My Love of Monkey Movies

  • Posted on: 12 July 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

There’s something about monkey movies. King Kong and Planet of the Apes are movies that no matter how many are done, people seem to have the appetite for just a little more of the same regardless of whether it's good or bad. I was really young when first saw King Kong. I was 3 or 4 and was in my monster movie phase (I got into it and didn’t entirely get out of it). Planet of the Apes came along later for me. I could never figure how those monkeys have stone age homes and fresh ammo for their rifles. Whatever. I was watching monkeys! As a writer, I am a little miffed at the simplicity of the series. “How ‘bout we have smart apes and rule over humans?”

Here’s my rundown of all of these monkey movies:
Planet of the Apes (1968) - This one was THE original. It was based on the French novel by Pierre Boulle that I read during my honeymoon. When I learned that Rod Serling did the screenplay that really connected the pieces. Cynical human, Charleton Heston, was thrown into a world gone mad where human were savages and apes ruled. I suspended a lot of disbelief to swallow this movie, but it’s still a classic.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - Psychic mutants vs. monkeys? Yes, please! It was weak, but I still liked it. If for nothing else, I liked that the mutants fired off a doomsday missile that incinerated the Earth. It was 1970, everyone was expecting to get nuked.

Escape From The Planet of the Apes (1971) - By the time I dialled into the franchise (ca. 1975), the first two movies were in heavy rotation on TV. This was years before On Demand and videotapes. I had no way to get my hands on this opus. Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (played by Kim Hunter) came into their past, but our modern day. The travel from modern day to the far future in the first movie was the result of the Fitz-Lorenz time contraction happening. Almost a hard-sci-fi thing. The throwback was total hokum. Why did the apes climb in a spaceship? How did they know how to leap backwards through time? Eventually, the ape couple fall from celebrity status to pariah and have to run to save their furry hides (just like Paris Hilton). At the end of the movie, they die but their baby survives in the ultimate causality loop.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) - Ricardo Montalban plays Armando: Caesar's friend, having sheltered him until the events of the story play out from 1991 (ah, I long for our ape overlords…). This movie is thick with allegory: the young rebelling against the old; race riots; etc.. I remember asking my dad, “What was ‘conquest’ mean?” I was nine and the Internet wasn’t in our home in 1976.

Battle For The Planet of the Apes (1973) - This one weirdly can map over to the 2014 movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The future apes’ child, Caesar, has led a revolt. He has set up a colony of apes who live in some harmony with the human survivors of the conquest. Humans have holed up in the ruins of a nearby city and eventually they battle with the apes. The big fight eventually leads to the death of Claude Atkins’ gorilla antagonist (sorry to wreck the ending for you). Along with that death came the end of Roddy McDowell’s monkey fueled meal ticket.

Planet of the Apes (TV Series) (1974 and 1975) - They had all of the monkey costumes left over. They came out with TV series: Planet of the Apes from CBS and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes from NBC. Six year old was really grateful to CBS for making the crap series. Forty-six year old me is happy that he blocked these out.

Planet of the Apes (2001) - The tragic event of 7/27/01 was the release of this movie from Tim Burton. It strung together little moments from the original to pay plenty of fan service, but give us a super weak plot. The trailers and TV ads to promote the movie were great, and I was really excited. It turns out this movie only had three good minutes peppered throughout 2 hours that make me wish for an ape insurrection that could put in some cage far away from the movie theater. I tried watching some of this movie later and it was actually got much worse: like reliving a childhood trauma. I marked this as the turning point in Burton’s career. After this movie, he had more misses than hits. I went from being eager about new work coming from him, to a twinge of dread-- like I was going to have to see a long macaroni art show exhibit. This movie spawned a video game that is so bad, that I will not link to it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) - In an attempt to reboot the franchise and bury the horrible Tim Burton catastrophe, they go all the way back to the beginning. In this movie, a researcher is trying to cure Alzheimer's using a DNA therapy that will remap the pathways of a victim’s brain. They test it on apes and the side effect is to create a super intelligent chimp, who is named Caesar. Caesar spreads the drug to other apes and they devise a plan to escape human captivity. While the drug imbues apes with super intelligence, the drug kills most humans. At the close of the movie, we see the little airline trails as the Simian Flu spreads around the world soon infecting everyone. While it has “Planet of the Apes” the scope of the movie really sells the story. It could have been called “Monkey Escape San Francisco.”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) - I saw this last night. Ten years after the Simian Flu decimates humanity, a colony of survivors struggles to reclaim civilization in San Francisco. North of the ruined city, Caesar (from the 2011 movie) has established a thriving community of intelligent apes. The humans stumble upon the ape city. From there on out, it’s a tug of war of trust between humans who are on the edge of being wiped out; and apes who remember their years of captivity. Parts of the movie dragged, but I really liked it. The performances were strong and that includes the CGI apes who look very close to authentic. Trivia: the forest scenes were shot near Campbell River BC. (insert monkey extras joke here).

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Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50