What’s the earliest science fiction series you can think of? Most would say Star Wars, but this franchise placed in a time long ago and a galaxy far away didn’t hit theaters until 1977. While sequels and prequels are prevalent in today’s Hollywood, we really didn’t start seeing whole series of movies until the 1970’s. One of the first series to grab on to the multiple-sequel idea was Planet of the Apes. In fact, the five-film series based off of the French book of the same name was completed four years before Star Wars was even released. And even though most people cannot name the four sequels to the original Planet of the Apes (which are Beneath the (1970), Escape from the (1971), Conquest of the (1972), and Battle for the (1973)), the fact that this franchise has been remade in 2001 and rebooted in 2011 just shows how it remains strong in today’s popular culture. This week’s two films look at the start of two Planet of the Apes series.
Planet of the Apes
Length: 112 minutes / 1.87 hours
Let’s admit it, nothing can really compare to the original. There are so many iconic parts in this film that it almost becomes a classic. Of course, one way to know this film’s influence is to see how often it is parodied. A lot of the well known scenes have been done in shows like “Family Guy” and “Futurama”, but I think that “The Simpsons” takes the cake with their episode entitled “A Fish Called Selma”, which included a medley from a Planet of the Apes musical (of which one of the best lines was, “I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z”). Now, while this film was not a musical, it still remains one of the strongholds of the science fiction genre. And even though the twist ending is known by most, it still remains one of the best reveals in cinematic history.
Crash-landing on a planet is not a great way to start a mission. Finding the planet desolate with the exception of apes that possess human-like intelligence and speech while humans are mute and primal doesn’t help things much either. And yet, Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) has to survive long enough in order to figure out why this inter-species “Freaky Friday” occurred on this planet. Since George (a curious name for an astronaut, given the setting) has intrigued the Apes by being the only human they have found who can talk, he gets some better treatment when compared to the rest of the humans, who are treated as animals. Eventually, he is allowed to leave to find the remnants of the human society on this planet. And yet, he doesn’t particularly like what he finds.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours
If one were to describe Rise of the Planet of the Apes succinctly, it would be “Planet of the Apes, but with the roles reversed”. Truly, this prequel and franchise reboot bears many similarities to its predecessor, as well as many subtle nods to the parts that made the original famous. And while the 1968 Planet of the Apes was revolutionary for its use of makeup, the 2011 reboot used the power of computers and motion-capture technology to create a multitude of primate actors that could be easily manipulated to perform in ways that natural apes could not (also garnering it some special effects attention). Furthermore, since this film covers some of the origins of the Planet of the Apes, but leaves room for more questions and answers, a sequel entitled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set to hit theaters in 2014.
As is the case with many medicines, testing on humans can be too risky, so animal test subjects are used to determine the effects of new drugs. Since monkeys are closer to humans in terms of behaviors, they are the test subjects for a new drug that has the potential to evolve a person’s brain. This cerebral evolution could cure Alzheimer’s, which is what Will Rodman’s (James Franco) father Charles (John Lithgow) is afflicted with. Unfortunately, when Will uses the medicine on his father, it doesn’t quite work. However, on the monkeys it proves to be working, as shown by the marvelous developments in Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee that was born from one of the early test subjects. Yet, with this new power, Caesar doesn’t like what he sees and he sets forth to change the predicament his fellow primates are in.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 monkey movies