This summer, The Planet of the Apes is back. And this time, it’s war! The third installment of the prequels of this post-apocalyptic monkey tale, War for the Planet of the Apes, should bring us to a planet where apes evolved from men (kind of). I’m not sure we needed three movies about humans being wiped out by intelligent apes, but I highly enjoyed the other two movies in this series and have faith that the third will be just as good.
Especially since I’m a fan of Planet of the Apes in all forms. The original movies were always a treat to catch one TV when I was a kid. Though, they get progressively worse, there’s something fun in each of them (OK, maybe not in Battle for the Planet of the Apes). The original movie, written by Twilight Zone scribe, Rod Serling, was a mind bending sci-fi trip, complete with surprised ending.
My personal favorite was Escape from the Planet of the Apes. It was the one time the roles were reversed and the apes (Cornelius and Zira) were the outsiders in the human world. And, of course, when people learned their planet would soon be conquered by these primates, they wanted them dead. None of these movies had very happy endings, but this one probably had the saddest. The bright spot was Cornelius and Zira’s son, Caesar, was saved from certain death by Ricardo Montalban (Khan could play the good guy from time to time).
More on Caesar in a minute…
In the 70s, you couldn’t get enough of those crazy apes! There was a short lived television series featuring Roddy McDowell, still twitching his nose under his monkey mask. There was also a Saturday Morning cartoon series, Return to the Planet of the Apes.
In case you didn’t know, these films were based on the book by Pierre Boulle. It is a very different sci-fi world, where the monkeys are more sophisticated, live in a cosmopolitan city and go to art museums and the like. It has a twist ending, but somewhat different than the movie. I thought this was the version Tim Burton was going to put on film, and I really wish he had. Instead of talking about his version, I’ll just mention the more fun musical version from The Simpsons.
I’d feared the franchise was dead. Especially when I heard James Franco was cast in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I like James, but at that time, I could not see him in a serious role. But much to everybody’s surprised, it was a great story with great performances. Especially by Andy Serkis, rebooting the character of Caesar, filled with emotions.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took it to the next level. Getting darker and grittier and much more violent. But still keeping a meaty story with character you cared about, even when they went and screwed things up. I wouldn’t say it was The Empire Strikes Back of the series, but it was a flawless follow-up to the first.
That may stack the deck against War for the Planet of the Apes. Can third time still be the charm? Will this be one of the few flawless movie trilogies? Though these films may not have hope for man, I have hope for these ape films. They seem to get the formula for mixing action and emotion. It’s going to be great.
But if they screw it up! God, damn them! Damn them to Hell!