Where you are the endangered species.Congo
— Poster tagline
is a 1995 action/adventure film (with a slight comedic streak) based on the novel of the same name
written by Michael Crichton
(of Jurassic Park
An expedition to the titular Congo on telecommunications company Travi-Com's part to develop a laser weapon ends in disaster when the party is slain by an unseen threat. Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), who used to be the fiance of one of the members of the party, is sent to investigate the incident and retrieve the weapon.
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), a primatologist, has invented a device that translates sign-language into audible English, and by doing so has given his pet gorilla, Amy, the ability to speak (she is voiced by Shayna Fox). Amy has been having nightmares, so Peter resolves to take her back to her birthplace in the Congo. At first he is unable to find funding, but then Romanian philanthropist Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry) grants it. It is revealed that Herkermer has an ulterior motive; to find the mythical lost city of Zinj, said to contain an ample diamond mine. Peter, Amy, Herkermer, and Peter's friend Richard (Grant Heslov) meet with Karen and head for Africa. Once there, they meet their guide, Captain Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson), and embark on the expedition.
Along the way, they encounter Zaire soldiers, hippopotami, and finally the city of Zinj itself, guarded by a pack of killer gorillas
responsible for its elusiveness and for the initial expedition's slaughter.
For the nation frequently called The Congo, see Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tropes the film follows:
- Adapted Out: The whole sub-plot regarding The Rival corporate group's expedition and how their Cold War with Travi-Com (Earth Resource Technology Services in the novel) hinders the expedition. The plane that is shot down from the sky by the end of the second act instead becomes that of a third Travi-Com expedition, which cements Travis' Jerkass In Sheep's Clothing status.
Karen: What a waste of lives!
- Adaptational Villainy / Adaptational Heroism: Travis and Ross, respectively. On the original book, Travis is pretty much Da Chief and a reasonable authority figure (even if not adverse to using underhanded methods, but the book mentions and showcases that the competition doesn't hesitates to using them either) while on the movie he is a belligerent jerk that is all too willing to toss anybody to the wolves to make his company prosper (even his own son), while Ross (who is in to keep the company ahead as much as Travis and is profiled (and then shown) to become more heartless and willing to forgo safety (like thinking whether or not it's a good idea to set off explosives on a spot that can trigger a volcano eruption) when the objective is almost at hand) obtains a humane objective (find her fiancee), dislikes people with the same "heartless" mentality as Travis (and takes revenge when Travis picks a very bad time to act like a jerk and exposes himself as a heartless bastard), and the film also removes some of her more amoral moves (like trying to blackmail Munro to have him as a guide and the aforementioned explosives).
- Action Girl: Karen Ross kicks serious ass in the movie. In the novel she's an Ice Queen who becomes overly focused on her goal and inadvertently sets off the volcano.
- Action Survivor: Dr Elliot
- Adaptation Name Change: Munro... sort of. In the novel, he's a white mercenary named Charles Munro. In the film, he's a black mercenary named Munro Kelly. However, both versions refer to him simply as "Munro" after his initial introduction.
- Mega Corp. Earth Resource Technology Services becomes "Travi-Com" on the film. Justified in that ERTS in the novel is a mining and exploration organization that hunts for resources for other businesses whilst Travi-com in the film is a communications company.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Zinj, though only in the "lost civilisation" sense; there's no Ragnarok-Proofing.
- All-Natural Gem Polish: The mines's diamonds.
- All Myths Are True: What's behind Homolka's obsession with discovering King Solomon's mines.
Homolka : "So that's why Solomon's diamonds were never found. The myth of the killer ape is true!"
- And Show It to You: Poor, poor Richard
- Anti-Air: Fortunately the heat-seeking missiles have a problem locking in on a prop-driven airplane. Ross and Munro divert them with Flare Guns.
- Arc Symbol: Eyes.
- Arc Words: "We are watching you."
- Artistic License – Geology: The volcano scene had many geologic sins (diamonds in basalt, etc), but often gets faulted for one part that was actually accurate; the speed of the flow. The Congo is the only place in the world where lava actually can move at freeway speeds due to its consistency (think mud bath, only it would melt your face instead of cleansing your pores).
- Ask a Stupid Question...: "What are they putting on parachutes?" / "Figure it out!"
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Herkemer Homolka is so not a Romanian name. Homolka is actually a Czech surname.
- Badass Bookworm: Dr. Ross is a communications scientist, but also a former CIA operative.
- Berserk Button: Karen Ross is going to the Congo to find Charlie and his team. She is very unhappy when she realizes her boss had an ulterior motive...
- Big Damn Heroes: Amy appears just in time to stop Elliot from being killed by the gorillas.
- Big "OMG!": Richard's default exclamation whenever something bad happens.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted; the character played by Ernie Hudson manages to survive all the way through.
- Blatant Lies: Munro is talking about Homolka's last expedition to find Zinj.
Munro: "Three members of his safari died of exposure. The fourth was shot by (looks at Homolka) we don't know who."
Homolka: "It was an appalling suicide!"
- Bottomless Magazines: Averted when Elliot runs out of ammunition for an Uzi and doesn't know how to reload.
- Border Crossing: The border is closed, so they try flying over it. Which isn't easy when you have army units firing heat-seeking missiles at your plane.
- Bruce Campbell: He orignally audtioned for the part of Peter, but lost out to Dylan Walsh. Director Frank Marshall, however, offered Bruce the "small, dead-in-five-minutes" role as Karen's missing ex-fiance Charlie and Bruce opted to look on the bright side (and get an all-expenses paid Costa Rican vacation to boot).
"Sometimes Hollywood is like a game show: if you don't win the new car, you get a toaster. Who was I to argue with the man who used to produce all of Steven Spielberg
- He's also related that after the first take, the director berated him for adding a few hesitant "er"s and "uh"s in an attempt to make his dialogue sound more natural, causing him to suspect John Patrick Shanley's contract included the filmmakers not being able to change a single word of his script.
- Bulungi: Zaire and The Central African Republic were/are real countries, but their portrayal lends mostly to this trope.
- Butt Monkey: Homolka — everyone who's met him before treats him with contempt.
- California Doubling: Except for certain "establishing" takes in Africa, most of the film was shot in Costa Rica.
- Call Back:
"What the hell is that?!"
"The latest in modern communications!"
- Cannibal Tribe: In the novel only, the team has to constantly avoid a cannibalistic tribe of natives who are at war with the Mobutu government. Partly because they were cannibals, but mostly because Mobutu was a vicious dictator running a People's Republic of Tyranny and he didn't like that said tribe was ignoring him.
- Canon Foreigner: A number of characters appear that were not in the novel:
- Bruce Campbell plays Charlie, former fiance of Karen Ross and leader of the first, doomed expedition. Notably, the addition of this character completely changes Karen's motivation for leading the second expedition - in the novel, she is as big a player of Corporate Warfare as Travis and just as eager to find the diamonds; in the film, she explicitly states the mission is to find Charlie and the other missing team members.
- Both of the major Butt Monkey and/or Plucky Comic Relief characters, Herkermer Homolka and Dr. Elliot's assistant Richard, do not appear in the novel. Homolka is mentioned on the novel, but nothing comes from it (so in his case he would be an Ascended Extra).
- Captain Obvious: During Elliot's demonstration, a woman makes fun of her husband for pointing out the obvious while he's all "ooh" and "ahh". The husband doesn't appreciate the insult.
- Cat Scare: After encountering the first killer gorilla, the team are startled by Amy leaping out at them.
- Chekhov's Gun: The hot air balloon that Karen insists they don't need. Also the experimental laser that Charles' expedition brought along.
- Chekhov's Volcano: In the novel the protagonists actually set off the volcano when they detonate a series of explosive charges that generate a resonant shock. In the film it just erupts naturally.
- Collapsing Lair
- Convection Schmonvection
- Corporate Warfare: In the novel corporations are involved in low-key conflict of the Cold War type, including espionage and sabotage.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Travis is a very mild version.
- Cut Phone Lines: Amy goes crashing into Dr Ross' satellite phone.
- Darkest Africa
- Death by Adaptation: Kahega, who was a much more important character in the book, and the survivor from the first expedition the heroes find in a tribal village.
- Death by Materialism: Homolka is scrabbling for diamonds when he suddenly finds himself facing a killer gorilla.
- Decapitation Presentation: On the grey gorilla's first proper appearance, it chucks the head of a man it's just killed at the protagonists.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Inverted
Captain Wanta: "STOP EATING MY SESAME CAKE!"
- Eye Motifs: All over the Lost City of Zinj.
- Eye Scream: Charlie is calling for his friend when something bounces off his chest. Thinking his friend threw it, Charlie picks it up and realizes he's holding a severed eyeball.
- Face Palm: Homolka's background reaction on hearing that Munro Kelly is going to be their guide.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Mostly averted; the laser has no recoil, travels immediately in a straight constant beam and produces deadly amounts of heat and cutting power. It does, however, include a visible beam, appears to cauterize wounds, and is powered by an unprocessed diamond that was chipped out of a rock literally seconds earlier. So basically all the cool parts without any of the hassle or overwhelming gore. The movie also upgrades the W.E.I.R.D. perimeter defensive package from a portable electrified fence to a network of criss-crossing lasers.
- Great White Hunter: Somewhat straight in the novel, although really Munro Kelly is more of a Hired Mercenary type, and also half-Indian. The trope proper is spoofed in the film.
Munro: I'm your Great White Hunter for this trip, though I happen to be black.
- Hollywood Skydiving: The parachute sequence. At least three team members - Peter, Richard, and Herkemer - have never parachuted before and receive no instructions before jumping. Munro is jumping with Amy strapped to him. And the plane is taking antiaircraft fire. Naturally, no one is injured on landing except for Munro, who got some minor scratches when Amy woke up mid-jump.
- I Kiss Your Hand: When Dr Karen Ross holds out her hand for a handshake Captain Wanta raises it to his lips, only for her to yank back her hand.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Dr. Ross is trying to buy a place on Dr. Elliot's expedition and tells him to name his price. He retorts, "I'm not a pound of sugar, I'm a primatologist!"
- I Need a Freaking Drink
Amy: Amy...want...green drop drink.
Ross: Are you serving that ape a martini?
Elliot: She's allowed one; it'll calm her down.
- Irony: Dr. Karen Ross pretends she used to work for the CIA but quit. Her "reason" being they're loveless bastards. However, her boss Travis turns out to be a "loveless bastard" because he cares more about the diamonds than the expedition teams, the first of which included his own son.
- It Can Think: "I think they're smart — they're too damn smart." Even more apparent in the book where the apes use stone clubs and cross an electric fence by dropping a tree on it.
- Jerkass: Travis. Read the "Irony" note to know why. Interestingly, some of Ross' more jerkish actions on the novel (one of which triggers the volcano's eruption) were Adapted Out, turning her into a Defrosting Ice Queen.
- Jungle Opera: An attempt to update the trope.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Tim Curry speaks the entire time in Vampire Vords.
- Large Ham: Homolka; well, look who plays him.
- Lava Pit
- Like an Old Married Couple: The Obligatory Joke from anyone seeing Elliot and Amy.
- Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Williams Electronics several months after the movie. Click here for details.
- Lighter and Softer: The film is far less dark and violent than the novel, and plays more like a tongue-in-cheek parody of the novel than a straight adaptation.
- Lock and Load Montage: Setting up the base camp's defenses.
- Maniac Monkeys/Killer Gorilla: The Killer Apes of Zinj.
- Meaningful Name: A herkimer is a fake diamond.
- "Zinj" is a homonym of "singe", the French word for monkey or apenote .
- Misplaced Wildlife: American leaf-cutting ants in the Congo (the scene was filmed in Costa Rica).
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Averted when the party are attacked by the far more dangerous hippo.
- Oh, Crap: In the novel Munro and his men go to exterminate the killer apes in their lair. They find a group and are preparing to wipe them out when Munro looks up...and realises the entire mountain is swarming with them.
- Offhand Elbow Groin Attack: Happens to a soldier who tries feeling up Karen's hair.
- Only Mostly Dead: According to the film, the Mizumu have different levels of dead (presumably including catatonia as a condition where the spirit has left the body [death] yet the body still breathes). Only the last level is dead-dead.
- It's this way in the novel too, although the tribe in question there happen to be pygmies.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Homolka. Richard to some extent as well.
- Properly Paranoid: Travis in the novel, as corporations are covertly fighting each other the way Cold War intelligence agencies used to. In the movie his paranoia is simply a sign of his general Jerkass nature.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: At the end of the movie, Dr. Ross destroys her company's satellite in payback for her boss putting the mission above her fiancée. Never mind that this would inevitably cause thousands of people to lose their jobs...
- The company was floundering anyway and it was the midst of the dotcom boom. They probably all had their resumes prepared and had no real trouble finding employment afterward.
- Red Shirt: African porters. Their leader Kahega, on the other hand, is more of a Mauve Shirt.
- Also Richard. He wasn't even in the novel
- Race Lift: Munro, who is a White African mercenary in the novel.
Munro: I'm your Great White Hunter for this trip, though I happen to be Black.
- Sacrificial Lion: Richard, Homolka and Kahega.
- Send in the Search Team
- Sentry Gun
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The expedition find themselves facing a pissed off silverback gorilla. Dr Elliot makes it leave by displaying submissive body language. Then he turns around to find everyone's disappeared into the foliage.
Elliot: Where did you go?
Munro: I ran away. Sorry.
- Sound-Only Death: The screen cuts to black right as Homolka's skull is crushed by one of the killer apes. We still hear it though.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: A pair of Mizumu appear at the edge of the camp, and Munro tells Peter not to look at them, as they believe their magic keeps them from being seen before revealing themselves. He goes on to say that there are probably twenty more hiding around the camp, truly out of sight.
- Suddenly Shouting / Dramatically Missing the Point:
Ross (while talking to Travis after escaping Zinj, and choking back tears): Charlie [her fiancee]. He... he's dead.
Travis (Charlie's father): DID YOU GET THE DIAMONDS?! DID YOU?!
- Talking Animal: Amy, thanks to the speaking glove. In the novel she just communicated with sign language.
- Tantrum Throwing: After the first expedition is shown destroyed, Travis breaks a monitor with a golf club.
- Tracking Device: It homes in on the power pack of the laser.
- Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: The novel, which can be disconcerting as it's also set around the collapse of the Amin regime (current events at the time it was written).
- Translator Collar: Amy's pack and glove.
- Turned On Their Masters: Both the book and film imply this is what happened with the Zinj Gorillas
- Scenery Porn
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Super-Persistent Predator: As Elliott says in the plane, "gorillas aren't dangerous"... but these things certainly are. Because they aren't really predators, but a race of hyper-territorial gorillas bred by the people of Zinj in ancient times so they would eliminate any thief or spy. It's also implied that they are a experiment Gone Horribly Right that caused the very same downfall of the city.
- Who Is Driving?: Elliot is reluctant to strap on a parachute.
Munro: Do you know how to fly this plane?
Munro: Well the pilot and copilot have gone, so what are you going to do?