20th Century Fox’s revealed the motion poster of the War for the Planet of the Apes‘ today at Times Square, at New York Comic Con event there will be more reveals about the movie, and it is a great time to brush up your ape history so we have a flashback to all eight of the official Planet of the Apes movies thus far.
Franklin J. Schaffner’s untouchable adaptation of Pierre Boule’s novel “Monkey Planet” by way of the morality of Rod Serling remains one of the greatest science fiction “future-shock” films of all time. The cast is dynamic (Charlton Heston offers his best genre work here, forming the first of his sci-fi trifecta of Soylent Green and The Omega Man) , Jerry Goldsmith’s nightmarish music still chills, John Chambers’ ape masks allow the actors to use only their eyes and voices to create deft characters and, whether you’ve seen it 100 times or for the first time, that final shot is unforgettable, in both aesthetic and meaning. A perfect film.
Beneath suffers from Jaws 2 syndrome, a film that attempts to replicate the beats of the first film too closely and because of that, it simply doesn’t have its own fingerprint. That and the absence of Roddy McDowall and general dour, joyless tone of it sink this one and do not lend it to multiple viewings. The Marvel Comics adaptation is superior. Surprisingly, despite the film’s bloody and nihilistic climax, the film was rated G in the U.S.
With the planet decimated at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, director Don Taylor and writer Paul Dehn wisely brought their chimp heroes Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) to earth. What starts as a goofy, fish out of water romp quickly turns deadly serious, jerking the viewers emotions around expertly and ending on a final image that is almost as haunting as the one in the original. A great film and a perfect Apes movie.
J. Lee Thompson’s righteous fourth Apes film is, in the cyclical initial Apes timeline, an origins film, telling the tale of the creation of the “monkey planet”. Diminishing budgets meant that the supporting ape masks were cheap rubber cowls but Roddy McDowall gives what might be his career best performance as the fugitive Caesar who, after he witness the brutalization of his people and his kindly “father” (a brilliant Ricardo Montalban) is killed, launches a full scale revolution. The original climax sees Caesar enacting the bloodiest of acts and that censored violence was restored for the recent DVD and Blu-ray versions.
The fifth and final of the initial Apes series, J. Lee Thompson’s lower budgeted entry is often derrided as being cheap and childish. But it’s really rather exciting and moving, with Roddy McDowall’s Caesar venturing into the wasteland to find evidence of his parents and then doing battle with racist Gorillas in his base empire. Great cast, including Paul Williams as Caeser’s trusted advisor and Claude Akins as the brutal General Aldo. And Severn Darden makes a memorable villain indeed.
Apes purists sneered at and continue to flip the bird to Tim Burton’s baroque “re-imagining” of Planet of the Apes but it’s actually a decent bit of pulp fantasy. Remember, Burton initially did not want the movie called Planet of the Apes at all and was attempting to adapt the original source book, rather than remake the 1968 original. Mark Wahlberg is blank as the lead and making the humans sentient and articulate was a mistake, but this Apes has startling prosthetic effects, fantastic performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Giammatti and a mesmerizing turn by Tim Roth as the psychotic General Thade. A film that needs more love.
No one expected this re-mounting of the Apes mythology to be this good, but it’s truly a marvelous entertainment. Essentially a new version of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, with liberal doses of Project X thrown into the mix, Rise is ultimately an origins story and because of this, multiple viewing power is diminished. And though some of the “human” actors in the film are lacking, Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance as sentient primate Caesar is nothing short of arresting.
Essentially Battle to Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Conquest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a stunning, smart, majestically designed and allegorically powerful companion to the original film and one of the greatest blockbuster sci-fi fantasies in years. Andy Serkis takes his version of Caesar to new heights and the movie he moves in is work of pop art.