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Author Topic: Planet of the Apes  (Read 6042 times)

Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2021, 08:07:14 AM »
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Don Taylor, 1971)

After the events of both Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, it was curious to me where the franchise may decide to go for future installments. In many ways, it had felt like the story on the ďpresent dayĒ Planet of the Apes had been told out, especially with the destruction at the end of Beneath. It appears the filmmakers were on the same page as me, as with Escape from the Planet of the Apes takes a new direction and setting entirely, bringing the apes weíve come to know back to ďEarthĒ, that is to the time of our own, human dominate present day. By doing so, I think the filmmakers are opening the series back up to endless possibilities. Where they decide to go after shifting the setting and timeline, well thatís an excellent question, but I wonder how successful they will be given the poor reputation of the series. Poor reputation may be a little strong, but these films onward are certainly not films that are talked about very often or in a very shining light when they are. It seems like they are largely forgotten alongside the classic Planet of the Apes when any discussion arises.

At the conclusion of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) escape away in the spaceship along with Milo (Sal Mineo) as the world is destroyed, but they are transported back in time to Taylorís present. Discovered by American authorities, the apes eventually reveal themselves as intelligent after being investigated by zoologists. This spurns a presidential commission, and rockets Zira and Cornelius to stardom as oddities, but after Zira lets slip that they come from the future where apes rule and the Earth is destroyed, they become enemies of the state and must go on the run with the help of sympathetic veterinarians Stephanie (Natalie Trundy) and Lewis (Bradford Dillman). To add to the stress levels, Zira is also pregnant with their first child, whose existence threatens the future of the world.

In many ways, it feels like Escape from the Planet of the Apes may be the ďjumping the sharkĒ moment in the series. While the move is necessary to keep things going, the delivery and actual finished product of this movie are very poor. I canít help but feel as thought losing that ďhumanĒ lead character (Taylor and Brent) shifts the focus in such a way to make it less interesting. Thatís hard for me to say, as Zira and Cornelius are characters Iíve come to love, especially through their performances. Kim Hunter has done wonders in the series to this point as Zira. But it felt like much more of a shift to lighthearted comedy/sitcom, with the fish out of water premise really driven up to the nth degree. We even get a sequence where Zira and Cornelius have a Pretty Woman moment where they shop and get dressed, and then later Zira is treated to ďspecial grape juiceĒ for comedic effect. This film really loses its bite, and fails to really live up to the type of social and political commentary the series did so well in the first two films.

I think one of my biggest complaints about this film, is that not nearly enough happens. Itís a slight film, coming in at just over 90 minutes, but after the apes appear back on earth in the present, thereís just a lot of procedural happenings, without any real meaningful character or story arc. I miss that from the first two films, and not having a real pulling force with a clear allegory, or clear objective just makes it a movie that happens, but doesnít make us feel anything. We certainly learn to be sympathetic towards Zira and Cornelius, that groundwork has been done in the first two films and somewhat here as well, but not knowing the end game, this film in many ways feels like part of a greater whole that perhaps the remainder of the original series will tell. But if so, that is still a failing of this specific film, as, even with a series of films, each individual film requires a self-contained tale. Iím not sure this one lives up to that with any interested beginning, middle and end. They are there in the pure definition of the terms, but it feels too slight, and too much like a transitional film for me to sing any of its praises.

★ ★ - Don't Like It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2021, 09:17:09 AM »
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (J. Lee Thompson, 1972)

Coming off the transition from the future world to the modern world with Escape from the Planet of the Apes and into this film, itís starting to be very clear to me that these last three films very well be the story of how the apes rose to power in the first place, which is an interesting story arc given the subsequent prequel trilogy. Having not been familiar with almost any of these films before, this comes as a surprise to me, but perhaps it shouldnít. The arc across Escape, Conquest, and Battle will tell the story of how apes came to rule, thereby completing the circle of the story that started in the middle, with Taylor travelling to the future and finding man the slave of apes. Itís a very logical direction and ultimate conclusion to the story. And yet, I guess knowing that this story would be retold with the modern prequel trilogy, I still wasnít expecting it. I will be curious to look back after completing all 9 films from the series, to see which origin trilogy I like better. The newer films have a tremendous reputation, while these originals are hardly ever talked about, so I suspect I know the answer, but it will be fun to compare notes nonetheless.

Some twenty years after the conclusion of Escape, where Zira and Cornelius were murdered and their baby Caesar (Roddy McDowall) placed into the hands of a circus manager named Armando (Ricardo Montalban) for safe keeping, Armando decides to bring Caesar back into the world, which now features apes as slaves. After a mysterious disease killed all the dogs and cats in the world, humans adopted apes as pets, and discovering their relative intelligence, turned them into servants, slaves to do their bidding. We see the horrible conditions these apes now have to live in, with Caesar the one ape possible of leading a revolution for their freedom. Disguising his level of intelligence as a slave to the governor (Don Murray), Caesar uses his skills to organize and train the other apes to fight back against their ďmastersĒ and lead them to their very own freedom. The beginning of the Planet of the Apes.

Coming off the disappointment of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, itís once again very pleasing to see such an overtly political film, taking on slavery and the black American experience head on in a way that, true is not very subtle, but nonetheless extremely effective. What Iíve been constantly amazed by these films is the fact that they all manage to be pretty different from one another in various ways. For instance, this film feels very solidly like a grimy city crime drama from the 70s, full with the same aesthetic and cinematography. It looks like The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and other such films of the era. Itís also a very slight film, coming in under the 90 minute mark. Itís straight to the point, doesnít feature a lot of exposition, and just does its thing without much fluff or distraction. I really appreciated that from this film, but its very different from the previous 3. And thatís not to say that this is the style and approach they should have used for all the films, I actually quite appreciate the subtle differences, to keep things fresh. But the other approaches donít always work for the story being told. Here, the approach is pitch perfect with the little tale being communicated.

I will say that after Escape and Conquest, its feeling very much like these last three films covering the rise of the apes to power on earth could have been a single film. Seeing Battle will inform this opinion better obviously, but I see no reason why the first two films couldnít simply be the first two acts in a much longer/larger film that tells this story. That being said, I like short films, especially when they work, and in many ways this ďmiddleĒ act of the trilogy fits perfectly as its own story, in which the filmmakers no only effectively communicate the horrors of the apes enslavement, their rising anger, but also the parallel to American slavery and the revolutions which took place over the course of history as men fought for their own freedom. Roddy McDowall is fantastic this time around, playing his own son, Caesar, after many three films as Cornelius. There is a level of silent communication, of knowledge of the atrocities befalling his kind. Probably the best ape performance of the series to this point. Conquest is a surprisingly sparse, yet extremely effective film in the series.

★ ★ ★ - Like It
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1SO

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2021, 02:39:33 PM »
I made this a very busy month for me, especially the first half where I'm also away at work.

I will Marathon this, aiming for this year, and hopefully when I comment it'll still be fresh enough in your mind.

Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2021, 03:54:14 PM »
I made this a very busy month for me, especially the first half where I'm also away at work.

I will Marathon this, aiming for this year, and hopefully when I comment it'll still be fresh enough in your mind.

Thanks, no worries. I will try to keep it fresh enough. I might take a short break before the remake and prequel trilogy anyway. A week or so before picking it back up. I'm #2 on the hold list at the library, so I'll probably wait to get it there as opposed to spending money to rent it. And with the library "quarantining" returned items for 4 days, it might be a minute before it's available to me.
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Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2021, 07:29:28 PM »
Will you be covering Battle for the Planet of the Apes, before you move on to the remake and prequel trilogy?

Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2021, 08:07:31 PM »
Yes, sorry, Iíve watched it already, just need to write it up.
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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2021, 11:27:38 AM »
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (J. Lee Thompson, 1973)

At this point I feel a little bit of relief to be concluding the original series of Planet of the Apes films. That is not to say I did not enjoy my journey with these films, but I definitely think we are seeing diminishing returns. Despite the uptick with Conquest, itís obvious that the producers of these films were capitalizing on their popularity at the time, rolling a new one out each year, and so slight as to suggest that it possibly should have been either a television series where various stories could be explored, or these last three films should have really just been a single contained epic movie to conclude a trilogy. The three films, Escape, Conquest, and Battle all deal with the rise of the apes to come full circle to both Planet of the Apes and Beneath. I would love to see some fan edit of these three films somehow mashed together to see if somehow they might be more compelling. Taken as separate parts, I think they ultimately come across as fast cash grabs while the franchise is still a fad.

We flash forward once again in time from Conquest, where the apes had revolted and presumably taken control of their own fates. Decades later, the apes are now flourishing as the dominate remaining intelligent life on earth. Led by Caesar (Roddy McDowall), the apes are living in huts in the wild while the nearby city is left in radioactive ruins. When told by MacDonald (Austin Stoker), one of the many humans peacefully coexisting with the apes, that there are records of his parents, Zira and Cornelius, still available in the archives of the city, Caesar leads an expedition to the city, despite the disagreement from the leader of the militant gorillas Aldo (Claude Akins). Upon arriving, they discover the city is still occupied by a group of mutilated humans, who follow them back to the ape camp with conflict and revenge in mind.

The same problems continue to reveal themselves in Battle as they were in Escape and Conquest to a lesser extent: the film is just too slight. There are plenty of interesting ideas at play, including the humans coexisting mostly peacefully at this point with the apes, but we know given the original film that eventually the humans will switch to become the mute slave enemy of the apes. How do we get there? I think telling the origin story of the strange underground humans which pop up in Beneath is also a rich avenue to pursue. But this film only scratches the surface of these topics, presenting them but giving no depth. Itís much too focused on getting through the main plot from start to finish as efficiently as possible. This makes me thing, especially since as I said these films were coming out one a year, that the film was run through the production line in a very sterile and uncreative manner. There is no room for J. Lee Thompson to put his stamp on it, to explore any curiosities, of which there are many.

On top of the lack of creative ambition with the film, the production values, which have never been outstanding, are really showing their seams here. In past installments, Conquest particularly, I think its obvious the budget is small, but the filmmakers have done well to best utilize what they have. The battle climatic battle scene here I think is perhaps the worst thing in the entire series, and its because the production values and choreography are extremely poor. Itís laughable to watch the humans slooooooowly traverse the field of battle in clunky school buses and gauche cannon trucks. Itís truly the culmination of a series of uninspired sequels that were successful in spite of themselves. There is rich text available here, and across all the sequels, but the ultimate failure of these last three films in the original series were that there was no creative license, no creative ambition to elevate the material, or deliver it in any polished or thoughtful way. Itís this that makes me saddened by this whimpering end, as I see so much potential, which is likely why the modern prequel trilogy was developed, and presumably was far more successful in telling the tale.

★ ★ - Don't Like It

Original Series Ranking
1. Planet of the Apes
2. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
3. Beneath the Planet of the Apes
4. Escape from the Planet of the Apes
5. Battle for the Planet of the Apes
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Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #27 on: April 02, 2021, 08:46:25 AM »
Planet of the Apes (Tim Burton, 2001)

The Planet of the Apes franchise is such a strange beast, a relic of weird 60s / 70s sci-fi that managed to honestly work way more than it ought to have. Of course, the sequels had a little higher hit or miss than the Charlton Heston original, but the thought to remake the film 30 years later seems like such an odd decision to me. In 2001, this is also before our current foray into IP, sequel, remake land we largely find ourselves in with the current studio strategies. But if you were going to remake a weird film from the 60s in 2001, Tim Burton does at least seem the perfect choice to direct it. Burton and I have a very mixed bag relationship. For the most part, I usually do not take well to his aesthetic. However, there have been occasional spurts of brilliance where I can see what most others already do: genius. So can he resurrect this franchise by using his creativity and imagination?

In this iteration of the Pierre Boulle novel, quite a lot of the details have changed, but the essence of the story remains. Captain Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is part of a space exploration mission, using monkeys to help explore space, when, after losing one of his apes, he steals a pod to go after it. Caught up in a galactic storm, Davidson is sent through a time warp to the future, where he crash lands on a planet run by apes, where humans are slaves. He meets up with the curious Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), who eventually helps him and other humans (Estella Warren) escape the wrath of the militaristic Thade (Tim Roth). With the help of both Ari and the weak, but aptly named Limbo (Paul Giamatti), the humans make a final stand against their ape oppressors.

As I said, they changed an awful lot in this film compared to the original, which is both a blessing and a curse. Creating a carbon copy would have been a pretty useless approach, so I appreciate the attempt to put a new spin on an old story, but ultimately the changes that were made pull the rug out from under everything that worked so well in the original, principally the on-the-nose allegories. Thade, as a chimp, should never have been made the military zealot. The way the original makes clear differences between chimps, gorillas and orangutans works so beautifully, it should have never been touched. The other HUGE change was making the other humans be able to talk. They are still the slaves of the apes, but by making them speak, it does not make Davidson stand out, and does not create the same amount of shock and confusion that Taylor experiences.

All of these changes make it easier for the filmmakers to get into the content of the film they are trying to communicate, but thatís merely a sci-fi action blockbuster that just doesnít work. Wahlberg is not yet the star he became later, and doesnít have the charisma to carry this action movie. And Estella Warren as the Nova equivalent is not nearly as interesting or impactful in the love interest role. So what Tim Burton manages to accomplish with Planet of the Apes is to throw away all the things that worked with the original and made it interesting, and instead insert a lot of inane blockbuster cliches that donít work, especially with a largely wasted cast. Overall, the cast is incredible: Wahlberg, Roth, Bonham Carter, Clarke Duncan, Roth, Kristofferson, Giamatti, etc. But none of it is enough to save this trainwreck of a film. I canít believe how much they went away from what made the original great. A shame.

- Hate It
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Corndog

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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #28 on: April 15, 2021, 09:11:48 AM »
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011)

It has been a very fun ride through the Planet of the Apes films, even if the returns have been uneven at best. Exploring such a fascinating sci-fi franchise, good or bad, is still a fun experiment where I get to see the source of its popularity, and how it does (or doesnít) capitalize on this popularity to continue to make these films. After a somewhat failed ďoriginĒ trilogy in the original set of films, the franchise lie dormant for many year (likely for good reason), until Tim Burton completely butchered the product with his reimagined remake. So then why might Fox have brought the product back to summer blockbuster screens back in 2011? Well, the short and easy answer is money. The younger generation likely hadnít seen the preceding films and this is right at the beginning of studios going into their catalog of IP to make cash grab pop movies. But I think also they found a really good script and likely a really good trilogy arc story from the filmmakers. I think that combination makes the new Planet of the Apes trilogy unique in its ability to resurrect a stale property and rise above being an easy studio cash grab. Very excited to delve into these films and discover the potential of what these films can be, and how they might improve upon the original ďoriginĒ trilogy of The Planet of the Apes.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a highly motivated pharmaceutical chemist who has been developing a new treatment for a disease very close to his heart. His father (John Lithgow) suffers from Alzheimerís, and while caring for him in his San Francisco home, Will works to cure him by testing his latest product on apes. Early returns indicate that the drug is effective, but after the test apes go crazy, his boss Steven (David Oyelowo) shuts down the operation and discards of all the apes. But a child, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is discovered by lab tech Franklin (Tyler Labine) and Will takes him home to care for him, while also developing a new variant that effectively cures his father. But after Caesar attacks a neighbor who threatens him, Caesar is sent to a primate rescue, where his enhanced intelligence helps the apes rise against their evil caretakers (Brian Cox and Tom Felton), escaping to Muir Woods to live away from the humans. But the deadly variant doesnít end there, as Franklin, now infected, starts the spread.

There are two major things to discuss about this movie, in my eyes. The first is that this is a really good movie which really does start anew and resurrect the franchise. It stands on its own, and while it throws in plenty of Easter eggs and nods to the previous films (ďGet your filthy paws off me, you damn dirty ape!Ē), it creates its own story not beholden to the story we already know. In doing so it, for one, does away with the ridiculous concept of time travelling apes in an unexplained time loop somehow started the rise of the planet of the apes; but is also manages to tell its own cautionary tale which includes humans essentially being the creator of their own downfall, which to me rings far more true from everything Iíve observed of our species. The second thing is that, while being a really good movie and a fresh start for the franchise, it is still limited to being the installment that explores how it all started. By doing so, it has a certain limited ceiling that it cannot surpass as a truly transcendent, great movie. While not beholden to the traditions of the franchise, it is beholden to having to hit certain notes to setup the rest of the trilogy.

Iím really a fan of the construct that is created here as the origin of everything. Itís a very believable and organic way to introduce the concept of hyper-intelligent apes and start us down the track of them taking over as the dominant creature on the planet. If the past year has shown us anything, itís definitely that human intelligence and dominance is in a very precarious position. But of course, this is the most pivotal setup needed to make the entire trilogy work. If this didnít feel right, and believable, then any subsequent films would be a laughing stock. As per the new industry standard in the new millennium, blockbuster franchises arenít really allowed to be silly and fun, they must be dark, brooding and emotionally resonate. And while I would mock this approach for some, it definitely seems to fit perfectly for what Planet of the Apes can be given a great script, and the script here is certainly among the best aspects of the film. Itís well thought out, well constructed, and the backbone of the film.

The cast is also strong here, and not to get ahead of myself, but the entire trilogy seems to attract top talent and casts, which I think speaks to the quality of the material as well (sure, theyíre also cashing checks too, but I think my point remains). James Franco, while he hasnít gone on to the stardom we might have thought heíd have at the time, was definitely having a moment in the early 2010s. John Lithgow, Brian Cox and David Oyelowo are always solid veterans as well. The real revelation here though is Andy Serkis and the CGI. Looking back a decade later, can you easily tell its CGI, yes. But it seems a great leap forward in the technology, especially as it pertains to motion capture performance from Andy Serkis, who does his thing, which is a thing that seemingly nobody else on the planet has been able to figure out. He is 1/1, unique and unmatched. So while Rise of the Planet of the Apes may be capped by its duty to setup the trilogy, it does just about as good as job as it could have as a stand alone film that manages to bring the franchise back to life and into the modern world.

★ ★ ★ - Like It
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Re: Planet of the Apes
« Reply #29 on: April 15, 2021, 05:40:50 PM »
Nice write up and one of my favourite films. I should go back and watch the originals which I havenít watched since I was a child.  As far as Franco, I thought his behaviour had a bit to do as to why he hasnít gone onto stardom. 
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