Rise of the Planet of the Apes: a cautionary tale, but not for the reason the makers say

As X-Men: First Class takes the franchise back to the drawing board, Peter Parker prepares to get bitten AGAIN and Hollywood ponders what the hell it’s going to do with Batman once Christopher Nolan is done with it, another reboot has caught my eye: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

News that one of my favourite franchises is getting a makeover fills me with both excitement and dread; too many films have had their premise altered to pander to “now” topics (I’m looking at you, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”) and there are three “rules” that need to be taken into account when tackling a reboot …

1. The generational gap

My issue with Hollywood’s need to rehash everything is the frequency with which is does it. X-Men First Class and The Incredible Hulk are two cases in point. Their respective reboots come while the originals are still fresh in memory. The need to reboot should be about bringing something to a new generation, and to do something that couldn’t be achieved before. First Class gets away with it because it’s a prequel, although it does take the narrative into an area that contradicts the original trilogy. Incredible Hulk is Hollywood at is Etch-a-Sketch best… “Well, that didn’t work… screw it, lets do it again!”

2. Staying true to the source material

The need to add a contemporary twist and transplant modern fears to stories can alter the tone and feel of a film, just as much as changing character traits or aesthetics to make them mass market-palatable. Which goes hand in hand with…

3. If it IS broke…

Doesn’t mean we should fix it. Or rather, just because we can make things better, does not mean that we have to. JJ Abrams set a good example of what to keep and what to change with Star Trek.

The original Planet of the Apes was made in 1968. I’ll ignore Tim Burton’s 2001 failure; the less said about the Mark E. Mark/Helena Monkey Carter love interest storyline the better.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a movie that will benefit greatly from the CG we have today, and the trailer certainly impresses on that count – in fact, there’s perhaps never been a better time to revisit the Apes than now. So why am I not convinced?

Rise passes Rule 1 by coming to a new audience at a time that makes it fresh and interesting, then stubs its toe squarely on the corner of the Rule 2.

The beauty of the Apes series was being transported into a world that was unfamiliar, a world turned on its head. It’s a film that doesn’t need a PowerPoint presentation on the hubris of man messing with nature - it was all there neatly for audience to grasp in the original.

[33-year-old film spoiler alert…]

When Charlton Heston comes across the destroyed Statue of Liberty and realises that we destroyed ourselves and the Simians evolved to be the ruling species, it’s just perfect, and doesn’t need to be spelled out.

Moreover, Planet of the Apes is an allegory, the apes making the same mistakes as us - racial inequality, violence - but that won’t be present it this version. Sure, the sketchy apes are gone, the script is tighter and the set pieces are better, but is it a worthwhile trade off? Maybe it’s the same mistake that Peter Jackson made with King Kong by having the lengthy fight sequence in the middle that, although didn’t ruin the film, definitely felt like technical demonstration over storytelling.

I’m still going to give the film the benefit of the doubt, and more importantly my hard earned cash. But as far as my faith in the film goes, I don’t hold a lot of hope. It feels as though by making Rise a modern day tale (and in my opinion an unnecessary origins story), they’ve taken all that is Planet of the Apes away.

And besides, what do you expect is going to happen if you give brain-developing drugs to a monkey called Caesar? Should’ve given it to the monkey named Cletus.

Read More About... , , .