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Primate Versus Reptile

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It's fur vs. fang in the ultimate evolutionary grudge match!

Ever since King Kong brawled against several prehistoric monsters in his 1933 debut, and later on against Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla — pretty much cementing the two in pop culture as the iconic battling kaiju — filmmakers (and other creators) have found the image of a giant ape (or a primate-like creature) fighting a giant reptile too iconic, symbolic, and just plain awesome to resist. As a result, dozens of homages to the scene have sprung up over the years, as well as variations on its imagery and themes.

The primate may be a giant ape, a protohuman, or an ogre, a giant, a cyclops or other humanoid monster with ape-like features, whilst the reptile may be a dragon, a dinosaur, or a giant snake/lizard/crocodile/turtle.

The primate will use its fists, its intellect and the occasional Improvised Weapon, whilst the reptile will use its teeth, claws, and brute strength; if venom, constriction and/or fiery breath are available, those will be used too. Expect the reptile to have the size advantage, too.

Symbolically, the trope works because the primate is automatically more relatable, therefore more sympathetic, than the more repulsive reptilian monster (because Most Writers Are Human and Reptiles Are Abhorrent).

When the opponent is a dinosaur, it works as a Clash of Evolutionary Levels — the more "modern" primate fighting and more often than not defeating the more "primitive" dinosaur calls back to the mammals' supplanting of reptiles as the dominant animal class on Earth following the K-T extinction, to which humanity owes its existence. The inverse to this point-of-view is that the dinosaurs are an "elder race" that is stronger, wiser, more advanced, firmly established, and much more accomplished than the primates who are a "younger race" and thus largely unequal and inferior to the dinosaurs as a civilization and species. Meek Mesozoic Mammal is a related concept, which likewise invokes the mammals' "underdog" status against the dinosaurs.

A clear subtrope of Behemoth Battle. The giant ape is generally a King Kong Copy; however, that's not always true. Similarly, the giant reptile is often a Notzilla or a T. Rexpy, if it's not based on a real dinosaur. Compare Spinosaurus Versus T. rex, a trope inspired by another famous movie fight involving a T. rex, Bird vs. Serpent, and Tiger Versus Dragon, an Eastern mammal vs. reptile motif.

On a side note, it should be noted that, while Homo sapiens is indeed a member of the primate family, this trope relates to non-human primates, so the numerous works such as Anaconda, Lake Placid, and the like that feature average (or super) humans battling snakes, crocodiles, Velociraptors etc. don't apply here. Similarly, birds are technically classified as reptiles, being dinosaurs and all, but this trope only refers to reptiles in the traditional "scaly" sense, so works with primates battling birds and feathered non-avian dinosaurs also don't apply here.

Subtrope of Mammal Monsters Are More Heroic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z: While the obvious traits are downplayed, Goku and Vegeta's enmity with Frieza qualifies. Goku and Vegeta are Saiyans, a race of humanoid aliens who can transform into giant gorillas and have monkey-like tails from birth, while Frieza is of a humanoid reptilian race.
    • Prior to that, there's Goku's rivalry with Piccolo (before his Heel–Face Turn) and his much more evil predecessor King Piccolo, members of the reptilian-like Namekian race in the latter two arcs of Dragon Ball. Additionally, a few of Goku's opponents, either in the World Martial Arts Tournaments or elsewhere, are based on dinosaurs, for instance, Giran.
    • The latter arcs of Dragon Ball GT pit Goku and Vegeta, both having reached Super Saiyan 4 which endows them with their lost tails and an apish covering of red fur on their chests, arms, and torsos, against humanoid evil versions of Shenron spawned from the black star dragonballs.
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: Zigzagged. Two of the main characters are Raimu "Rairi" Koumo, who has an apelike face that she conceals with heavy makeup, and Kuroe Akaishi, who involuntarily and secretly transforms into a massive dinosaur-like monster called Harugon when experiencing strong emotion. They become fast friends almost as soon as the two first meet due to their similar insecurities over body image. However, Rairi has no idea Kuroe is Harugon, and at one point the former, without her makeup and with her ape face unconcealed, roars at the transformed latter to defend their classmates. Kuroe/Harugon quickly backs off into the lake, partly because she's startled at Rairi's actions and partly because she still respects her ignorant friend.
  • Toriko has, at one point, a Colosseum where monstrous animals fight for the entertainment of rich and powerful elites. The first battle shown on page is a duel between the gorilla-like Troll Kong and the massive, eight-legged Gararadile. Despite being smaller and being manhandled by the latter, the Troll Kong manages to win by cracking the skull of his opponent with an extremely precise attack.

    Comic Books 
  • Cavewoman features Klyde, a giant gorilla who fight against dinosaurs.
  • Disney Adventures: One comic, Gorilla Gorilla, is about two roommates, Gorilla Gorilla and Lizard Lizard, who habitually transform into colossal versions of themselves and battle. However, neither of them knows that the other is actually his arch-nemesis.
  • The Goon: In an early story, the mutated lizard El Hombre Lagarto grew to colossal size, and the Goon himself had to be temporarily transformed into a giant gorilla so they could fight.
  • Jurassic Park: One of the Expanded Universe comics by Topps/IDW features a trained gorilla taking on two Velociraptor in a likely tribute to King Kong's infamous battle with a Tyrannosaurus, on a smaller scale. The gorilla wins the first round, but loses the second after being forced over a cliff.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Thor, an original part-ape, part-goat Kaiju character made by the author, is presented as a gentle and paternal creature who protects and aids the protagonists. He has an old grudge against King Ghidorah because the three-headed space dragon wiped out Thor's entire species, including his son, and he personally fights against both an offshoot of Ghidorah's right head and Ghidorah itself at the end.
  • The Bridge: The story sets this up but subverts it as far as the two Godzillas of the 1990s and the MonsterVerse King Kong.
    • Godzilla Junior ends up on Skull Island for a year and meets Kong early on, but his docile nature and attempt to protect several Iwi from a skullcrawler means Kong doesn't register him as a threat. Junior actually takes a shine to Kong and begins copying him from a distance, and over time Kong warms up to him as a sort of pupil.
    • Godzilla Senior comes to Skull Island to reclaim his lost son and is fully prepared to attack Kong when he sees the ape near his adoptive child. King Kong registers him as a threat and is prepared to attack to protect his island and pupil, but Junior manages to defuse the situation.
  • Kaiju Revolution: Skull Island's protector King Kong is involved in several of these in both series proper as well as his backstory.
    • It's mentioned in his backstory that he had a rivalry with the leader of the Gorosaurus pack that would lead the two of them to develop a mutual respect for one another. Eventually when the Vagnosaurus invaded the surface, the two were forced to work together to drive them back, this would lead to them becoming full fledged allies who now work together in protecting and maintaining the island.
    • He fights Godzilla when the King of the Monsters shows up to devour the island's inhabitants. He's able to match Godzilla at first but Godzilla's raw power nearly overwhelms him untill Gorosaurus and the island's native kaiju assist him. Kong is able to force Godzilla into the ocean and bury him in a rockslide.
    • Then there's his most hated enemy: the subterranean Vagnosaurus. Their two species went into a mutual destructive war that would leave Kong and a single Vagnosaurus clan as the Last of Their Kind. Kong eventually kills the clan's matriarch and leaves them to dwindle to extinction. This last one is a subversion however as despite their name and appearance, the Vagnosaurus aren't reptiles at all but actually primates which have evolved into vicious, hypervorous predators in Skull Island's underground caverns. In fact, they are actually descended from the same basal primates that Kong's species descended from.
    • The latest example would be Gaw, a despotic kaiju raptor that killed Kong's parents during the Vagnosaur wars and had to be sealed away by Biollante. After being freed in the chaos of King Ghidorah's attack on Skull Island and Kong's subsequent disappearance, she's quick to start a takeover of the island and takes steps to stop Kong when he's brought back to earth and starts making his way back home.
  • Invoked and averted in a fanmade Treehouse of Horror segment where Bart, having gained Reality Warping powers, conjured up King Homer and Homerzilla for them to fight. Rather than brawl for his amusement, however, the two monsters team up and rampage through Springfield.

    Films — Animation 
  • Toy Story That Time Forgot: Parodied when an anthropomorphic dinosaur action figure fights a sock monkey in a gladiatorial arena.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad: The dragon that serves as Evil Sorcerer Sokurah's Right-Hand Attack Dog fights a cyclops. As neither party is meant to be particularly heroic (although the dragon is a Tragic Monster), the dragon wins.
  • The Adventures Of Hercules II has a scene where King Minos uses the powers he got from the Gods to turn into a giant T. rex, then a giant snake. Hercules, in response, turns into a giant ape. The fight is hand-drawn animation traced from the monster fights in King Kong (1933).
  • Ape Vs Monster: A giant chimpanzee fights a mutated Gila monster, both turned into kaiju by an alien slime. Their "fight" only lasts about thirty seconds.
  • Frankenstein Conquers the World: The antagonist is Baragon, an enormous, tunneling, predatory reptilian monster, as opposed to the Gentle Giant mutated human Frankenstein.
  • King Kong: Every incarnation of the franchise has had one of these fights.
    • King Kong (1933): The titular ape fights a Tyrannosaurus rex (called "the Meat-Eater" in the script), a serpent-like plesiosaur and a giant pterosaur.
    • The Son of Kong: Kong's son, Kiko/Little Kong, battles what appears to be a nothosaur (called a dragon by supplementary material), an early relative of the plesiosaurs and pliosaurs.
    • King Kong vs. Godzilla is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a fight between Godzilla and Kong which is deliberately engineered in-universe.
    • King Kong Escapes: Kong fights the theropod-like giant monster Gorosaurus and a sea serpent.
    • King Kong (1976): Although there are no dinosaurs in this film, Kong gets to fight a giant anaconda.
    • The novel Kong: King of Skull Island (taking place in the 1933 continuity) reveals that Kong's species went to war with a reptilian species of raptor monsters known as the Deathrunners, with Kong earning his kingship by killing the leader of them, Gaw.
    • King Kong (2005): The film ups the stakes by Kong fighting not one, not two, but three Tyrannosaurs (named Vastatosaurus in this film, a fictional genus that is supposed to be the descendant of Tyrannosaurus).
    • MonsterVerse:
      • Kong: Skull Island: Kong is presented as a benevolent protector of the island, fighting off the reptilian monsters called Skullcrawlers who prey on smaller creatures, including humans.
      • Godzilla vs. Kong: Kong clashes not only with the Big G himself (as implied by the title), but also with several flying snake-monsters, which are called "Warbats" according to supplementary material. Unusual for this trope, Kong and Godzilla are both heroes in this continuity and only clash due to a Let's You and Him Fight situation brought about by Mecha-Godzilla. That said, Kong is still treated much more sympathetically by the narrative, with the director calling him the Rocky Balboa to Godzilla's Apollo Creed.
  • Rampage (2018): The climactic battle of the film is between the gigantic gorilla George and the even more gigantic crocodile Lizzie, after Lizzie quickly kills George's previous opponent, Ralph the giant wolf.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: During an amp-versus-amp Battle of the Bands, Scott's band Sex Bob-Omb summon an Animal Battle Aura of a yeti, and their rivals, the Katayanagi Twins, summon a pair of serpentine East Asian-style dragons to fight it.
  • Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams has a Mix-and-Match Critters variation, with a Spider Monkey (a caveman-spider hybrid) being pitted against a Slizzard (a snake-lizard hybrid).
  • Unknown Island, a 1948 dinosaur adventure film, has an unusual example, with a huge, hairy bipedal Megatheriumnote  fighting a Ceratosaurus in the finale. The Megatherium wins. Both animals are prehistoric survivors living on a remote island in French Polynesia.

  • Bloodbones: At one point, you can run into a gigantic ape battling a "terrible lizard". You may end up fighting the winner of the clash.
  • Invaders from the Big Screen have you coming across a giant ape fighting an equally-huge snake in the monster film storyline. As both monsters are blocking your way through the jungle, you can choose to help the ape via Pepper Sneeze, and it helps you escape the movie world in exchange.

  • Atomic Rex Wrath Of The Polar Yeti: The titular match up, very much a tribute to King Kong vs. Godzilla, is between a Tyrannosaurus rex-like Not Zilla and a yeti grown to kaiju size. Both monsters arrive in South America from opposite ends and converge together, taking out any other monsters they encounter on their way. In a bit of a subversion, whilst Atomic Rex is a True Neutral and the Polar Yeti has some sympathetic traits, the best outcome for humanity is for Atomic Rex to win as the Yeti might doggedly pursue them otherwise.
  • The Atomic Time of Monsters inverts the usual dynamic by having the fire-breathing retrosaur, Tyrantis, be the protagonist, with the pyrokinetic sasquatch Promythigor as a Tragic Villain. Furthering the Irony is that between the two, the simian Promythigor is the Godzilla equivalent in that he was scarred by unethical military technology and is associated with violent explosions, while Tyrantis, despite being based on a vintage T. Rexpy, is more like Kong, being a sweet-natured prehistoric beast characterized by his friendship with Dr. Lerna, the human heroine. The author later clarified that this contrast was intentional: because the "less" human Tyrantis has basic needs that make him easier to handle, he is more benign than the "more" human Promythigor, whose greater intelligence results in a self-centered, destructive attitude that makes him the greater threat.
  • Planet of the Apes: Colony: The cover features a spear-wielding ape facing off against a scaled dinosaur.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Primeval: Inverted. At the end of the first season, a gorgonopsid and the female future predator fight against each other after the latter was transported to the Permian period and menaces the cast. While the future predator can inflict some bad blows on the gorgonopsid, the gorgonopsid is far superior to her in terms of strength and is able to kill her after landing a solid hit. The future predator is a developed bat from the future, which actually has a physique similar to a primate. Technically, the gorgonopsid is not really reptile, but a synapsid that's closely related to the ancestor of mammals whilst still having reptilian traits, but still qualifies for this trope.
  • Ultraman Neos: "King of the Biosphere" is a Whole-Plot Reference to King Kong. HEART, on a mission to rescue a Japanese scientist trapped in an island full of monsters, comes across King Bamos, a friendly, mammalistic kaiju (who looks like King Kong crossed between a lion and a pug) who is constantly at war against the island's resident hostile monsters, the Tyrannosaurus-like Rock Eaters, which Bamos frequently kills in order to protect his human companions and the island's native fauna.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: It's very common for settings to depict dragons and giants as being ancient enemies. They were often each other's main rivals in the ancient past — in the Forgotten Realms setting, for instance, the ancient world was ruled primarily by dragon and giant empires that warred ceaselessly with each other — while in the modern day they come into conflict from a combination of age-old grudges and from being some of the few creatures that can pose meaningful threats to each other. Dragons are generally bigger, stronger and more magically powerful, and almost always win one-on-one confrontations, while giants rely on their greater numbers, organization and technology to overmatch draconic foes.

    Video Games 
  • Donkey Kong Country: The Kongs' most recurring nemesis are the crocodile King K. Rool and his crew of reptilian pirates.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: the party can potentially come across a battle between a decidedly simian appearing troll and a High Dragon, which the Iron Bull will note is awesome.
  • Dragon: Marked for Death: The two principal gods are the draconic Atruum and the simian Primatus.
  • JumpJet Rex: The first boss battle pits the T-Rex protagonist against a giant yeti. Unusual in that not only is the dinosaur the hero, but he is much smaller than the primate.
  • King of the Monsters: Being a homage to the Kaiju and Tokusatsu series, the series has expies of King Kong (Woo/Cyber Woo) and Godzilla (Geon/Super Geon), being a giant ape and a reptile, respectively, fighting against other giant monsters as well against each other.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The first two games' conflicts feature dragons against monkeys. The "good primate" and "bad reptile" roles are inverted, as the titular hero is a dragon and the Apes are a villainous race of barbaric savages.
  • Monster Hunter has long featured two particular monsters regarded as possessing the strength of an Elder Dragon while not actually being one: the primate Rajang and the dinosaur-like Deviljho. Comparisons and contrasts between the two were inevitable (also helped by quests in Monster Hunter 4 and Monster Hunter Generations where you have to hunt both of them), and they do share a Turf War together in Monster Hunter: World Iceborne, where they battle to a draw.
  • Primal Rage is about prehistoric beasts fighting... with the villains led by the tyrannosaur Diablo vs. the Virtuous Beasts led by heroic ape Blizzard.
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee has an event match wherein Bowser and Donkey Kong (both appearing much larger than normal) fight on Fourside, an Earth Bound-themed skyscraper stage — an obvious homage to King Kong vs. Godzilla.

    Web Animation 


    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars: Optimus Primal transforms into a gorilla and Megatron transforms into a Tyrannosaurus rex. The opening theme song ends with a scene of Megatron attempting to bite Primal's head, while Primal holds the jaws open with his bare hands.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: One episode has Billy and Irwin watching a cheesy Japanese movie where a Kong expy fights a robotic pterosaur.
  • Kong: The Animated Series: Par for the course, given that not only is Kong Island populated with dinosaurs — most of whom are actually docile toward Kong and his human allies except for, as usual, Tyrannosaurus rex and raptors — but the Big Bad and his flunkies can merge with animals of their choice, usually with reptiles.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: One episode has Moyo, a gorilla who has just wrested leadership of the apes from Tarzan, attempting to defend the colony from a giant python named Histah and being unable to do so without Tarzan's assistance.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In the "Daffy Duck: The Wizard" Merrie Melodies music video from "Sunday Night Slice", Daffy briefly watches a battle between a giant gorilla and a Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Primal (2019): "Rage of the Ape-Men" has a fight between the ape-man warrior Krog who is under the effect of a strength-inducing serum that turns him into a King Kong Copy and the Tyrannosaurus Fang. The roles are very much inverted, as Fang is sympathetic and one of the protagonists, whereas Krog is the cruel champion of the evil ape-men.
  • Rugrats (1991): A variant in "Toy Palace". When Tommy and Chuckie get locked inside the titular toy store, Tommy at one point accidentally turns on a life-sized doll of Thorg the ape, which chases him and Chuckie throughout the store. Tommy later manages to turn on a life-sized doll of Reptar the dinosaur, which pushes the Thorg doll into a Time Machine, which takes it to the time period where Washington crossed the Delaware River.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Treehouse of Horror III": Abe tells a story about "King Homer" (a parody of the 1933 King Kong film). Homer is seen fighting a T. rex before being summoned by the natives.
    • "Wedding for Disaster": Homer worries that Marge is turning into a Bridezilla, promoting her to call him "King Wrong". This causes Maggie, who is watching their spat, to imagine them fighting to the death as Kong and Godzilla, respectively.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Primate Vs Reptile


Rajang vs Deviljho

A long-awaited clash finally happens in ''MHW: I'', with the simian Rajang fighting the saurian Deviljho. Footage source: Weiss Gaming on YouTube

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrimateVersusReptile

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