardy showman who was responsible, is currently in hiding while trying to evade the various lawsuits aimed at him from all sides. Fucking off on a boat to literally run from his troubles and to make money shipping cargo around Asia, the down on his luck turd eventually rolls into a Dutch port and shares a brief attraction with a singer called Helga and bumps into Helstrom, the man who tipped him off about Skull Island in the first place. In a weird quirk of fate (or weak script writing) Helstrom has killed Helga’s father in a drunken argument and joins Denham’s crew only for the singer to stow away to follow him only for all of them to be stranded on Skull Island after a mutiny (I guess sailor’s unions are patchy when it comes to lost islands filled with flesh eating monsters).
Once again trapped in the most inhospitable place on earth, the small group try to survive but are split up and while the main bulk of the group hide from a pushy Styracosaurus, Denham and Helga stumble across a 12 foot, white gorilla that naturally surmise is King Kong’s son despite the obvious lack of anything approaching a Queen Kong.
While Carl sees this as some strange way to express regret as to what happened to daddy Kong while simultaneously searching for treasure (way to be remorseful, you jackass), Junior takes it upon himself to protect the two explorers from the menagerie of human shredding lifeforms that populate the island but can even a giant gorilla save them from a sudden earthquake that threatens to sink Skull Island beneath the waves?
It’s weird to think that a studio rushing out a cheap sequel in order to immediately capitalize on a hugely successful release isn’t actually a new business concept and that filmmakers were fucking up perfectly decent movies as early as 1933 but Son Of Kong relentlessly goes out of it’s way to be as pointless as a fingerless hand.
Cramming the noticably slight running time (a nevertheless sluggish hour and ten minutes) with mindlessly dull diversions, the characters take forever to assemble and get to Kong’s island with numerous time burning scenes mercilessly filling out the early parts of the movie with more padding than a drag queen’s bra. Is there really any reason to focus so much on Helga’s father’s sad looking performing monkey band or endure a whole song from Helga herself when all we are here to see is a gigantic rampaging simian – well the filmmakers seem to think so…
Another strange decision is to make the first movie’s Carl Denham – the person directly responsible for abducting Kong from his natural habitat and unleashing him smack bang in the middle of New York – our hero for this outing, which means we’re supposed to feel bad for all the lawsuits aimed at the man indirectly responsible for multiple human deaths and the fact that midtown Manhattan now smells of giant gorilla carcass. It’s a tall order, especially considering the movie let’s him entirely of the hook simply because he bandages a boo boo on Lil’ Kong’s finger…
Other problems come from the era in which film was made which predictably includes unsavoury portrayals of the natives of Kong’s island (although mercifully brief this time round) and some curious attitudes to women.
“You ought to be beaten to a pulp!” remarks Denham to Hilda when he discovers that she’s stowed away and urges her to be “Quiet and pleasant” as not to “upset” the crew. Speaking of Helga; considering the murder of her father is quite possibly the only real plot arc the humans of the film have to play with, it’s never actually resolved as Helga and Helgstrom are kept apart upon arrival to Skull Island and is rendered moot when the former is conveniently eaten by a sea serpent in an unrelated incident.
The final sizable problem is the film has is where the original King Kong is not only a devastating force of nature, a jaw-dropping watershed moment in visual effects AND a powerful and iconic image in cinematic history; Little Kong is somewhat of a bumbling moron who demonstrates his curious streak by putting the business end of a rifle in his mouth and narrowly avoids self-extincting his entire species by blowing his idiot brains all over a dumbstruck Denham. While Kong Jr. may have the natural survival skills of a moldy apricot, he does demonstrate some nifty MMA style holds in the few times he gets into a scrap, locking a giant bear in an arm bar and clumsily piledriving a lizard creature onto it’s head like the WWE has opened up a wildlife division; but there is nothing here than can even approach the feral majesty of his old man beating three tons of dino shit out of that marauding T-Rex. Further demonstrating how much the filmmakers want to dull the original’s brutal tone is Prince Kong’s feeble attempts at humor as he crosses his eyes after bashing his head on a rock and even at one point breaks the fourth wall by shrugging directly at the audience like he’s fucking Bugs Bunny or something… It’s a far cry from Kong shoving screaming natives into his mouth or flat out murdering dozens of people on a train.
Argubly the nadir of Kong’s cinematic career (although it’s a fucking close one considering 1986’s Kong Kong Lives exists) this hideously rushed sequel manages to retain absolutely zero charm or majesty of the orginal while not even having the decency of being unintentionally hilarious.
All gorilla, no thriller.