I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

tn_rotpotaWell I’ll be the rise of a monkey’s uncle – this movie actually is good! I’d heard all good things, but after seeing the trailers and TV ads it was hard to get my hopes up. Boiled down to basics and money shots it’s just some dumb bullshit: James Franco making speeches about a miracle cure, quick shots of every scene where a CGI ape jumps into the air, dramatic trailer music squeals and buzzes. I didn’t even think the much hyped special effects by Weta looked that good. Instead of the people in makeup as evolved apes from the original masterpiece they gotta have Andy Serkis or Tom Hanks or somebody controlling a computer animated chimp with humanized eyes and expressions. They show a baby chimp, it’s digital. Do they not know there are chimps? They think they can’t film a real one ’cause it’s a made up creature like a Smurf or an Avatar? I wasn’t buying it.

But in context all that stuff is fine. What the trailers underemphasize are two somewhat important elements: the story and the characters. James Franco (General Hospital) is the human lead, and he’s only pretty good, I think he’s a better character actor than generic summer movie hero. But the co-lead or main character is his ape, Caesar (Serkis, computers) and he’s a truly interesting character, a sympathetic animal who you feel for and root for, but who also is flawed and at times scary. Having a chimp in your house is a great time until he grows big enough to hurt you, this is kind of the same thing. Having a super-intelligent chimp is a great time until he grows smart enough to start a revolution.

mp_rotpotaFranco plays a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s patients. His experimental drug has apparently increased the intelligence of a test chimp, and he’s anxious to move on to human testing because his own father (John Lithgow, RICOCHET) suffers from Alzheimer’s. But a disastrous (and awesome) chimp attack shuts down the program and through accident and desperation Franco ends up secretly bringing home the test chimp’s baby, Caesar, who seems to have inherited his mother’s advanced intelligence.

As the years go by it brings to mind that PROJECT NIM documentary that’s out now (or at least the trailer, since I haven’t seen it), and Michael Jackson raising that chimp Bubbles, and also that crazy Richard Franklin movie that I loved, LINK . In all these cases people were raising apes in their homes, treating them as humans, not realistically taking into account the inevitable dangers of the apes as they grow bigger and stronger, or the troubles they would have integrating with other animals or humans. Caesar is a tragic character. At home he sits in the attic staring longingly out the window at children playing. Later, locked up in a home for apes, he draws a chalk window outline on his wall so he can imagine staring longingly out the window. It’s lonely being an ape on the planet of the men.

My favorite section of the movie is when it turns into a prison movie. That’s when Caesar really comes into his own because he’s abandoned, he’s lonely, he’s bullied, but he figures out what to do. He outsmarts the other apes and his human abusers. An ape named Rocket makes fun of him and steals his shirt, so he creates and executes a plan to free and befriend the gorilla named Buck and use him to make Rocket his bitch. Soon after that he becomes a leader.

Caesar is kind of Machiavellian, or even Caesarian, I guess. He does good things for the other apes, but is he doing it out of genuine caring and brotherhood? The way he explains his philosophy in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes it seems more like strategy. He knows there’s strength in unity, but I think it’s the strength he cares about most, not the unity. But maybe that’s okay when his goal truly is freedom. If he wanted to be a tyrant he could stay in the zoo and be the cookie master, and that’s not what he does. He’s ambitious, but I don’t think he foresees a Planet of the Apes. He just wants to climb around in the Redwoods and be left alone, please.

Or that’s how I read him, but there’s some ambiguity there. I guess it can be more dramatic when a character can’t fully explain himself.

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The advertising emphasizes the climax of the movie, where the apes are starting a revolution against man. That part is fun, at times thrilling, but it never feels like the point of the movie. It’s just part of the pay off. It’s the intimate parts that work best, the emotional parts. The scene where Franco has to leave Caesar in a zoo is painful like the scene in A.I. where the mom ditches the kid in the woods. And there’s a sad discomfort in the relationship between the human and the ape. This guy obviously loves Caesar like a son, but he has to keep him on a leash when he brings him out in public, and even that scares the shit out of people. You’ve grown to accept Caesar as a man but his keeper can’t ignore that he’s still a beast.

Sometimes the emotional scenes are kind of subversive in the way they manipulate us. There’s a part where some of the apes attack the villainous owner of the drug company, and have a choice of either showing him some mercy or letting him die. I was hoping they’d choose the nice one, but understood why they might go the other route.

Then, immediately after we’ve sympathized with animals killing a human, we’re asked to mourn the death of the gorilla that did it. And we oblige. Poor big fella. For some reason Caesar thinks to push the ape’s eyes closed after he dies. Must be all that TV they watched while they were locked up.

If I got one complaint about the movie it’s that the bad guys are too one-dimensional. This includes Draco Malfoy as evil animal-abusing assistant primate keeper, but the worst offender is the asshole neighbor who gets mad when Caesar runs into his yard and when Lithgow crashes his car. In both cases he has legitimate reasons to be upset, and still makes you want a chimp to bite his face off. It would be very easy to have all these same situations but with a believable and nuanced response where he’s upset but he’s not the bad guy.

When the rising started happening I realized that might’ve been an intentional choice to make some of the humans one-dimensional so it’s easier to root for a bunch of escaped zoo animals to kill them. But I think if it let us be a little more torn, a little more sympathetic toward our fellow humans, it would be even better.

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There are plenty of silly aspects to this movie. Are there really that many apes in San Francisco? How did they get the regular-intelligence zoo apes to, uh, rise with them? How did Franco date Frieda Pinto for five years without telling him why Caesar was so smart? Why did he still have the experimental drug in the refrigerator when Caesar needed it? How did Franco never get in trouble for having a chimp in the middle of the suburbs? This is not “hard sci-fi,” but because it focuses on a pretty simple character story none of that seems like too much to swallow. The only part that made me groan was when they crowbarred “get your paws off of me you damn dirty ape” into it. Also the scene after the credits where all the apes are shoveling sand onto the Statue of Liberty.

I’m no James Goodall, but in my opinion the science of this movie is not 110% accurate. If there was a way to make apes smarter it probly wouldn’t be instant, or in gas form. And if it affects apes how do we know it doesn’t affect other animals? What about that horse Caesar rode in that one (incredibly awesome) part? What if that horse turned super-intelligent? Would a planet of the horses be possible?

What makes this a real good summer movie is that all of that stuff occurred to me while watching it and none of it bothered me. I never felt like I was being forgiving or “turning off my brain.” It’s just some poetic license. I am a poet, I get that license renewed every four years or whatever. In, say, a Roland Emmerich movie, the characters are so dumb and obnoxious that I don’t think about them, I just laugh at the stupid shit that happens to or around them. In this I’m focused on Caesar’s journey and if he happens to become involved in a full scale ape riot then that’s even better.

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You guys thought I made up the idea of a “prebootquel,” but it’s a real thing now. Even more than X-MEN: FIRST CLASS this one takes an existing series, tells a story before the series started (or honestly needed to start), but also re-establishes things so by the time it gets to the time period of the movie that’s being prequeled it would be a totally different version of those events and characters. This is probly the purest prebootquel yet, but the term would also work for STAR TREK and even BATMAN BEGINS. Prebootquels are the future, man. By which I mean they’re the past. They don’t have to be as lazy as remakes and if done right they can mess with the storyline a little instead of just trying to lead up to what happened in some other movie. I mean technically this is a new telling of what led to a planet of the apes (the story of Caesar sort of comes from CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) but it doesn’t really feel like that’s the whole point. To me it never once feels like a set up, it just feels like a new story.

I gotta say, the ending does not have quite as much of a shock as the original, though. I figured out at least 20 minutes before the end that it was taking place on earth.

But now it’s a big hit and everybody likes it so I’m sure they’ll do a next episode. Do you think it’ll be BENEATH THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES or more of a RISE OF THE BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES? I’m interested to see where they’ll go with it. We know from TV broadcasts that some astronauts went up to Mars and got stranded – that could be to set up for a sequel, or it could just be a little homage to what happened in the original. We also know from some interview with director Rupert Wyatt that he’d like to do “FULL METAL JACKET with apes.” I don’t know what that is, but I like it.

I do think they’ve painted themselves into a hell of a corner, though. A big part of the appeal of this movie is watching the apes communicate through posture, facial expressions and subtitled sign language. It’s nice that they can’t talk. But by the end they can. Especially if they’re gonna skip forward a bit like “FULL METAL JACKET with apes” seems to imply, it’s gonna be a bunch of apes talking to each other. Possibly with recognizable celebrity voices. Unless they evolve the apes to a more human form like in the original movies it might seem pretty silly. It’s a little hard to swallow in this one, but I think it works because it’s minimal.

But you know what, I liked the Bruce Wayne parts of BATMAN BEGINS better than the Batman and worried about how they would deal with that in a part 2. They did fine. So I shouldn’t write it off yet.

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One aspect of the movie I’ll have to give more thought over time is the politics. If I ask what the movie is about, you might say it’s the old “man cannot play God” deal, they caused this by messing with things they weren’t supposed to mess with. I’d prefer to think it’s not about that because that’s just stupid. Superstitious anti-science bullshit. I got people in my family with Alzheimer’s, and it sucks. I don’t think we should stop trying to cure it because we’re afraid it might cause monkeys to talk and knock down helicopters.

I mean I guess “hey scientists, don’t rush it” is okay. They should’ve done more testing first.

But the apes movies have always had parallels to what was going on in our culture at the time. They’re not about animal rights – the apes, obviously, represent people. Does this version of the Caesar story say something that is unique to our time, or is it an age old story of rebelling against your oppressors? CONQUEST of course had more humanized apes, and different political factions. Some just wanted to go along with the status quo, some were militant. There were ape protesters and ape sellouts. Does the lack of those aspects in RISE reflect a more politically apathetic time, or just a logical extension of a movie where the apes are more animal and less human? Probly the second one. I’ll have to reflect on this.

There’s a book I liked when I read it years ago called Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture. I was wondering what that book’s author, Eric Greene, thought about RISE. I found this video where he brings it up a little and seems to be at about the same place as me on that question. “It’ll be interesting to see.”

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I think we can now say officially that this was a pretty weak movie summer. We had some fun ones, but very few classics. I think RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is my favorite “popcorn movie” since FAST FIVE a couple months ago. Maybe this and ATTACK THE BLOCK. None of these are T2, but they give the Summer of 2011 enough dignity that it should be able to look itself in the mirror briefly tomorrow morning.

Long live Caesar.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 3:29 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

70 Responses to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

  1. As someone who has worked extensively with apes I will say one thing:

    A mad one is the scariest fuckin’ thing on earth.

  2. “Are there really that many apes in San Francisco?” –> Apparently, there are only 25 apes there right now (http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2011/08/23/the_rise_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_a_fact_check_how_many_apes_li.html). But the movie seems to start in the present day and then 5 or 8 years pass, so who knows, maybe in 8 years, there might be hundreds of them in the area. And they might look like they escaped from a SPACE CHIMPS movie instead of looking like real apes, who knows.

  3. People complained about Franco and Pinto’s one-dimensional performances but I think that was a sly way of building up sympathy for Ceasar. I mean, you sort of have to root for him because if he doesn’t rise, there can be no Planet of the Apes. You can’t be like, “Oh no don’t rebel Ceasar because I want James and Frieda to fall in love and make babies and stuff”. And unlike you Vern, I like the one-dimensional villains, especially the zookeepers. They emphasize man’s kneejerk hatred to things they don’t understand; which is partially what the apes are rebelling against. It’s kinda like the whole “a few bad apples ruin the bunch” kind of thing. Since Franco showed him kindness, Ceasar knows that you have to have some tolerance on these issues, but because Franco ultimately abandoned him, Ceasar has to find his own place in the world.

  4. I don’t mean to get ahead of myself, but could the fact that this turned out to be good when it could have easily been bad a sign of a sea change in Hollywood?

    I mean we all complain about all the remakes and reboots these days, but are we complaining about them on principal or are we just complaining because so many of them suck?

  5. Am I the only person in the world who thought that the orangutan watching silently at the back of the ape sanctuary was Franco dressed up and waiting to rescue Caesar? Also, would that not have been an awesome idea or am I an idiot? I personally think the filmmakers could have gotten away with that, they do a lot of things successfully that a lot of creative teams would have tried and failed at.

  6. Toxic, I saw the point made on another website that many of the apes in the movie escape from highly protected medical testing centers that we can only assume Slate didn’t contact when they were doing their ape census.

  7. It’s not all that important anyway. And I find it easier to believe that, in 10 years, the San Francisco Zoo will have 50 apes instead of 12, than to believe that a group of smart apes managed to help a whole bunch of regular apes to escape from secret “highly protected” medical centers.

  8. I dunno man, I don’t think anyone would work at an animal sanctuary like that and fucking despise animals as much as that Draco Malfoy character does. Find another job dude.

    And I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet, but what a waste of Brian Cox. You bring in such a great character actor like that and give him no arch and zero juicy dialogue to chew on. Should have cast him as the dude running the company Franco worked for. Now that I think about, kinda funny the one black actor in the film was kind of a villain. Come on Hollywood, geezy peets.

    Still best movie of the summer for me, though I didn’t catch Big Mommas House 3 yet, so I’m being a bit presumptuous. I’ll be watching to see what the director does next cause this shit was about as good as you can expect from a summer blockbuster anymore.

  9. I just assumed the smart apes used the research facility place and cloned a whole bunch of apes.

  10. Now that’s a theory I can get behind!

    I hope they’ll all be voiced by Temuera Morrison in the sequels.

  11. Was there anything to indicate that they were smartening up the other apes as they rescued them? I didn’t think they had enough of the gas, but that seems to make more sense than them leading a bunch of dumb zoo animals to a specific location.

  12. They did call to the ape testing site on the way to the zoo, probably not too much of a stretch to think that they found more there.

  13. Tha Carter IV is more of a disappointment than Watch the Throne, btw. Still haven’t seen apes but I guess I might use the 10 bucks I would have wasted on this crap album to see it.

  14. My favorite part was the emotional scene at the end where Franco tells Ceaser that he’s taking him home and Ceaser hugs him and says, “MAN THESE BANANAS ARE GOOD!”

    Seriously though, I liked the movie but I couldn’t stop thinking of Brian Regan’s stand-up the entire time.

  15. *SPOILERS*

    I’m glad you brought up the Alzheimer’s angle, because what must real-life Alzheimer’s researchers think of all these “Alzheimer’s research leads to disaster” summer genre movies? First Saffron Burrows, whose motivation to curing the disease is also her Alzheimer’s-riddled father, makes a bunch of smart sharks who can swim backwards. Now Franco simultaneously creates violent gorilla guerillas AND a 12 monkeys-like virus that will destroy humanity and eventually topple the Statue of Liberty. Are these movies honestly suggesting we should just stop trying to find a cure? Or suffer the wrath of dangerous animals who now have the brains to bring humanity and LL Cool J to its knees?

    Are we going to see the monkey Abe Lincoln in the next movie? I was disappointed when he didn’t turn up in this one.

  16. I liked it a lot. For the sequel, they gotta like a century and a half into the future. The disease has run its course and a destitute band of survivors struggles for purchase in the ape’s newly minted civilization . A minority faction of non-genocidal apes wants to save homo sapien from extinction. The movie can be an ape political procedural/guerilla warfare and post-apocalyptic survival deal; it will end on a shitty note a la the dark knight but set up mars crew’s return to the planet in a perhaps not unwelcome revision of the dumb tim burton one, our investments having been nurtured appropriately this time around. Significantly, the various named and nameless ape protagonists from Rise are figures of myth and legend in this sequel, whose opposing teachings and dialects are quoted with reverence and/or scorn amongst the apes’ high-ranking governmental figures as they endeavor to define the character of their society and the fate of human beings.

  17. …it ends, obviously, with the pro-saving-humanity apes pushing through a policy to save them from extermination in which they are instead put into some sort of civil/productive captivity. this arrangement, though well intended, of course devolves into the situation the mars crew finds when they get back to the planet n years later. they could show some labor-camp shit in some sort of closing credits-montage that doesn’t violate the scope of the film, like how they did the outbreak in Rise.

  18. For me, Draco’s character was rescued when they make it clear he’s the son of the owner, dude has ended up working for his dad, and hates it. Sort of works.

    Loved the movie, so did my buddy, but he was consistently irritated by all the breakable glass, you americans must be falling out of buildings all the time! Though they do treat car windscreen with proper respect.

  19. Ooh, what with Summer Movie Season at an end, it’s lost time!

    Unseen, and never will:
    Transformers:Asshole

    Unseen, unfortunately, waiting for Blu-Ray:
    Super 8
    Bellflower

    Seen, but wish I hadn’t:
    Sucker Punch
    Fast Five*

    Seen, didn’t hate:
    HP 7
    Captain America
    Hanna
    X-Men: First Class
    Rango

    Seen, liked:
    Thor
    Black Death
    We Are What We Are
    Super
    Source Code

    Seen, liked alot:
    The Man from Nowhere
    The Housemaid
    Attack the Block
    Fright Night**

    Seen, loved:
    I Saw the Devil
    Tree of Life
    13 Assassins***
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    There are a slew of other pics that don’t really fall into Badass Cinema, so thus have no place here, but, well, here ya go:
    Cold Weather
    Heartbeats
    The Future
    Kaboom!
    Summer Wars

    *yeah, the Fast and Furious franchise does nothing for me. I can respect the respect y’all give it, but just not my thing.
    **Vern, readers, seriously, check out Fright Night. I was never particularly fond of the original, so no remake blasphemy from my perspective. The performances from all the actors is what really makes it work.
    ***By far my favorite film of the year. And not just the slam bang finale. My favorite scene in the film is Shinzaemon’s (sp?) face when first given the assignment by Sir Doi; the way the Miike lights his face, and his pure joy in getting the gig? Priceless. Up there with several of the astounding sequences in Tree of Life, and always reminds me of this great quote, the source of which I can’t recall – “The greatest special effect in cinema is not any sort of CGI or FX work, but the close-up of a human face.”

  20. billydeethrilliams

    August 25th, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Vern, you mention the “dirty ape” line, which completely undermines Caesar speaking seconds later. But the other part that made me cringe then slightly smile was the pose the 4 apes assume on top of the trolley. It reminded me of power rangers or something. Also, if King Kong existed in the ape planet would he upgrade to Emperor Kong?

  21. Damn, Maximilian, do you single-handedly keep the movie studios in profit? I’ve seen FIVE of those movies – Source Code, Sucker Punch, Hanna, Attack the Block, and 13 Assassins. I gotta say, I wouldn’t waste my money on a new X-Men movie, and I was never particularly into the Apes, Transformers, Fast/Furious or Cap America / Thor in the first place. Besides which, supporting those franchises would make me feel like a sellout.

    Anyway, rating them:

    Source Code – I really liked it at the start, then liked it less and less as time went on. The ending just irritated me, as did the entire thing with the Arab guy (Oh look, the one Arab character is the chief suspect in the bombing! Oh look, he’s actually been wrongly accused and it’s the white guy who did it! Seriously, we’ve seen this sequence about fifty times in modern blockbusters and TV shows, and it really isn’t any less racist than when the Arab guy always DID turn out to be the one who did it before 9/11 – isn’t it time to put this cliche to bed?)

    Sucker Punch – Part of the ending “got” me, but for the most part this film made me feel dirty inside. I bought the soundtrack though.

    Hanna – I thought it lost it in the final act. Unlike “Source Code” though, I thought that overall, it was a very good film indeed. There was a lot to like about it and a lot of thought had obviously gone into making it, even though not every part of it worked for me.

    Attack the Block – Not the second coming of Jesus, as the Internet would have you believe. But still pretty damn good. The bit where Hi-Hat steps out of the elevator will stay with me for a long time.

    13 Assassins – Not as good as “Seven Samurai”, which it apes quite a bit. But I still really liked this one and came close to loving it.

    Something annoying happened last night. I went to see “Tree of Life” at my local arts cinema – “local” being a relative term, it’s over an hour’s drive away – and they were actually sold out. I’ve never had that happen before. Apparently I underestimated the appeal of a Brad Pitt / Terence Malick crossover. That sucks.

  22. @ Zombie Paul – well, I didn’t see all of them in a theater, lot of them on either Blu-Ray or DVD or VOD steaming (watched 13 Assassins 3 & 1/2 times thru that service).

    Generally, me and my special lady friend go to matinees, and we both loathe 3D, so we’re not even ponying up all that much $$ when we do.

    Plus, I kinda feel tad guilty, because I downsteal a cuntgaggle of
    music and TV shows. Never stole a film, as, I dunno, that feels wronger, at least when I rationalize my theviery to myself. I do
    pay for some music (Emusic ftw!), and will often purchase Box Sets of the TV shows I enjoy.

    I lead a relatively simple life though, and since my time is finite I find I must do things that are important to me – which is watch films, read, listen to music, fuck, and take more drugs than a touring funk band (not necessarily in that order).

  23. Man, Paul, I feel bad for you because my local theater that I saw Tree of Life was a walk across the street with my choice of Peruvian chicken, Pho, or Thai on the way.

    I’m going to go see this Planet of the Apes movie (the wife said if Vern gave it a review she would go) but unless it comes out as being ridiculously good I don’t see it eclipsing Fast Five. Tree of Life, 13 Assassins, and Attack the Block were all good / great but nowhere near as much fun as Fast Five. None of them make me excited for Tree of Death, 14 Assassins, or Attack the Blocks but I can not wait for the Six and the Furious.

  24. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    August 25th, 2011 at 7:03 am

    It would’ve been sorted before it got out of hand if I had been in town packing heat. I would have got an ape hand and turned it into an ashtray. Monkeys taking over, honestly.

  25. Jareth Cutestory

    August 25th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Maximilian: HOUSEMAID is quite the sly little punch to the gut, isn’t it. Did you see the similar Hong Kong horror film DREAM HOME? Some very inventive deaths amid the social commentary in that one.

  26. Now that the summer is coming to a close, I have to admit that it’s been all right. I don’t think I was surprised by much, but there was a nice gaggle of enjoyable if not mind blowing films. Even the movies that weren’t very good, like Cowboys and Aliens, were disappointing because they promised more than they could deliver rather than being outright bad. Some of the movies, like Rise of the Apes and Captain America, were much better than they had any right to be.

    Maximillian – Nice job on the McLusky reference.

  27. Chameleon Durango

    August 25th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Hey everybody, hey Vern, I’m a long time reader-first time poster. So I was wondering… did anyone else interpret the movie as an allegory of the Bolschevick revolution? At a certain point I realized the scarred chimp was called “Koba”, which used to be Stalin’s old moniker, before the institution of the U.S.S.R. Think about it, Cesar’s Lenin, the orangutan’s Trotsky and the scarred chimp is Stalin and suddenly you get ideas on where the story might end up going in the eventual sequels…

  28. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    August 25th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Chameleon Durango> Like the pigs in Animal Farm? Just without the curly dicks? Sorry, I’ve lowered the tone.

  29. I’d say my favourite summer blockbusters this year were Super 8 (can’t wait for Super 9. I wonder who the ninth Super will be) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Those two genuinely surprised me.

    Honourable mention must go to Sucker Punch, though. I enjoyed that one way more than I probably should have, and even though most of us on this site don’t really believe in such a thing as a “guilty” pleasure, I think Sucker Punch qualifies.

    P.S. Those are some excellent observations, Mr. Durango. I thought it was about the Boer War.

  30. Knox – yeah, I think “Sucker Punch” qualifies as a “guilty pleasure”, in the classical sense of the term. As a spectacle it’s pretty damn incredible, and the soundtrack is ridiculously good. I can’t get over the Skunk Anansie / Bjork’s “Army of Me” collaboration. I know most of you guys are more into rap, but for me that was as close to a musical orgasm as you can get.

  31. This chimp ruled some years ago, but sadly, he wasn’t as intelligent as Caesar

    http://baltimore.indymedia.org/usermedia/image/9/large/bush_chimp.jpg

    Enjoy!!

  32. Right, Koko. That chimp’s alright.

    High-five!

  33. I do not watch your silly movie about the monkeys! Pah!

  34. It was already mentioned in this talk back, but the description of the cure for Alzheimer’s elements of this film and how it produced super smart man killing animals made me think of a favorite of mine DEEP BLUE SEA. I can’t imagine this film is as great as DBS, but it sounds good so I will eventually check it out when it is available for rental.

    On a side note: Tawdry, what is your problem with “Watch For The Throne”? It has a few miss fires but overall it is an excellent album. I have had it on heavy rotation since its release.

  35. This was the movie of the summer if you ask me. Aside from TREE OF LIFE & FAST FIVE I didn’t see anything better. The ending was well played; I’m glad they didn’t get all outlandish like I thought they would.

  36. So funny to have The Tree of Life discussed alongside all the summer blockbusters. I guess you can’t really plan an obvious release date for a film that unique. Its Cannes premiere kinda forced it to be released in the summer. I just wish it did better at the box office,

    But yes, it’s a masterpiece. Best Film of the Year, as far as I’m concerned. But then again, I feel the same about all of Malick’s films. In my book, he’s officially the Last Great American Filmmaker.

  37. p@ Jareth – sweet, thanks for the rec; and it’s streaming on the Netflix? Even sweeter. “Sly little punch to the gut”? Man, more like full on wind up mace to the groin! A critic I love called it “ferociously tawdry”, and after a mere 15minutes I leaned over to my lady and said that’s about right. And it got even ferociouser and tawdier as it progressed. Just ridiculously over the top spectacle. Have you seen the original? I can’t seem to find on DVD (though I think MUBI or Fandor may have it streaming), and have only heard great things.

    @RBatty024 – Thanks! Been using that one for a while now. While I dig Future of the Left, they have yet to put out something as amazing as “Mclusky Do Dallas”. But no love for the “Topsy-Turvy” quote?

    @Zombie Paul – my line of work required my soul, my first born, and various body parts; I’ve got nothing left to sell! (Building Manager of a fairly prominent Management Company in my area – I’m essentially a lowly middle-middle man toiling for the man). Oh how I wish I could still have principles about things and stuff. Also, the special lady friend really loves action flicks and loathes horror, so for every We Are What we Are and I Saw the Devil she watches with me, I kinda sorta have to suck it up and see things that, had I still had principles and ideals and stuff, my younger, more idealistic me would cringe at.

  38. I’ll admit this was a bright spot in a lousy summer, mainly for the ape rampage at the end, but come on, it is sooooo stupid.

    Vern, thank you for pointing out the angry neighbor, but what about the evil corporate guy who has absolutely no interest in the medicine his company is making millions off of? Something goes wrong, shut it all down. Oh, you have a cure, back in business!

    Making the apes the heroes is indeed a different take on the material, but it requires every human in the movie to be so one dimensional you can’t believe them.

    And nobody’s talked about the CGI apes. I love Vern’s double credit for Serkis and computers. I think it’s a wonderful performance by Serkis, but why is everyone drinking the Kool-Aid that it looks like “real apes.” No it doesn’t. It looks like a human acting ape-like and they paint over him with a computer. Not that I need real apes to rise. It’s called a movie. It’s just trading one technology for another, and frankly I’ll buy the ape people in makeup as a future step in evolution. I suspend disbelief, but it’s really condescending when effects artists say, “Here you go, real apes, we did it!” I like when Christopher Nolan says he could still tell when the visual effects artists used a digital Batman and they were really disappointed he could tell. Yeah, because you can’t actually do what you claim you can do with CGI!

    I would be really impressed if they trained real apes though, did a few less spectacular moves but actually had trained animals acting in the movie.

    I do like Draco saying the “damn dirty apes” line and was there really a statue of liberty scene after the credits? I thought I waited, and maybe they took it out of the press screening, or was that just a clever Vern joke? Anyway, prebootquels all the way. Casino Royale too.

  39. Actually Fred, there was some talk about the apes looking fake in the comments section of the PATHFINDER review. So I guess I’m not the only one to complain about that anymore, WOO-HOO!

  40. Knox Harrington-You seriously don’t consider Martin Scorcese a great filmmaker?

  41. I think Scorsese is one of the masters. When did I say he’s not a great filmmaker?

    Okay, I see. My “Last Great American Filmmaker” statement gave the impression that I think some other American filmmakers aren’t great. I can see how you could read it that way, but it’s not what I meant, so sorry for the confusion. Let me put it this way, if I had to pick just one director as the “Last Great American Filmmaker”, I would choose Malick. Maybe I should have said “Last remnant of the great era of American filmmakers.” He still has that magic quality that guys like Coppola and Kubrick and Bergman had back in the 60’s and 70’s. He’s the only one that I think still lives up to that very high standard with every single film he makes. He’s functioning on a completely different level.

    When it comes to the Movie Brats (Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, De Palma and older brother Coppola), I think that Scorsese is the only one so far that’s still kinda keeping up the quality of his films. But honestly, I don’t think he’ll ever again reach the heights of a film like Raging Bull. However, just like Eastwood, I think he still has what it takes to make a great movie. Hell, I constantly find myself defending Shutter Island these days.

  42. Any conversation of great directors that excludes the Coen Brothers makes me sad :(

    I think that since Scorsese’s last great film (Raging Bull) was 30 years ago that it is fair to question his status as a “great director”.

  43. Come on Casey, we could be talking about apes and instead you’re fishing for us to ask you why you don’t consider Goodfellas to be a great movie? That’s verging on Paul there my friend. Although to be fair if it was Paul he would come out and say that he didn’t know anybody that thought Goodfellas was good and was surprised to find out it was popular in other circles.

  44. I like Goodfellas! Quite a bit, in fact. I just don’t think it is great.

    Even then, all that means is that it has been 20 years since his last great film.

    Speaking of Apes, I just got back from it. I really liked it. I think it will stick with me for a while, unlike Captain America or Hangover 2 or XMen or most other films I liked this summer but did not think about afterwards. I’m not sure if I want to see it as a franchise but this was really good.

    It also had an awful trailer. It’s up there as a movie that is so much better than its trailer would have you believe. That new Paul Rudd movie might be up there as well since a friend of mine loved it.

    Sorry if my Scorsese comments were inflammatory, Vern. I’m just not automatically excited by a Scorsese movie and his record in the last twenty years is spotty. For me a “great director” is someone I am excited about regardless of the premise of their new movie. Eastwood, the Coens, Mierelles, Cuaron, and others do that for me. I’m not a huge Malick fan, Tree of Life is his only movie I really appreciate, but I think him and Von Trier are “great” as well.

    But, yeah, I got nothing but love for you guys and I will try to focus on my love of Knowing and other movies and I’ll be more aware if I am being contrary for no real good point.

  45. King of Comedy came out after Raging Bull…Just saying.

  46. I actually think GOODFELLAS is really over-rated. For a movie about machismo-in-crisis, Scorsese doesn’t really demonstrate much agility in capturing the psychology of his characters. It’s kind of one note in that respect. And because he is especially weak with his women characters in this film, we’re left with a lot of male posturing (which we’ve been seeing with little variation since MEAN STREETS) and a few nihilistic flourishes. It’s a glorious surface, but I think he did that stuff way better in RAGING BULL. I’d actually say that CASINO is the more interesting film, if only because Sharon Stone’s character was so well written and performed. And she actually confronted some of the explosively violent male tropes that are so commonplace in Scorsese’s work.

    But I do think AFTER HOURS is brilliant in every respect. I love that film.

  47. Why do I feel like not all the 2001 summer movies were addressed? I know Vern doesn’t usually do comedies so I’ll takeout American Pie 2, but weren’t there more movies that summer?

  48. Really feeling that void left by the absence of LEGALLY BLONDE, Fred?

    I guess there was A KNIGHT’S TALE that year. And, uh, SWORDFISH?

  49. Fred – I’ll answer you in the Ghosts of Mars comments

  50. I wish Vern WOULD review American Pie 2

  51. I wish Vern would review Legally Blonde.

    (Actually, he SHOULD review A Knight’s Tale. It’s a movie that unfairly gets written off as Ledger’s fluffy pretty-boy movie. It’s not perfect, but it has its moments.)

  52. Wait, Legally Blonde, American Pie 2… sounds like 2001 was a GREAT summer for comedy!

  53. Jareth Cutestory

    August 28th, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Also released in 2001: JOE DIRT, GLITTER and FREDDIE GOT FINGERED (not an ELM STREET sequel, apparently). There was also SCARY MOVIE 2, which I only mention because I hear that they’re actually making something called NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE. They must have put in some overtime coming up with that concept.

  54. Josie and the Pussycats came out at the beginning of the summer and it is superb. Seriously. I’ve seen it over a dozen times. One of my favorite feel good movies.

    Also, Freddy Got Fingered is demented genius.

    I hope you’re kidding about Not Another Not Another Movie because I’ve been working on a coming of age story set during an evening of movie hopping called Not Another Movie!

  55. “demented genius”, that’s a good euphemism!

    I took a big demented genius earlier, it felt good.

  56. NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE is actually pretty old news. I think it already was completed last year and is now waiting for distribution. Chevy Chase and Vinnie Jones are in it and apparently it was meant to make fun of those Friedberg/Seltzer style of comedy. At least I remember an official plot description that went like: “A studio is so desperate to have a hit that they are even willing to crank out a movie, that will destroy the reputation of comedies forever.” Although it might also be a review. It’s been a while, since I heard of that movie.

  57. I really liked the idea of NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE (although it’s an idea that should have been used in a movie that came out around the same time as DISASTER MOVIE), but the trailer was unfunny and made the film look cheap and downright inept. See here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jSPBU0AfA0

  58. In all fairness, I think they DID start it at the time when Friedberg/Seltzer cranked out three movies a week. And didn’t know that there even is a trailer yet. I’m somehow intrigued by it. I didn’t laugh at it once and it took me a while to get, that they were going for an THE OFFICE-ish mockumentary approach, which explains the cheap look, but it definitely kept my interest.

  59. Yeah, I will still watch it when I get a chance and don’t have to pay much. I just don’t think it will be any good.

  60. Not Another Not Another Movie is a brilliant meta idea, one that would have to be executed by some genius like Dan Harmon or Joseph Kahn. Obviously this version would be just another not another movie.

    I remember watching My Big Fat Independent Movie, the indie movie spoof that was actually produced by some film critics. It was so blatantly “we are talking about the things we are commenting on” that I can’t believe the people who studied this film movement didn’t realize that that was exactly the lame style of non-satire that ruins those spoof movies. Yeah, we know you’ve watched the “guys talking about pop culture” movies. We did too. Don’t you have a clever version of that?

  61. Great review Vern. I haven’t read all the comments yet, so sorry if I should repeat some of what has already been said, but… I have to say I don’t agree with you calling this one of the best movies of the summer. See, if you’re making a dumb fun blockbuster-movie, like Cowboys & Aliens, and it’s dumb… well, it kinda goes without saying, right? This one tried to be more than that, it strived to be thought-provoking, thus it was harder for me to forgive some of its weaknesses, like the human characters, who don’t even warrant the term “characters”, since they are only there to serve certain FUNCTIONS within the plot. And as soon as they did what they were supposed to do, they’re written off, sometimes disappearing from one scene to the next (like John Lithgow or Brian Cox). I also hate that Hollywood cliché that every scientist has a personal stake in the area he’s “scientising” in, like, you know, it’s not enough incentive to try to find a cure for an illness that troubles MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD. And I also hated how they tried to convince us that everything that happens in the end is not Will Rodmans fault, just because he started to worry in the end and told them to go slower with the research. Well, that doesn’t make his behavior before any less reckless (he not only gave his father the first serum in an uncontrolled environment – who knows what might have happened! – but actually also wanted to give him the second, dangerous one. The only reason he didn’t was because his father declined). And what little message there was about our treatment of animals etc. was already there in the Original – and handled in a far more clever way, I might add. Also, I didn’t find this quite as original as some claimed it to be. The final outbreak and the scenes of the apes running over the bridge reminded me of 12 Monkeys; but it probably shares most DNA with Deep Blue Sea: Scientists working on a cure for Alzheimer make animals smarter, which then rise against their oppressors and try to break free.

    Anyway… its far easier for me to forgive things like one-dimensional characters in a brainless movie than in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, which certainly strived for more. I still enjoyed it, and the effects work by WETA was great, but I wouldn’t call it one of the best movies of the summer…

  62. Just saw that solongyoubastard already brought up 12 Monkeys and Deep Blue Sea. I still did come up with it myself, but he was quicker, so KUDOS!

    BTW, what I totally forgot to mention in my earlier comment: I hated that anti-science-message (too). “Stop trying to help and cure people, you’re going to kill us all!” I really thought we were behind anti-science-crap like that. Then again, when I think about all those warnings and comments about CERN, maybe not. Anyway, that was another problem I had with the movie. In the Original, why it was never exactly stated (as far as I remember), it was very much implied that we bombed ourselves into oblivion (I actually always thought that we destroyed ourselves and THEN the Apes rised afterwards, filling our place on top of the food chain, so to speak). So the reason for our doom was our desire to KILL each other. Here it’s our desire to HEAL each other/ourselves, to better humanity. Maybe that’s why they made many human characters such one-dimensional sleazy badguys, to make up for that?!?!

  63. Prebootquels, hem? Interesting concept.

    That cannot be aplied to Abrams Tek ebcause not even the filmmakers knew what the bloody movie actually his. Each week they come up with a different thing.

  64. And i really liked RIS EOF THE PLANET OF THE APES. I didn’t felt like i had to turn off my brain (something i extremely resent from the movies) to enjoy it.

    My major problem with the movie is that it still has the typical Holywood bullshit of “all evils came from science”. For once the scientists are portaited as good caring people who really want to do what’s best for the world. Their worst sin is idealism. That’s a good thing. But still, it’s always the Big Bad Science that makes things go awry and ends mankind as we know it. I’m so fed up with that type of creationist ass-kissing attitude form the movies. For once i’d like to see a movie that because the protagonists are religious the world ends.

  65. Finally saw this one after a marathon of all 5 original Ape movies – and I hate to say it, but this is easily my least favorite. Sure, it’s technically well-made besides some nitpicks, the FX are great, the story is serviceable. I would probably like it alot if I only saw part 1. But having seen all 5, I expect more from a damn Ape movie! “Escape from.. and Conquest of..” are amazing, disturbing films; it’s mind-boggling how relevant Conquest is today – The slavery and civil rights parallels are forefront and intentional, but the fact that there seem to be specific parallels about the way we CURRENTLY treat homosexuals and immigrants in a 40 YEAR OLD movie is shocking and downright depressing when you think about it. Human nature really hasn’t changed at all. Plus I agree w/ you guys – “don’t mess with science” and “treat animals nicer” are rote, tired messages and don’t compare at all to the social commentary in the original series.

    But here’s my biggest problem with the new one – ROTPOTA shits all over parts 2-5! Nowl, I don’t mind a Nolan-esque “gritty, dark” reboot. I liked Casino Royale, XMen First Class and Batman Begins. And I know those three contradicted a ton of stuff in the other versions. But here’s the thing – POTA isn’t at all like the Bond Series or a comic book series; it tells a saga, a complete story with a beginning and end that just happens to be 5 movies long. So basically saying “THIS is officially what happened, nevermind the other ones” is frankly a little insulting. It’d be like if they made Star Wars Prequels (sorry to bring those up) that blatantly contradicted every single thing you learned from Empire and Jedi.

  66. *and I don’t mean like midichlorians or “the stormtroopers are Boba Fett”-style contradicting, I mean like “Vader’s not Luke’s father”-style contradicting, which is basically what’s happening here.

  67. See, I told you it’s a prebootquel. It ties in with various aspects of the original series, but clearly can’t work as part of the same timeline (unless you’re using some kind of time travel/alternate universes type concept).

    I think those are good reasons to be disappointed. And I’m glad to somebody else is fond of those sequels. But I’d like to think if you see it again with more distance from the original series then you’ll appreciate it more.

  68. I don’t know, guys, I thought this one was pretty awful. There was just never a single point in the movie where I believed what was happening. Scientists who can’t tell when their own lab monkey is pregnant, billion dollar pharmaceutical projects that get shut down because a chimp broke a window, scientists with deadly experimental (and, one would assume, proprietary) viruses in their fridge at home, monkey prisons with more space than the silverback exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, an ape who somehow instinctively knows that their former owner has been working on an experimental smartgas while said ape has been locked up (it’s common in movies like this for “intelligence” to equal “information.” Having the capacity to learn something is not the same thing as just magically knowing it.), a guy who’s never seen the head monkey in his life somehow knowing he’s the ringleader and being able to spot him from a helicopter, intelligence-enhancing drugs that also cause monkey spines to straighten (Chimps don’t walk mostly on all fours because they’re dumb; they do it because that’s the way their bodies are put together), scientists who get sprayed with an experimental virus and never tell anybody, characters who never seem to age, move, change jobs, get a new haircut, or even update their wardrobes in eight years… These might seem like piddling things, the kind of poetic license Vern brought up in the review, but they were so constant that I was never able to settle into the reality of the movie. The fact that the CGI apes were deep in the Uncanny Valley for me probably didn’t help. I know what monkeys look like, and these were not monkeys. The movie was just so preposterous in plot but bland in tone that it just cancelled itself out. They trotted out these absurdities in the most banal way possible, and then expected me to take them seriously. I just wasn’t buying what it was selling.

    I laughed when Caesar rode the horse, though. That was pretty awesome.

  69. [LIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE SEQUEL]

    Just saw Dawn Of The etc. and holy shit was it great! Best scifi film in years! I fell in love with the characters and I wanted to see things work out for the best, but of course it inevitably goes horribly wrong and when it does the spectacle gets turned up to 11! Apes riding horses firing machine guns with both hands! There’s nothing quite as amazing as the gorilla vs helicopter scene from the last film, but man it’s all thrilling! And extremely well shot and edited. I’d give it an ACR of 4.5.

    The movie is a slow burn as it builds up the tension between the humans and the apes, but they use the time to very economically give all the main characters solid arcs so that you can see where everybody is coming from and you understand and sympathize with their perspective. It’s really tragic when you realize there can never be peace between the two cultures. It gives you a lot of food for thought about why humans fight eachother and how violence only begets more violence.

    The visual effects are spectacular, the sets are incredible, the performances are solid throughout, the music is Michael Giacchino’s best work outside of LOST, the script is extremely intelligent, and it has a lot to say about humanity. It’s gonna be hard to top this film this year. Go see it.

  70. I agree RJ, all good points. It was quite involving, emotionally and story-wise. Caesar is an awesome achievement of a character, significantly more than the last film. I had high hopes for this based on Matt Reeve’s nailing the remake of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (and I was pleasantly surprised to see the Aussie kid from LET ME IN all growed up in this one), and he’s made one of the standout films of the year.

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