Jurassic Park was the undisputed box office champion of 1993. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Spielberg’s film was revolutionary in its use of computer generated effects and benefited from a great script and a litany of classic movie moments. 20 years later, the film remains one of the decade’s most loved films.
So in 1995, when the opportunity arose to adapt Crichton’s earlier novel Congo for the big screen, Jurassic Park producer Kathleen Kennedy obviously jumped at the opportunity. Despite her track record and the wealth of proven talent working on this film, Congo still managed to become a singularly wretched film.
First of all, certain decisions were made in adapting the book that are absolutely baffling.
The plot of the book involved a technology company who were looking for a lost city in Africa that held a bounty of diamonds that were essential to the production of 32kb computer chips. Even in 1995 that was laughably outdated. In the film, the diamonds were to be used for communication lasers that would fire up into satellites.
Satellites and lasers do not work that way.
The expedition in the film is comprise of Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck, Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson (the fourth Ghostbuster). They rope in the help of Amy, a sign language-using gorilla who can presumably find the lost city by asking the other apes for directions. For the benefit of movie-goers, the Amy in the film has a Nintendo power-glove that recognises her signing and translates it into a creepy little girl voice.
Why do they need this glove when someone on the team already understands sign language?
When they finally reach the lost city with all the diamonds, the team discover that it’s guarded by a never-before-seen breed of aggressive gorillas. Now in the book, the logical thing happens: Amy is able to communicate with the apes and the team is saved, validating the entire existence of the Amy character. It would seem that this finale wasn’t dramatic enough for mainstream audiences, so in the climax of the film, Laura Linney loads a massive diamond into a ‘communications laser’ and cuts these gorillas to pieces in a brutal primate genocide.
But do you know what the weirdest thing is about this terrible movie?
This awful, awful screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley. That’s right: the guy who wrote Moonstruck and Doubt also wrote the line “Put’em on the endangered species list!”
Somewhere in LA right now, there’s a fancy shelf on which you’d find a Pulitzer and an Oscar lined up right next to the Razzie Award for the Worst Film of 1995.
Congo is not currently available on blinkbox