Sunday, August 14, 2011


As a big Apes fan and collector since I was a kid I thought Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an enjoyable enough film, solid without being spectacular. Much more faithful in concept and tone to the original films than Tim Burton's 2001 remake, and it's nice to see it doing well with critics and audiences as I'm certainly up for more big-screen Apes adventures! I do miss John Chamber's Oscar winning make-up though, and it's unfortunate that the trailers pretty much gave away the entire plot of the film, and the human characters and actors (apart from John Lithgow) were very wooden and little more than caricatures.

I also found that the abundance of references and in-jokes to the original films went too or two are fine, I liked the bit with Caeser building the Statue of Liberty model and the news clip of the Icarus lift-off, but the others were a bit too forced and obvious, and the "damned dirty ape" line should never have been used - it is such an iconic line and it belongs to Heston alone, not handed down to some kid who was probably the worst actor and most cliched character in the entire film.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes got me thinking of the fourth film the original series, and the one which this new film most resembles in tone and theme, 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Conquest was the first Apes film I saw in a cinema, when my English teacher took me and a couple of other classmates to a screening of it at the old Airport cinema in Melbourne (this was back in the days when a school teacher taking a few of his 12 year-old students to the movies on a weekend wasn't considered anything to get overly suspicious or concerned about). He was a bit of a Star Trek/sci-fi nerdy/buff-type and I guess in us he maybe recognised (and took pity on?) a few like-minded kids. The only other Apes film I had seen up until then were Beneath the Planet of the Apes (a 16mm screening in our class thanks to a student whose dad had a bit of pull at the Channel 7 TV studios) and about the first half of the original Planet of the Apes when it aired on Sunday night television (was forced to go to bed just after Taylor spoke - school the next day).

So I hadn't seen Escape From the Planet of the Apes and knew very little of what Conquest was about and it was quite a shock to see the apes roaming not a primitive wasteland but a modern city, and the humans talked but most of the apes didn't? I suppose at the time it was something of a let-down, as the imagery of the talking, powerful apes roaming this eerie, barren Forbidden Zone strewn with the ruins of nuclear-ravaged cities, was one of the aspects of the first two films that most appealed to me, and Conquest obviously lacked that tone. But I was still sitting in a cinema watching an Apes film so I certainly still loved the experience, and over the years Conquest has definately improved for me, I appreciate more it's tone and themes now than I did as a kid, it has that great early-70s American sci-fi vibe, and I love the cold concrete feel of the Century City locales. The original can't be touched, but Conquest runs very close with Beneath as my second favourite entry in the Apes saga.