I’ve loved the apes movies as long as I can remember. Growing up it seemed like they were constantly being played in marathons on basic cable. I caught them whenever I could. For the longest time my favorite of the series was Conquest. I loved it because of its subversive political subtext and the fact that you got to see the beginning of the uprising that would ultimately result in the world we saw in the first movie. The final conflict in Battle should have reached something much higher than it did but dwindling budgets dashed that beautiful dream.
The deciding conflict over the ownership of the planet, that Taylor would ultimately “discover” was the thing I wanted most to see out of the series. So badly did I want to see it that I, for many years, professed an undying love for Battle, more for the daydreams it gave me in school, than the quality of the actual film. (I still love it though.) I’m not here to tell you that Dawn is better than the original film or anything. I’ve seen some lists where the authors have done just that. Although, I suppose it would be fitting that given the timeline in the original series,that the best film would be made decades later. Still, every fan of the series will always remember the first time they saw the big reveal in the original. That said, I’m quite comfortable with Dawn and Rise becoming cannon.
Naturally the less said the better about the 2001 “re-imagining.” (the first time I can remember hearing that ridiculous term) I really wanted to like that movie. I think Ed Wood and Mars Attacks had given me false hope that Tim Burton was still a good film maker. Sadly, this was around the time he contracted a fatal case of Helena Bonham Carter-itis. I suppose as long as we’re entertaining alternate timelines in the cannon the argument could be made for including the 2001 apes, but fuck that. Fuck that very much.
So I went into Rise kind of nervous. I was actually not in much of a hurry to see it. I figured the last remake sucked so I just didn’t know what to expect. I loved it. What a novel approach to start from the beginning of the story! With a sorta-kinda remake of the third original film. This new series, as I mentioned earlier, really deals with what I consider to be the most interesting period in the whole damn series. Rise brought the apes out of the labs and into the streets and, like the early Marvel films, really only set the stage for the stuff we’ve all been waiting to see.
The first rumor I heard about Dawn was that it was going to be “Full Metal Jacket with apes.” Something about that phrasing sounds unbelievably awesome to me. Dawn doesn’t necessarily live up to that concept, but the next film certainly could. Where Rise was about the turning point at which humanity begins to decline, Dawn is about the spark that truly sets humans and apes at odds. It’s perhaps more about how the world that we saw in the original film came to be, (where humanity is subservient and seen as inferior and savage) than anything else. It is the literal rise of apes and decline and fall of man.
I really feel like these last two films in the series are the realization of what the later films in the original series were setting out to do. Where Tim Burton threw the whole thing out the window and tried to re-imagine the original as a paint by numbers Marky Mark circle jerk, these guys understand that behind the sci-fi weirdness there are real issues being dealt with. War, politics, ethics, trust, betrayal, sacrifice, these are all things that are given serious consideration in a film about talking apes. It’s why I fell in love with the series to begin with. As a fan from childhood, it’s doubly interesting to see films bringing the series into social commentary about contemporary society. There are conflicts over bio-ethics, environmentalism and war being waged over false pretense, just to name a few. I remember thinking, as I sat in the theater, that if you were just describing in broad terms what it was about, it could sound down right Shakespearean. It could’ve been a bunch of silly bullshit (Tim Burton, cough cough.) but it was made in such an earnest and high-minded way, it beats out all the tongue in cheek, ironic crap we’re so used to these days.
Fuck it. I would go so far as to say that it’s a more emotionally, intellectually and entertaining sci-fi series than either of those two whose names begin with “Star,” it simply never had enough of an effective marketing push behind it. They aren’t pretty perfect films with pretty perfect answers. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these new films progress. It’s a fascinating exercise to work the storyline backward. As fans understand it today, these films are essentially remakes of the later films, but given the “chicken and egg” question at the heart of the original timeline, I’d say it’s anybody’s guess as to where this will all end up. In the meantime, I also recommend checking out the comics by Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno put out by Boom that deal with some of the stuff on the later end of the chronology in a similarly interesting and detailed way..
Until next time, please solemnly remember the beating heart of the Apes universe.
Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.
Ring-a-ring o’neutrons,A pocketful of positrons,A fission! A fission!We all fall down.