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Posts Tagged ‘Planet of the Apes’

31 Monsters Between The Screams #14

October 14th, 2014 No comments


“You’ve Come a Long Way, Apey.”

Damn You, James Franco! You Blew It Up!

August 7th, 2011 No comments

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching so many would-be blockbuster movies, it’s that an August release is usually an evil portent. If a studio is confident in a popcorn flick, they won’t wait until the summer is winding down to unleash it.

So why is it that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is pretty damned good?

It seemed that Planet of the Apes, the original sci-fi film franchise, was dead and gone. Tim Burton, the go-to director when you’re looking for someone to entirely miss the point, had taken a shovel to its simian skull in his 2001 remake. Which made it a bit of a surprise when Fox announced Rise of the Apes.*

Rise is simultaneously a sequel and a prequel, a remake and a reboot. It covers roughly the same ground as that of 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in which an intelligent ape named Caesar led a monkey revolt and set in motion the apocalyptic world visited four years earlier by Charlton Heston. However, it’s clearly establishing its own continuity, substituting genetic experimentation as the rationale for its evolved primates rather than the time-travel paradox of the original Apes cycle.

Renaissance man James Franco takes time out from his packed schedule** to appear as the scientist whose desire to cure his father (John Lithgow) of Alzheimer’s blinds him to ethical lapses in the creation of an intelligence-booster. A virus that makes super-smart monkeys? What could possibly go worng?

Of course, the real star of the show is Andy Serkis, who cements his reputation as this generation’s dot-covered Olivier in his motion-captured performance as Caesar. I make fun, but it really is a remarkable fusion of acting and technology. Whatever pathos the film has is entirely on his furry shoulders. A sideways glance here, a head tilt there, and the audience is under his spell, mentally urging the apes to win out over those horrid humans.

For a film that excels in large part due to its measured pace and its wordless passages–particularly in the primate sanctuary/prison section of the narrative–it’s decidedly less subtle in its frequent homages to the 1968 Apes. Some likely go unnoticed by all but the most devoted Ape-ophiles (for example, the orangutan named Maurice in honor of Maurice “Dr. Zaius” Evans), but when Draco Malfoy Tom Felton shouts “It’s a madhouse!” it’s a bit too on-the-nose. The most groan-inducing indulgence unfortunately undercuts what should have been the movie’s biggest shock. (I won’t give it away, but you’ll know it when you hear it.) I see what they were doing there, trying to turn one of the iconic moments of the original Apes on its head, but it’s just a quote too far.

Still, I don’t want to dwell on the occasional misstep. Rise is overall a very good installment of the venerable Apes series, and an entertaining, touching film in its own right. I suspect that we haven’t heard the last of Andy Serkis’ Caesar.

*I believe that it was of a reflection of the sorry state of the Apes franchise that the film was originally planned without a proper “Planet of the” title.

**During production, Franco achieved two more graduate degrees, composed an epic poem about the invention of the Linotype and created an Apes-based line of frozen confections. He is currently writing his 11th Master’s thesis and building a Mars rocket.

Categories: Movies Tags: ,

Beneath The Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

April 15th, 2011 No comments

The first trailer for the upcoming Planet of the Apes sequel/remake is out.  The project–formerly known as Caesar and/or Rise of the Apes–has been redubbed Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Furthermore, this new title has been lovingly rendered in the original film’s typeface. I approve.

What of the trailer itself? It looks like a film that could go either way. It has the benefit of being a quasi-remake of one of the better entries in the original Apes cycle, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. On the other hand, it appears to be going the traditional route of science-gone-wrong rather than tackling the civil rights allegory of that earlier film.

And it must be said: the problem with Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes “reimagining” was not that it needed more realistic monkeys.

Admittedly, it never quite made sense to me that the ape servants of Conquest‘s near-future world already resembled the creatures that Charlton Heston encountered in the nuclear-blasted 40th Century. Rise looks as if it will avoid that potential disconnect while at the same time providing an explanation for the primates’ rapid evolution.

I suppose that Peter Jackson’s WETA special-effects crew will work the same magic they did with Gollum, and that the performance of Andy Serkis–who plays Caesar, the leader of the ape revolt–will show through his digital avatar just as it did in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, a big part of the charm of those old films was the (groundbreaking for the time) monkey makeups.

As I said, this one could go either way.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

In Damn Dirty Memorium

April 7th, 2008 No comments

Charlton Heston died over the weekend. And while I wasn’t keen on Heston the NRA spokesman, I want to doff my cap to Heston the actor.

Was he a ham? Sure. But some films are much better off with a thick slice of ham. Take Planet of the Apes, the real one, not the “reimagining.” I adore this movie, and there’s a lot to recommend it: the social commentary; the primal, eerie soundtrack; the groundbreaking makeup appliances; and the monkey jokes. But I cannot imagine it without Heston. Sure, his masterful scenery-chewing is what everyone remembers, but the bitter misanthropy of his character holds together the whole enterprise in the quieter moments.

That said, here’s the bit which includes Heston’s most quoted line:

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