You remember Histeria, right? It was the children's show that had a song about every war fought by every nation that ever existed.
Cartoons were kinda weird in the 90s, is my point here.
But one of my particular favorites was Mighty Max, a show unafraid to take on some rather heavy material and have the hero face some real dangerous threats. If it came between "giant dragon who destroys the world" and "killer baboons" then odds are he faced against it.
Let's look at the sixth episode in the series, Rumble In The Jungle.
I guess that's supposed to be some kind of weird ape creature reaching under a branch? Maybe Max is in a hole under a tree and the creature is reaching under a root? Either way, I'd be terrified of any creature whose palm of their hand is as big as my head.
Speaking of things between "giant dragon" and "killer baboon," I guess today's threat does fall between those because the episode opens in (true to what we were advertised) a jungle, where Max's mother is on the run from a group of guys who look like they just got caught doing some pretty serious Flintstones cosplay but couldn't afford any quality costumes. She gets captured, and I can't help but notice that when the guys lift her up, they seem to all be determined to have a hand resting on her rear.
I guess they probably haven't seem "wo-mun" in some time based on the facial hair, though I maintain that Max's mom still has it going on.
They also seem to be taking directions from Gorilla Grodd.
Yeah, you heard me. Nice helmet.
Max, meanwhile, is back at home (alone, I guess?) because surely the jungle is much too dangerous for a kid who just helped save the world from a dragon, and previously fought an otherworldly horror in a giant eyeball. The same kid who, even if there hadn't been monsters, had spent a night in Turkish prison.
However, he gets called to duty and we get an idea that Virgil simply called it in because all that happens is that a skywriter gets to confuse every other kid in the area named "Max."
I have no idea what that punctuation mark in the middle is supposed to be. An extra hyphen?
Max takes the portal there and winds up in the Colosseum in Rome, where Virgil dodges a really simple question.
"Hey, wow, is this where the gladiators fought?"
"We don't have time to ponder that now."
Dude, it's a yes/no question. It's not "were gladiator fights ethical for the times or a sign that Roman culture was still barbaric?"
Max gets the story that his mother is in danger in the Congo (no details, just "in grave danger") and all three rush off to save her.
Because hey, travel is instantaneous when you have portals, they wind up in the Congo and after discovers an abandoned jeep covered in brush (but it still has a working battery despite "having been there for some time") they're immediately set upon by cavemen. Max's radio makes them pause, but then it gets shattered by a thrown by (and I swear I'm not making this up) a gorilla riding a chariot drawn by two zebras.
No, seriously, this is a thing that happens.
Max, Norman, and Virgil make a break for it and wind up toppling over the edge of a waterfall, with the gorillas (having never seen a single movie where such a thing happens) believe them to be dead. After they climb out, they realize that Max's mother (do we ever get a name for her, or is she just "mom?") might have met the same individuals.
When they follow the possible mom-nappers, guess where they get lead to?
A "Gorilla City," if you will.
The good guys infiltrate the city and find a local "cave guy" willing to escort them to their one solitary prisoner, but the reunion is interrupted by the appearance of "Grodd" and a few soldiers. Rather than risk his own death (or his mother's), Max tells Norman to stand down (aww) and they get taken prisoner as well.
Presented to what I can only describe as the gorilla equivalent of Dom Deluise's "Emperor Nero," the four are imprisoned together lest they bring their "wicked magic" to the people and bring ruin to the civilization. I like the fact that everybody flips out when Max makes a simple paper airplane and throws it.
We get them staying in prison for all of about five minutes before Max has Norman stage a breakout, and after a chase (and befriending the same native from before), Max winds up leading the "humans" against the "gorillas" in a civil war. The humans make their last stand at one of the pyramids (and can I point out that if a shield can crumple just by having a rock thrown at it, the gorillas really don't spend enough time studying metallurgy, an-
Wait a minute. Why do the gorillas even HAVE a standing army? Why train a whole bunch of apes with the tactics of Roman legionnaires when they don't even believe there's anything outside their valley? Did Adam and Eve look around their valley and think "okay, the first thing we need is a standing military presence?"
The fighting gets brutal, and we get to see at least four people in a crowd get spears tossed through them.
Current Casualties: 7
Actually, scratch that. When the humans retreat further up the pyramid, we see seven bodies strewn on the ground.
Current Casualties: 10
Despite a good showing by the humans (they manage to topple one of those giant stone heads onto the gorilla army), the humans seem well and truly defeated before the leader shows up and bellows for the fighting to stop.
Oh, and we get to see one more dead guy draped over part of the pyramid on the steps.
Current Casualties: 11
In order to settle things once and for all, we get Max vs. Grodd in solo combat, winner take all. Max, realizing that his odds of beating up an 800 pound gorilla are about as likely as...well, my beating up an 800 pound gorilla, goes for the sneaky route instead. He takes the portal map from Virgil, runs away ("Hey, that's not in the rules!" "There are no rules in solo combat."), and gets back to the Jeep. From there, he takes off through the jungle.
The gorilla attempts to get in his way to stop him, but Max deals with that the way any true person in mortal combat with a Gorilla would deal with it.
The whole drive-by scene there takes less than a second to occur, but they put that much detail into it. I have real respect for these animators, since many would just draw some vaguely similarly colored blurs to do the same thing.
With the gorilla weighing down the front of the Jeep (oh yeah, he holds on, because those gripping feet are a pain to fight against), Max locates the nearest portal and barely dives out of the Jeep in time before it and Grodd are shunted through to somewhere else.
Returning back to the town, Gorilla Nero sighs because he was "afraid the boy would win" and does what any good ruler would do: gives up the throne to Max.
...huh. Didn't see the series taking this kind of a turn.
Newly Designed Ape Emperor Max turns it down and simply asks to a) be allowed to leave in peace and b) have the native humans be treated as equals. Nero agrees to it, and the good guys head home.
Oh, and as for Grodd? Apparently Max picked a specific portal, because instead of ending up anywhere he might run into people, Grodd and the Jeep are left deep in a desert with a blood-red sky. You know, to die.
No, I don't count it when a bad guy dies, if I did the counting would lose all meaning.
At the very end, Max gives us some gorilla population numbers in the world, and stresses the need to preserve the world's wildlife. We also get a joke at the expense of his Aunt Matilda.
It's pretty apparent that the writers love big goofy stories, and they do a pretty good job blending Planet of the Apes (the only thing missing was a "you blew it up!" moment) and DC Comics villain Grodd. There's no real explanation as to how these apes speak English or how they came to rule over humans, because who cares? It doesn't really serve the plot that much, and besides Virgil the heroes probably don't care either.
It's not like there's anything else the movie could be based on, right? I mean, we have killer gorillas in a hidden area of the Congo, what else could it possibly b-
Whoa, now. Okay, fine, so it's the Congo, and there's gorillas, but we don't have spooky gems, bizarre volcanic eruptions, or silver apes...I mean, besides the giant silver back who runs the gorilla city. There's no other links to Mighty Max and C-
Okay, look, if anything Congo ripped off Mighty Max, because Mighty Max came out two years before that film.
Each of the apes has the same deep style of raspy "gorilla" voice that I like, though the Nero gorilla seems a bit more civilized than the others. I did also enjoy the debate about whether the "human way" (defend the weak, advance technology) or the "gorilla way" (the strong survive to breed and better the race, and they don't need technology when their needs are met by nature) is superior. It's too bad the gorillas never mastered paper airplane technology, though.
For an episode that jumped right to the action, it did feel a bit padded in places. The good guys get captured twice when it seems once would have been enough (get into city, befriend savage human, attempt to sneak out with mother, get caught, civil war erupts). Norman has multiple opportunities to get into huge fights against armed gorillas, but the only real combat we see him do is do a flying kick from above to one gorilla and- well, okay, he does essentially demolish an entire line of armed gorilla legionnaires by himself, but too little too late.
Also, just what was Max's Mom doing by herself in the Congo anyway? Sure they mention that guides don't like to go too far towards the valley, but Max, Norman, and Virgil only discover the valley when they literally fall off a mountain. How did she get there?
AND WHAT IS HER NAME?
While not as "epic" as the last episode, it does do what the episode needs to do, which is show that "The Mighty One" handles both threats huge, small, and personal. Plus, it's another portion of the world looked at. Plus, for all we know, Grodd might actually survive being in the desert... somehow... and make another appearance as a villain somewhere down the line.
You know, for a show that's so eager to kill off random side characters, I think we've only really seen/assumed with any certainty the deaths of three of them in six episodes. The space aliens all died, the mummy died (again), and the eyeball and his pet goon died.
Anyway, we've seen the body count jump up this episode, and I'm sure we'll see it jump further as time goes on, because there's one episode I know is coming where it didn't even show the scene or the aftermath, but the idea of what happened gave me nightmares.