Ah the reboot, the Hollywood method of pumping new life and new revenue from an existing intellectual property. A way of turning each franchise into a choose-your-own adventure story. In many ways and though to far less profit, it is what we have done recently here at The Cool Ship.
The Planet of the Apes was an absolute revolution when it first hit theaters in 1968. The film boasted the largest FX budget of the time and the sweet baritone of future NRA president, and the guy who seems to love screaming at the end of sci-fi movies, Charlton Heston. The film also starred Roddy McDowall as a frightening realistic (at least for the time) talking ape.
The film is about a team of astronauts who crash land on what they think is an alien planet, but turns out to be the Earth in a distant future. In this future, apes have evolved beyond men while man as we know him has experienced a sort of devolution and has been enslaved. The movie’s beautiful climax when Heston’s character enters “the forbidden zone” and discovers the remains of the statue of liberty is one of the most heartbreaking on celluloid. Planet of the Apes grossed very well for the time.
From that moment forward, for about 10 years, a Planet of the Apes sequel was released bi-yearly, each with an even more ridiculously long title ; Beneath The Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Stop The Planet of the Apes I Wanna Get Off the musical. That last one was a joke… and not even my joke… it’s from the Simpsons.
The Planet of the Apes sequels are all horrible. I know The Planet of the Apes sequels were awful because they only cost about $4 on Blu Ray… for all of them. That’s roughly 80 cents per film. The original film is available in a standalone Blu ray for $16, or you can get a boxed set of the entire series for $20. I could cite any number of reasons, from decreased budget to watered down scripts to less interesting actors for the shift in quality, but I think you get the idea. I won’t even go into the 2001 reboot except to say that Mark Wahlberg is a pretty poor substitute for Charlton Heston (keep in mind this is 2001 Marky Mark), and the final scene posed questions that could only be answered in a sequel that never came.
2011’s Rise of the Planet of The Apes has taken us back to where it all began. It attempts to answer the question that no one was asking; “how did those apes get so smart, and the humans so dumb”. The CGI is like nothing ever seen before and as an action movie it does pretty well.
James Franco is a scientist (still with me?) testing a drug meant to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s in humans on chimpanzees. The tests are shut down when one of the apes goes… oh I can’t help myself … Ape S@#! and cause the entire lot to be destroyed. Franco smuggles one infant chimp out of the lab. The chimp called Caesar is crazy smart due to the Alzheimer’s drug passing from his mother. Caesar ultimately is responsible for giving “rise”, if you will, to The Planet of the Apes. You can see where this is headed, right? All and all a fine if unnecessary film addition to an incredibly overworked concept. However, it is successful in showing a logical path to the world we were exposed to in the original film. The most amazing thing about this movie and the coming sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is Andy Serkis as Caesar. His movements are recorded by a state-of-the-art suit and transcribed for CGI. This setup makes for a most believable sentient monkey. Has he ever been in a movie? As a person? Serkis achieves what took Roddy McDowall hours of make-up in the original.
I look forward to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with cautious optimism: we may yet get the follow-up film we have been waiting for since 1968, or we may just as likely get another 80 cent sequel.