Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes of the Blue Highwind

I'm going to level with you Space Monkeys* here, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is not a movie I particularly liked.  And it wasn't a movie I particularly disliked either.  It was a movie that I particularly saw, and that's it.  I think I'm only making this post because I get to make a wacky title.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a movie that dares to ask this burning, emotionally stirring question:  can James Franco save his career after trying to co-host the Academy Awards with Jack Daniels?  The answer to that question is that James Franco's career was never actually in peril, the guy was signing deals to appear in a very ill-conceived "Wizard of Oz" remake.  So he's okay.  I think he's a douche now, and he'll never live down that show, but he'll be in movies and teaching college courses about himself for a very long time.

As for this reboot of everybody's favorite monkey franchise, its going to be okay as well.  The audience in the theatre I went to was loving this movie.  By the end, they all had betrayed their humanity and were rooting for the apes.  I'm not so easily mislead from my staunch loyalty to the human race.  If "Avatar" couldn't get me to side with the blue elves, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" won't get to pounding my chest for primates.  Also, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" just isn't all that well-made of a movie in the end.  It was "eh".  Whatever.

The "Planet of the Apes" franchise has had a weird history.  In the scheme of things, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is probably the most grounded installment.  There aren't any overtly Marxist overtones, funny ape costumes, or subterranean psychic people.   You may not know this, but the 1968 Charlton Heston SciFi adventure has had no less than four sequels.  The entire franchise history makes for one strange story:

(Honestly, talking about all this movie history is a lot more interesting to me than reviewing this movie.  That's sad.)

We all know the first movie's story, Charlton Heston lands on a planet where apes rule, its Earth, "Damn you all to Hell!", yadda yadda yadda.  But that's only the beginning of the madness.  The first sequel, "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" featured a race of bald telepathic humans that worshiped a thermonuclear bomb several miles below the ape-controlled surface.  Charlton Heston later uses that bomb to blow up the entire Earth.  You'd think the franchise would end there, and you'd be wrong.   The producers tried their best to end it here, but money called for more monkey movies.  But how do you make a sequel when you just killed every character you created and blew up the Earth?  Well, go back in time, that's how!  In "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", a group of apes use Charlton Heston's spaceship to come to 1970s human-controlled Earth.  The surviving apes are eventually killed, but they have an ape son named Caesar.  At some point humans create a caste of servant apes, essentially slaves.  Caesar, being the lone talking ape, leads an ape rebellion in "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes".  The apes now rule the Earth, meaning that the entire franchise is a stable time loop.  "Battle for Planet of the Apes" is where the producers really ran out of ideas, and money from what I can tell.  Here apes fight, humans survive a bit, and a statue of Caesar cries(?).  Of course, "Battle for the Planet of the Apes"was so lousy that it finally did what what blowing up the Earth could not do:  kill the "Planet of the Apes" franchise.

Then they let Tim Burton do a remake.  Now Tim Burton can be a brilliant filmmaker, he's done his fair share of great movies.  But when you give him a remake... run.  Run for your life.  The 2001 "Planet of the Marky Mark" is such a terrible movie that everybody who has seen it now suffers from PTSD.  Its a very specific PTSD which means that you will never be able to remember a single thing about that movie, you have completely blocked it out of your memory.  I, having a strong will, remember the Lincoln Momument replaced with a monkey statue in the stupidest most random twist ending ever.  Ape Licoln, Jesus Christ...  At the very least, Burton's "Planet of the Apes" didn't actually murder innocent children like his "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" did.  Now with that attempt to bring the franchise back to life failed, Hollywood waited ten years.  Then they decided to start again, this time remaking "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes".  Did they do a better job this time?

Well, yeah, I'd say they have.  In merely comparing it to the Tim Burton movie or the later sequels, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is probably the most well-made film in the whole franchise.  The original only edges ahead because Charlton Heston is so awesome in it.   James Franco is a scientist working to cure Alzheimer's Disease by making a virus that increases brain function.  He tests it on apes, who grow super smart.   Franco personally raises one of the monkeys, named Caesar in secret.  Because Franco isn't a very good scientist, he uses the cure serum on his own Alzheimers suffering father.  This will turn out to be a ludicrously dangerous thing to do later in the movie.  So Caesar pretty much has human intelligence, but he's still a huge monkey.  When the monkey gets into trouble, he has to stay in an ape house by court order.  Of course, James Franco never bothers to tell the ape house owner, Col. Stryker from "X-Men 2", that Caesar is super smart.  Instead he goes off to create a new cure when his dad takes a turn for the worse.  The ape house for some reason or another employs Draco Malfoy, who hates all monkeys and mistreats them.  Well if you don't like monkeys, why are you working at a chimp prison??  Just get a different job, Draco!  Eventually James Franco's second cure gets into Caesar's hands, he spreads super smartness, and the rebellion begins.

Now at this point, the Powerpuff Girls fly in and save Towns-  Oh wait, that's a different movie...  crap.

There is a female love interest for James Franco, an Indian girl who does absolutely nothing this entire movie.  She is probably the single most meaningless female role I have ever seen in a movie.  At least in horror movies women get to show their boobs - it isn't a great role but it is a role.  This girl here, Freida Pinto from "Slumdog Millionaire", she has nothing to do in this movie at all.  I wasn't even entirely sure that she and James Franco were even going out until an hour in when they kissed briefly.  Its hilarious how bad this character is underused, most of the movie she just walks around not saying a word to anybody.  There are scenes where she's in, and she doesn't get a line.  My Chuck Palahniuk senses started tingling after awhile, because I started to wonder if this girl was a real human being or just an imaginary friend James Franco had created.  She only talks to him and the monkey, she doesn't even talk to Franco's dad.  Then again, James Franco himself begins to disappear from the movie in the second half when Caesar takes center stage.  Personally I found when Franco got lost and Caesar took over to be the parts when the movie really found itself.

The ape effects themselves aren't great as far as I'm concerned.  Every monkey in this movie is made out of CG Hollywood pixie dust, even the monkeys that are shown in the zoo.  There isn't a real animal anywhere in this movie.  Largely the effects aren't very convincing.  Caesar looks way too human, and the whole point of the movie is that he's a regular ape.  In fact, it looks like James Franco screwed Caesar's mom and created some half-human half-ape abomination.  At no point during this movie did I think "Caesar is a real ape".  The effects on other primates like the orangutan and gorilla actually look decent, but the chimpanzees all universally look horrible.  I mean really, what happened to trained monkeys?  Andy Serkis I know did a lot of good work motion captioning Caesar's movements, but the effect just doesn't play.

Then the story itself has plenty of holes.  Like somehow or another Caesar manages to conjure up an army of hundreds of apes when he only conceivably be ruling a group of maybe three dozen or less.  And how the Hell is Caesar able to telepathically predict the moves the humans take against him?  Then if you really pay attention, most of problems here only occur because James Franco isn't a very good scientist.  Like, I guess I can't blame him for accidentally creating a plague on humanity that will kill us all (spoilers!), but I can fucking blame him if he doesn't properly monitor the virus and keep the untested strain from contaminating the world.  Also, if you're trying to cure Alzheimers, making Captain Trips is a really poor end result.  By the way, the virus wouldn't have spread if Patient Zero hadn't been an idiot and had gone to the hospital when he was sneezing blood.

Luckily the human race will certainly survive because if "Pandemic 2" is any proper Superflu simulation, Madagascar has preemptively closed its borders.  That country closes its borders when anybody as much as sneezes in Australia.

Weirdly, the one character who made me smile the most was Draco Malfoy.  I still don't know why Draco is working with chimps if he hates them, but he sure makes for an arrogant bastard that's fun to watch because of how horribly dickish he is.  The whole movie he plays it up with evil smirks.  "Ten points to Sytherin, ha!  Take that, Potter!"  Draco is overracting so much here, he shines in this terribly dull movie.  But then the writers commit pure film TREASON.  They give Draco Malfoy Charlton Heston's most iconic lines from the first movie.  NOO!!  Draco Malfoy does not get to say "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"  The line is only in for cheap fanservice, its just awful to have this idiot say it.  They even have Malfoy say "ITS A MADHOUSE, A MADHOUSE!!!"  Not only that, Malfoy says Heston's classic line a full three seconds before what is this movie's emotional climax.  The one part of the movie that I dare not spoil in this review, and Malfoy blows it.

And um... I think I'm out of things to talk about.  "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is movie that I didn't like, didn't like to write about, and absolutely hate to type out.  I think I've come to the limit of my analytical skills here with this movie.  There is a kind of spark that a good movie has, some kind of indefinable quality.  "Rise Planet Apes" doesn't have it.  Maybe its the script, maybe its the directing, I have no idea.  What I didn't like it.  All I know was that every other person in the theatre were screaming for blood when the Corrupt Corporate Dude was slain by the apes, and I was left wondering what he had done wrong.  Yeah, he was evil, greedy, terrible, but the guy didn't do anything wrong, not really.  He wanted to make money by curing Alzheimers, should he die for that?  Should mankind be wiped out for "Me Am Play Gods!!"?  So what we have here is "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" meets "Deep Blue Sea", two great tastes that do not taste great together.

Here, I got an idea as to why this movie doesn't work.  "Captain America" was a fun movie that simply wasn't confident enough in its audience to take on the mature themes and harsh reality of war.  "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a movie that's willing to go fully serious, but just isn't any fun.  I'd take "Captain America" in the end.

* Ha?  Get it?  Space Monkeys?  In a review of a movie about monkeys??  HAHA!  Aren't I clever?  I'm like a real professional film critic now, sticking really lame puns in the first sentence of my reviews.  If I just suck a bit more, the Daily News might hire me.


  1. :') It made me happy to be a Space Monkey again, even if it was just for one sentence.


  2. The original Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite movie of all time. I kind of liked seeing all the references they made to the original, even if they could get pretty forced. But I felt like most of them went right over the audience's heads. I couldn't stop thinking about how many people in the audience actually even gave a crap about the original. It was like they were all there just to see a CGI summer blockbuster, which is pretty much what the movie was.

    And it was kind of hard seeing such an intellectual film as Planet of the Apes get rebooted into a CGI summer blockbuster ;_;

  3. I'm thinking about the Planet of the Apes musical in that one episode of the Simpsons.
    "Get your hands off me you damn dirty apes!"
    "He can talk, he can talk, he can talk, he can talk, he can talk, he can talk."

  4. if you saw this you will watch green lantern 2 im sure of it

  5. No way, if Green Lantern 2 does manage to get itself made, I'll never see it. I almost lost my mind during the first movie. It was mental torture. If I ever want my cerebral cortex to be drawn and quartered, I'll see that movie.

    Then again, if Green Lantern is Black that time, maybe it will have a chance.

  6. there are 3 green lanern movie one black one and the artist.
    we need samuel jackson