What a franchise the Planet of the Apes has turned out to be. In 2000, not even 20 years ago, NOBODY cared about those darn, dirty apes. Growing up, Apes was one of those franchises my father would talk about that I would ignore completely. In the 199’s, modern day computer technology took special effects to a whole new level and tried to make “ancient” franchises relevant again. In the 90s, teenage brats like me needed CGI, explosions, IMAX and all the things that made spending money on the big screen experience worthwhile. Most films without CGI are just as enjoyable from the small screen comfort of your home and Apes always had a low budget look in my eyes, so low that I didn’t even care to watch it for free at home. I ignored the series, prayed to the gods Hollywood would keep making special effects extravaganzas, and then in 2001 something heard my prayers.
5 Ways to Prep: War for the Planet of the Apes
By George Rose
July 16, 2017
What heard my prayers? Well, it wasn’t God. It wasn’t even A god. Nope, not a friendly spirit. Was it a demon? No, not yet. His name was Tim Burton and in 2000 I worshiped the ground he walked on. Since my birth in 1985, Burton has brought me Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Mars Attacks! (1996) and Sleepy Hollow(1999). This stellar decade-plus long run of funny, awkward, gothic, and action-packed blockbusters was right up my alley. I was that tortured little whiny teen that begged his parents to see these movies and I was 100% ready to jump on the Apes bandwagon once I heard Tim Burton was behind it. I mean, what could go wrong?
1) Planet of the Apes (2001)
2001 was actually a great time for a movie-loving kid like me. I had been following box office statistics online for years and The Mummy Returns (the first movie I saw twice on opening day) just debuted to $68.1 million in the first weekend of May. I was obsessed with the movie, loved that it took the title of “largest non holiday opening weekend” and decided to give classic monster movies my dad rambled on about another chance. One of my favorite directors was about to release the remake of the Planet of the Apes and I was soooo excited.
On July 27, 2001 Planet of the Apes was released. On July 28, I was confused. Sure, my hatred of the Apes franchise was unfair since I had never seen the originals. but if they were anything like this reboot than I don’t know why anyone ever cared in the first place. The movie was crap and I, being the doe-eyed Bambi with nothing but hopes and dreams and love for Hollywood, saw my mommy deer-est (aka Burton) get shot in the face. Was I to understand that “good, classic” franchises I had never seen were all actually crap? Are you telling me that a beloved director with only great movies in his filmography can sell his soul to the big studios? To make matters worse, on July 29th, it was announced the film had a $68.5 million opening weekend, taking the “biggest non holiday weekend” crown away from The Mummy Returns.
As of 2017, I still haven’t seen any of the five original Planet of the Apes films released between 1968 and 1973, and I don’t imagine I will anytime soon. What I can confidently tell you is that 2001’s reboot is likely the worst the series has ever produced. This, of course, makes it a good recommendation to see before the latest movie is released so you can know just exactly where the low bar for the series rests. As far as low bars go, the special effects and action are at least passable, while star Mark Wahlberg is very easy to look at for two hours. After this 2001 release my prayers changed; I would ask the Lord of Hollywood to punish those involved in breaking my heart and taking The Mummy Returns’ opening weekend record away from it. I assumed this meant the Apes would disappear for another 30 years and Burton would find redemption.
2) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Between 2001-2011, I went from being 16 years old to being 26. As you grow older, you learn a few things. I learned that “God” could actually be any version of any higher power that countless religions claim is the one true creator. I also came to understand that God, or Whoever is listening, doesn’t waste time on what I want with regards to Hollywood. People are starving in Africa, soooooooooo maybe my heart shouldn’t break every time the “biggest opening weekend” title is in jeopardy. Also, with cutting God a little slack in the Hollywood department, I came to trust and believe in a new higher power: Karma.
Though 2003’s Big Fish proved Tim Burton truly has a unique talent and is an amazing director, Karma would punish this “sellout” of a director with a long string of truly unoriginal garbage. Burton, once the king of updating iconic characters (Batman!!!), would become the ultimate jester of the genre that liked to juggle the balls of the new King of Hollywood, Johnny Depp. There was 2005’s remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2007’s musical update Sweeney Todd, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, and 2012’s Dark Shadows. While karma was busy taking a ten year dump all over Burton, the powers that be were busy redeeming the Apes franchise.
Maybe it wasn’t a crappy franchise. Maybe Burton really isn’t my hero and is just a Hollywood assassin hired to kill beloved franchises. Instead of banishing the Apes to another 30-year absence, 20th Century Fox went the way of the prequel-reboot in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes after a decade long disappearance. Oh. My. Golly gee whiz! It was AMAZING!!! Instead of diving right into a whole planet of primates, we are taken back to the start when it was a planet of idiot human beings. For some reason, Fox decided to hire legendary stoner James Franco as the lead in this heartfelt, action packed origin story. Much to my surprise, he is actually quite amazing as Will Rodman, the man who basically started this whole monkey mess.
Rodman secretly protects the chemically enhanced ape baby Caesar, that baby grows up to realize what everyone already knows (humans are awful), adult Caesar feels betrayed by Will, turns out the chemical that makes apes smart also kills humans (because, you know, karma), Caesar creates other smart monkeys, and the world falls apart. It’s the story you always assumed was the origin of the franchise you always thought you knew. In reality, it’s one of the few franchise reboot/remake/prequels that has the chance to complete the hat trick and provide a complete package of three critically acclaimed stories. The second explores what happens after the humans start dying off from the virus but it’s this first film where you’ll learn the most.
3) Congo (1995)
Maybe the reason I resisted the Apes franchise for so long was because my loving father made the dumb ass decision of taking his ten-year-old child to see Congo in 1995. It’s a low-grade action/monster movie about a bunch of greedy, animal-abusing, diamond stealing, culture destroying humans trying to go where they don’t belong in the jungle so they can score the ultimate treasure. The jewels they are after are protected by a bunch of crazed, vicious apes and they are the scariest things in the world to a child. To an adult, it’s a decent way to spend two hours if you’re enjoying the Week of the Planet of the Apes prior to the new films release. It’s a moderately enjoyable way to remind you, the horrible humans that currently own the world, why apes should be stopped at all costs from evolving. Wait, apes have already evolved? HUMANS WERE APES ONCE?! Oh God, no wonder we hate each other.
4) Dunston Checks In (1996)
Just like humans are not all the same, not all apes are the same. There are amazing people, like me, and there are the garbage people of the world that make you fall in love with them and then take steamy wet dumps all over your heart (most of my ex-boyfriends and Tim Burton). There are the nasty apes of the world (Congo), the not-so-bad apes that are only mean because humans were mean first but deep down Caesar is a pretty cool dude (Rise/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and then there’s sweet orangutans that mean no harm but make for hilarious sidekicks. Just one year after my dad ruined my childhood, Hollywood would reclaim its grip on my life by making me fall in love with Dunston, the hairy little rascal that found his way into a luxury hotel and becomes friends with the manager’s son. Together, Dunston and the young boy (destined to become a horrible adult human, I imagine) have hilarious hotel adventures and stop a jewel thief in the process. It’s a great way to remind yourself that not all apes are bad and maybe we shouldn’t be so mad when they slaughter mankind. After all, it’s man’s greed and pharmaceutical corporations that created them in the first place.
5) Outbreak (1995)
Speaking of corrupt pharmaceutical companies, here is yet ANOTHER world where zombie movies don’t exist because nobody seems to understand how viruses are made, spread, contained and/or cured. Maybe you should find yourself a God and start praying because it’s not smart monkeys you need to worry about; it’s sick primates. The same monkeys we abuse in circuses and zoos and rich kid animal petting birthday parties have the ability to carry deadly viruses that we can catch with each kissy-faced selfie we take with them. Ever wonder what would happen if a monkey virus took us out instead of Caesar and his army? If you guessed “pharmaceutical companies would try to cover it up so they could hide the cure and make money off the victims” then you and Outbreak would be right! After five movie recommendations, you’re starting to understand. Humans are awful and monkeys are adorable. Maybe we should start being nicer and support more movies with monkeys. This is a good week for that as War for the Planet of the Apes is prepared to take over the box office world.