Thursday, April 14, 2011

I really don't know how I CAN'T go see the new "Apes" movie

My Apes obsession crescendoed in the days prior to any blogging or social media. Circa 1998 - 2001, I was all about Planet of the Apes and its sequels. Somewhere, I still have a Charlton Heston action figure and 12" dolls of Cornelius and Dr. Zaius.  Now that I think on it, once, when Jamie was in the hospital, I left her there to go catch a screening of POTA at the original location of the Alamo (with her permission).

My favorite of the series, of course, was the original, which Tim Burton remade into a mess of a surprisingly boring film about 10 years ago. My second favorite was always Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in which you learn about the early days of the ape revolt, which had been hinted at in the previous films.  Its a sort of cautionary tale/ leninist fantasy of the beleagured apes rising up and striking back at their tormentors (us a-hole humans) who have basically been treating apes as slave labor in the context of the film.

@#$% is about to get real, yo
The trailer above is quite different from Conquest, so its a new story that seems to give a faux-scientific plausible explanation for how the ape revolt could have ever happened. In some ways, its a bit like introducing midichlorians, but after the goofy mutants of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, I'm not sure the franchise maintained the same credibility with even the fans that Star Wars carried for so long.

Everyone who comes to Planet of the Apes has a different perspective,  because (a) its not a series built on a cheery proposition and (b) my own wife just gets creeped out by the make-up, so she won't watch the films even when I can prove that Kim Hunter as Zira is just awesome (she appears in the first 3 Apes films).

see!  even Cheston loves Zira.  Maybe too much.
As a kid, I remember watching the Apes movies when WGN or our local UHF station would have "Ape Week" (5 Apes movies in 5 nights.  It was as good as "Godzilla Week".  Man, UHF ruled.), but unlike Tron or Star Wars I do remember having to work pretty hard to grok the Apes movies.  In a lot of ways, the social commentary and criticism of the movies that I thought pretty clever in 1998 just wasn't apparent to me as a kid.  But, you know, apes.  You had to watch.

The original novel of Planet of the Apes is actually quite a bit different from the 1960's version of the movie, and vastly different from the Mark Wahlberg-starring version, although there's a bit of the "suprise ending" in all three.   Its worth noting that Rod Serling, Mr. Twilight Zone himself was part of the brains behind the movie of Planet of the Apes (1968), which makes total sense if you've seen the movie. 

Anyhow, I'm up for an Apes movie.  This looks properly ridiculous.


Anonymous said...

The title is a little kludgy "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes". Couldn't it just been "Rise of the Apes"? But yes, I too had a POTA phase a few years ago.

The League said...

Now that you mention it, yeah... what IS up with that title? I guess they needed to be really specific for a certain demographic. But its also in keeping with "Beneath the", "Escape from", "Weekend at", etc...

Simon MacDonald said...

When I was a kid the NBC station we got was broadcast out of Bangor, Maine. The station owner/manager was a sci-fi nerd and he used to host a show after school where he would air sci-fi movies and TV shows. He would frequently air the Apes movies and do commentary coming in and out of commercial breaks. It was a great intro to some classic sci-fi.

The most disturbing part of this movie is how is anyone supposed to believe James Franco as a scientist?

Gerry said...

Here's how much I love POTA. I will watch any show related to apes on TV. Things on Animal Planet or Discovery. I'm a geek about ape behavior/society in general. As much as I love the originals, I've dreamt of a POTA movie where the apes behave like real apes and now the technology appears to have allowed this. I can't wait for this movie. Of course, I felt the same way when the Tim Burton movie was coming out. And such is my love of the concept, that it was months before I was willing to admit, to myself, how bad that version was.

The League said...

I hear you, Otaku Comics. I vigorously defended "The Phantom Menace" through 5 theatrical screenings. Then, I rented the movie and in the middle of the Pod race I turned to Jamie and said "Oh my God, everybody is right. This is terrible." I turned it off, wrote a few apologetic emails, and I've never been willing to sit through the movie again.

Simon MacDonald said...

What's this "Phantom Menace" movie you speak of? Is it another Noir thriller?

The League said...

Your self-induced amnesia seems the best way of dealing with the issue.

Simon MacDonald said...

Amnesia? Missa don't know what yousa talk about.

J.S. said...

Thsi movie looks sort of interesting. The trailer makes it look like there are a lot more apes in North America than the average joe might expect.

The League said...

You're wondering how this could have happened? 3 words: Ape Volume Discount.

Anonymous said...

I just can't give James Franco money no matter how much I crush Freida Pinto


horus kemwer said...

a) 5 theatrical screenings, wha?!?!?

b) I'm sorry, I'm a James Franco Fan

c) More to the point: here's what troubles me about the planet of the apes: I never read the original novel, but at least in the original movie, the ape imagery plays a particular role in terms of undermining our faith in the definition of humanity and reorganizing our priorities about ethical judgments (and remember: humans dumb as animals is a crucial component).

The reuse of the planet of the apes motif (perhaps even in the original sequels, but certainly in the remakes, this one included from the looks of it) is not true to the original intent of the metaphor. Or, more precisely, the choice of imagery is not determined by the message (no matter how silly), but simply by the fact that "planet of the apes" is a known quantity.

This is so boring and annoying a lack of vision on the part of Hollywood, it makes me painfully sick. If this movie is saying the same thing about the human condition as the first movie: how is it doing it better / different? (Much as I do love James Franco, he's no Charlton Heston!) If it is saying something different: why the exact same imagery of intelligent apes? If (somehow, coincidentally) the imagery / metaphor of intelligent apes serves a different, but equally vibrant, purpose in this movie, then why the title / lack of motivation other than imagined prequel / in fact, why even tie in to the pre-existing franchise at all?

[expletive] Hollywood!

The League said...

Firstly, Horus, the day I think going to see a movie about a rampaging horde of apes in the wilds of the suburbs isn't a good idea is the day I quit bothering with any kind of movie.

Secondly: Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. I was mentally trying to prove to myself that "Phantom Menace" was awesome. Truthfully, I still really like most of the design elements, but, yeah, obviously, its terrible.

Thirdly: Even Heston knew that the idea of "Beneath" and a sequel to "Planet" was not a particularly useful idea. And, in fact, I consider it the weakest of the entire series. But I do think that the movie "Escape" is more or less "Planet" for dummies (provided you've grown sympathy for Cornelius and Zira in the first two films), and "Conquest" is an interesting mix of cautionary tale of man failing to dominate nature while also clearly having some feeling about man's own arrogance and inhumanity (to other men?) being his downfall.

I hesitate to judge movies these days based on a first trailer, and I'd hate to say "this is what 'Rise of' will be about" in the tradition of the cautionary tales of the POTA series, but I suspect "stop genetically engineering apples"/ Hey, don't mess with mother-nature will be coded in there somewhere.

I'd want to hear more exactly what you think the movie was trying to say in regards to undermining our faith in definitions of humanity, but I think you're correct in terms of the 1968 film and the original novel (the scene of the academic conference in the original book is particularly interesting). But I always found the depiction of science tangled with faith via Dr. Zaius to be the strongest point of the film.

Most interesting was what it had to say about Cheston not really caring if his ladyfriend was going to be able to carry on a decent conversation as long as she looked like an extra from a Raquel Welch cavegirl movie.