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Rise or Fall of the Planet of the Apes?

Today, Slammed & Damned brings you the first official trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the upcoming reboot of the much-loved Planet of the Apes franchise. This new look at a world in which apes become a force to be reckoned with was directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Though it was “suggested” by Pierre Boulle’s 1963 sci-fi novel, La Planète des singes, based on the trailer it doesn’t appear the filmmakers took the suggestion to heart.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco as a scientist doing genetic research on monkeys. One chimp in particular, the foreshadowingly named Caesar, is a bit of an overachiever and, well, we all know what happens next. Teach a monkey to fish, he’ll always eat; teach a monkey to talk, your basic human rights will soon be stripped as you become chattel of your ape overlords.

If any previously rebooted film franchise needed yet another reboot, it’s the Apes franchise (yes, I know, Superman too). The original film, made in 1968 and starring Charlton Heston, was an instant classic whose innovative makeup effects and timely civil rights subtext made it a commercial juggernaut, launching four sequels of varying quality, a decent television series, comic books and a marketing blitz that is common now, but was rather revolutionary at the time. After a while, the Apes frenzy died down, replaced by the frenzy surrounding ‘70s blockbusters such as Jaws and Star Wars. Then, in 2001, Tim Burton came along and decided to destroy restart the series.

I don’t know what Burton was thinking when he made his wretched Planet of the Apes. He was coming off Sleepy Hollow, one of his stronger films, and maybe that was the problem. Perhaps Sleepy Hollow was too much in his wheelhouse. Perhaps he wanted to stretch himself. Perhaps he was just bored and grabbed something that reminded him of his youth. That must be it — Planet of the Apes was Tim Burton’s midlife crisis! It happened and now it’s best just to forget the whole sad affair. I know that’s my take on it.

Now, along comes Rupert Wyatt with this new take on the Apes saga. He and the screenwriters have stripped away the time travel/science fiction elements and seem to have made the flick a slick medical thriller with Frankensteinian overtones. Good times. Adding to those good times is James Franco, one of the most debated stars of the day. Is he a serious artist or a merry prankster whose whole career is one big conceptual inside joke? I dunno. I vary between loving and hating whoever he is. But, here, he takes his squinty-eyed, stoner-smile persona — his very Franco-osity — most recently seen in the much hated Your Highness and molds it into a serious role. At least I think it’s serious. You never know with this guy. He’s all over the map. Next, he’s scheduled to play Oz in Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful. To which I can only say: of course he is.

I seem to have veered off course. What started as a glimpse of the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes trailer has turned into a bit of a screed. For that I apologize. But, I ask you, who will apologize for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, my friends? And what about the children? Dammit, I did it again. Okay, take a look at the trailer and see what you think. Is Rise of the Planet of the Apes (in theaters August 5) a valid take on an old favorite or just another entry in James Franco’s meta-joke book?

~Theron Neel

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4 Comments

  • Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    This actually seems more akin to this F. Paul Wilson book SIMS I’m about to read.
    At least what I gather from the book description and after watching the trailer.
    Weird.

  • admin
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Hey, man! Long time, no type. About the movie/book, there are no new ideas, right? It’s how you dress them up…and talking monkeys is a pretty nice conceit in which to dress up one’s threadbare ideas.

  • Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Hey, man!

    Well the Wilson book is actually good so far, but this reboot looks draaaab, man.

  • admin
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I guess they’re trying to make it relevant for contemporary filmgoers…but the whole stem cell uproar is so last decade. It flares up from time to time, though. But, hey, James Franco and talking apes, right?

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