From The Inside: Going B.A.N.A.N.A.S for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

It’s hard to commit to writing a regular column for many writers who love (and write about) cinema. But occasionally members of the Inside Pulse Movies Staff have long form thoughts on film they want to share with you, our valued readers. Thus comes a new project from Inside Pulse Movies, “From the Inside,” where members of the movies staff sporadically share their thoughts on anything and everything related to film.

Next month, it will have been ten years since the release of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake. What was supposed to have been a fresh start to what was once a thriving franchise, 2001’s Planet of the Apes stalled in the water after a slightly disappointing box office performance and a critical trashing. Was the world doomed to never again have the joy of seeing an ape ride a horse on the big screen? Not if James Franco, wunderkind of Hollywood, has anything to say about it.

Last week we posted the new trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A reboot of the classic ‘70s science fiction/morality tale series, Rise stars James Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist whose work in attempting to cure Alzheimer’s inadvertently leads to the forced evolution of apes and their subsequent revolution.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently scheduled for release on August 5 and I’m here to tell you that it is most definitely a movie you should be looking forward to.

First, a brief history of Planet of the Apes. The first film was an adaptation of “La Planète des singes,” a French novel by Pierre Boulle, a writer who also authored The Bridge over the River Kwai. Adapted by Michael Wilson and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, Planet of the Apes was a bona fide hit for Fox. Aimed at children but with a pro-peace message that adults could sink their teeth into, the movie’s success is most definitely the reason why those other big-budgeted sci-fi film franchises from the ‘70s, Star Wars and Star Trek, exist.

Starting in 1970, there would be a different Planet of the Apes movie released every summer for four years. While the films were considered children’s movies, they grew progressively darker and darker — dealing with everything from nuclear holocaust to the assassination of beloved series’ characters to baby chimp murder. The fourth film in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is largely considered to be the tonal inspiration for this fall’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Dealing with Caesar, the genetically superior chimp that was birthed by two time traveling apes from the future (don’t ask), Conquest followed Caesar’s bloody revolution against mankind. Leading the apes at first in political protests and mischief and finally in murder, Caesar would become the overlord in a new planet ruled by apes.

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis plays a chimp named Caesar. While there does not seem to be any time travel involved, it’s fairly obvious from the film’s trailer that Serkis’ character (performed through motion-capture technology) is the spiritual decedent of long-time Ape film star Roddy McDowall’s Caesar.

Now, I’m a self-confessed Planet of the Apes nut. From the original five films to the two attempts at translating the franchise into a television series, I dig what the original movies’ attempted to do in their time. That said, the original Planet of the Apes movies are very much a product of their time — as hard to separate from the ‘70s as shag carpet and lava lamps.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of watching all five of the original Planet of the Apes film back to back at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. As I sat in the theater and watched the studio’s personal archival 35mm prints projected on the screen in pristine clarity, it became more and more obvious that the world is ready for another Planet of the Apes movie. Specifically, the world is ready for CGI apes.

Looking at the apes in the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it’s obvious that the special effects artists still have a touch more work to do before the film’s August release. Despite the unfinished look of some of the shots, what is there to see is simply amazing. Serkis’ performance shines through the special effects and audiences really get a feel for the pathos of a character; pathos that original series’ star Roddy McDowall exuded with ease.

More so, I love that the film is going to portray the apes as ape-sized. One thing I had forgotten about the original Planet of the Apes is the fact that it was not meant to be suggested that the chimps and gorillas had evolved physically. The unevolved apes from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes looked just like the horse-riding, gun toting apes from Planet of the Apes. The series’ apes were always meant to be the size of normal apes. The filmmakers of the ‘70s were just working with the restrictions placed upon them. They needed the apes to be human-sized because that’s the only way they could pull off the costumes and performances.

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though, the imagination is not limited to an actor’s body type. Apes of all shapes and sizes will be accounted for — and that just makes me all kinds of excited.

Furthermore, how cool is that title? Rise of the Planet of the Apes, re-titled from the original Rise of the Apes, instantly reminds viewers of those long, unwieldy titles from the ‘70s Apes films such as Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

There’s a lot of potential in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and every trailer and TV spot uncovered for the film so far has made me convinced that director Rupert Wyatt has created a movie that should not be missed come August. Let’s hope that Wyatt’s more realistic take on the Apes series is a success. While I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where we get a new Planet of the Apes movie every summer, it’d be nice to get one more frequently than once a decade.

What do you think of what has been shown so far for Rise of the Planet of the Apes? How do you think it stacks up against the rest of this summer’s films?

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