You know the old saying, “the more, the merrier”? Well, Dino De Laurentiis decided to apply that saying when he produced a sequel to his King Kong remake. Not only did he decide to have Kong survive the fall, but he introduced a second giant ape in the movie, only this one would be female, and of course, we get the typical boy meets girl reaction. I remember my Granny taped this movie for me once when it aired on HBO but she missed the first 20 minutes of it, so I never saw the surgery or the capture of the female Kong. It wouldn’t be until years later, when I actually bought my own copy of King Kong Lives that I would actually see the entire movie.
The plot: After the events of the previous movie, it turns out that Kong had survived the fall from the World Trade Center so he is transferred to the Atlanta Institute, where he has remained in a coma ever since. Now, 10 years later, Kong’s heart is beginning to give out and though an artificial heart has been built for Kong, his blood has deteriorated to the point that he will not survive the operation without a transfusion, and the only blood that will match Kong’s type is that of another giant ape. Meanwhile, in the rainforests of Borneo, Hank Mitchell has stumbled upon a giant gorilla that tries to capture him but some friendly natives are able to use drugged spears and darts to knock the gorilla out. Mitchell contacts the Atlanta Institute and makes a deal to transport the ape, which he says is female, to them so they can use the blood for their operation. When he arrives in the states, the media swarm the plane trying to get pictures of the ape, which they began to dub “Lady Kong”. At the Atlanta Institute, blood is taken from Lady Kong and she is placed in a warehouse until a permanent facility can be built. Meanwhile, Dr. Amy Franklin, the head surgeon, performs the heart transplant surgery and despite some complications, the surgery is a success. 3 days after the surgery, Kong comes out of his coma and, sensing the female’s presence nearby, he tries to break free, but his heart can’t handle the strain and Dr. Franklin has him sedated. Going to see the head of the Institute, she informs them of what happened and they ramp up the schedule so they can move Lady Kong in 2 days. When they try to move her, Lady Kong is uncooperative and cries out, which is heard by Kong, who breaks free from his restraints and, after escaping his enclosure, breaks into the enclosure where Lady Kong is being held, frees her, and carries her off into the mountains. An army unit under the command of Lt. Col. R.T. Nevitt is sent out to capture the two apes and cordons off an area around the mountains but Mitchell and Dr. Franklin break through the perimeter and go searching for the two gorillas themselves. When they find them, they witness the giant gorillas undergoing a mating ritual so the set up a camp to keep watch on them. The next morning, the army arrives and manages to subdue Lady Kong when she is alone. When Kong shows up, the army is able to hold him off long enough to transport Lady Kong out of there but when they try to capture Kong, he jumps into a rain-flooded river and is believed to have drowned after smashing his head into some rocks. Months later, Lady Kong is being held at an army facility but when Dr. Franklin is finally able to see her, she finds that Lady Kong is refusing to eat and crying out for Kong, prompting Dr. Franklin to believe that Kong survived. In the swamps below the mountains, Kong is still alive, feeding on alligators for protein as he heals enough to go after Lady Kong. Meanwhile, Mitchell returns from Borneo, where he has managed to secure a large amount of rainforest to act as a preserve but when he tries to get in to see Nevitt or Lady Kong, he is refused. Kong, hearing the cries of Lady Kong, decides to go after her, frightening the people in a small neighborhood when he appears. The next morning, groups of local hunters, as well as the army, go out searching for Kong, as does Mitchell and Dr. Franklin. That night, a group of drunken hunters manage to use explosives to capture Kong in a landslide, but when they begin taunting him Kong manages to break free and kills them. As he continues towards Lady Kong, Kong’s heart begins acting up and Dr. Franklin attempts to use a portable machine to correct his heart rate but Kong steps on the device, and Dr. Franklin says his heart won’t last a day. With Kong heading towards them, Lt. Col. Nevitt defies his orders to capture Kong alive and sends his men out to wait for Kong and kill him when he appears. When night falls, Kong begins throwing mounds of dirt at the army to blind and distract them, allowing him to get by their perimeter, but Lt. Col. Nevitt continues his pursuit. Meanwhile, Mitchell and Dr. Franklin manage to break into the facility to free Lady Kong, where they realize that she is pregnant, but when their attempt is thwarted, Kong arrives to help free Lady Kong. The two giant gorillas make it a short way from the base before Lady Kong collapses onto a barn, where she is begins going into labor. Lt. Col. Nevitt arrives and has his men begin shooting at Kong and Kong battles back in an attempt to protect Lady Kong, eventually killing Lt. Col. Nevitt and either killing or scaring off the other soldiers, before collapsing due to his wounds. Lady Kong gives birth to a male gorilla and Kong reaches out to touch his son before he dies. Sometime later, Lady Kong and the baby are seen living happily in preserve in Borneo.
King Kong Lives was met with negative reviews from the critics and currently holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In Roger Ebert’s review, he said, “The problem with everyone in King Kong Lives is that they’re in a boring movie, and they know they’re in a boring movie, and they just can’t stir themselves to make an effort.” The movie was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Visual Effects but did not win. The movie wound up being a box office flop, earning $4.7 million off of a $19 million budget.
The worst thing about a disappointing remake is a disappointing sequel to said remake. The acting was ok at best but the character development, primarily the romance between Mitchell and Dr. Franklin, really made no sense and seemed to be created just to mirror the relationship between Kong and Lady Kong. The story itself was weak and honestly, aside from the whole heart transplant idea, just seemed uninspired. The special effects were….not really there. The gorilla costumes honestly looked fairly cheap and though the rear screen projection was better in this movie than in the remake, it still couldn’t hide the fact that this was just a bunch of guys in monkey suits. A half-hearted effort and disappointing sequel make for a rather lousy movie to watch.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5