Luke Owen takes in a Planet of the Apes movie marathon…
Where 3 guys watch franchise movies one after the other. Sponsored by Mountain Dew Energy and Bacon..
Despite only being our third outing, Movie Marathon Meeting is becoming the highlight of my month. Getting together with two of my best friends and kicking back with a Mountain Dew Energy, a bacon sarnie and discussing franchises at great length.
We decided it was time to take a break from horror movies having completed the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises in the last 2 meetings. It was time to go sci-fi as we watched all 7 films of everyone’s favourite Ape vs. Human series – The Planet of the Apes…
10:00 – The Planet of the Apes
After the customary bacon sarnie and a trip to a boot fare where I picked up Donkey Kong 64 for a quid (!), we sat down for the first instalment. What is there to say about this movie that hasn’t been said already? It’s a classic science fiction tale with one of the coolest and most infamous twists in movie history. It’s sad that it’s become so famous that everyone knows it because I’d like to watch this with someone who didn’t know about it just to judge their reaction. For me, Planet of the Apes is the Twilight Zone movie we never really got. Not only was the film written by the show’s creator and head writer Rod Serling, but it has the feel and tone of the best Twilight Zone episodes. The characters are all likeable, the dialogue is engaging and the ideas are simple genius. It’s a joy to watch and it never gets old no matter how many times I see it. Plus, I could watch Charlton Heston’s scenery chewing performance again and again and never tire. This movie was also a highlight of the meeting due to all three of us attempting Heston impressions while singing the Planet of the Apes song from The Simpsons over and over.
11:57 – Heston calls people maniacs as he realises he was wrong and was on Earth all along (spoiler). We sing the Planet of the Apes song from The Simpsons some more before moving on.
12:00 – Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Bish tells me that this is Mark Kermode’s favourite movie of the original series which I find hard to believe because this film is a bore. Well, that’s unfair to say but compared to its predecessor, this film is utter pants. It’s boring, it’s plodding and its ideas are so wacky that it just comes off as silly. Whereas the Serling script for The Planet of the Apes had clever ideas and interesting concepts, Beneath the Planet of the Apes has some melty face people with mental powers who live underground worshiping an atom bomb and have gone undetected for centuries. Heston is in there for a small cameo and while him and Brent teaming up is fun, it’s too short lived and leads to a really bleak conclusion. Overall, I don’t like this entry.
13:30 – The Planet of the Apes has been destroyed by an atom bomb which creates a black screen and rolling credits. Surely the series couldn’t go on from there?
13:46 – Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Of course it can. Unlike my fellow Meeting Members, I really loved this entry into the series despite this massive plothole: how did Zira and Cornelius escape from Earth (when they didn’t have the technology or knowhow) aboard Taylor’s ship that was a) broken and b) at the bottom of the river in the Forbidden Zone? Not only that, but they claim to have escaped before Taylor triggered the atom bomb that destroyed the planet – which would have meant that they put this crazy and wacky plan into action in just a day, maybe even a few hours. But anyway, the contrivance aside, I really dig this movie. It’s the really light hearted effort following the very bleak and dark Beneath the Planet of the Apes. We have funny montages of Zira and Cornelius buying human clothes and getting accustomed to human life as well as an interesting plot development, a great villain and a fantastic conclusion. Who would have thought that Earth’s past would lie in its future and even though Taylor was missing from the Earth for 2000 years, the apes uprising happened only a couple of years after he left. It can be a little too goofy at times, but the relationship between Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter is just a joy to watch.
15:19 – Zira and Cornelius are dead but their baby boy is alive, and he was about to start and uprising…
15:25 – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
I seem to remember not liking this entry a great deal but watching it amongst this meeting with the other 3 movies before it, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a really great movie. The start of the ape revolution may not be as epic as depicted in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but it’s still really enjoyable and at times quite tense. Roddy McDowall is fantastic playing the son of his previous character Cornelius and everyone around him also does a wonderful job. It manages to get a couple of laughs in there too as well as raise good ideas about the theme of oppression and slavery. Overall, it’s a really enjoyable movie. I’m not sure whether it was because I was watching as part of the Marathon, but this is the most fun I’ve had watching the film.
16:47 – Caesar has begun his ape revolution, but he still has one more battle to go.
17:07 – Battle for the Planet of the Apes
After what was a fairly epic movie about an ape uprising, Battle for the Planet of the Apes is actually quite a boring follow up. I think it has the same problem that Star Trek: Insurrection has in that it doesn’t feel like a cinematic movie and feels more like a made for TV movie or – in this film’s case – a precursor to the TV series. Roddy McDowall is once again great but the battle itself just doesn’t feel all that epic or grand. It suffers from Army of Darkness syndrome where they didn’t have the money to create a full on battle so it just comes down to a handful of extras in a field somewhere. On top of that, the sets look really boring and at times incredibly poor. It wasn’t the best way for the original film series to end and is just a pretty boring movie.
18:30 – The battle is over and I guess so is the war as the original series comes to a close. But we still have more monkey madness as we head into 2 reboots…
19:32 – Planet of the Apes (2001)
After an hours chit chat about the original series overall and ordering pizza, we settle into the universally panned reboot (or “reimagining” if you ask Tim Burton) of The Planet of the Apes. I’ve never been a fan of Burton’s work and tend to think he is one of the worst director’s working in Hollywood today, but this movie is just about the worst thing he’s ever created. Nothing in this film works – the acting is terrible, the story is beyond stupid and above all, it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t really like spoiling movies but I feel it’s necessary for me to do so here. In the original movie, Heston walks along the shoreline of the Forbidden Zone to discover that he was actually not on a strange planet but on Earth all along – a clever and well thought out twist. In this “reimagining”, Mark Wahlberg is not on Earth but on a different planet that just so happened to have humans who were once the dominant species but were overthrown by apes. They discover that the ship Wahlberg left to arrive on this planet actually came looking for him but crash landed about 1000 years earlier and the apes they had on board somehow lead to the revolution. Marky Mark defeats ape soldier Thade and traps him in the spaceship (which is broken beyond repair) and travels back in a different pod to his own time and his own planet only to discover that the Abe Lincoln memorial has Thade’s face and everyone on the planet is an ape. Mark Wahlberg looks shocked and the audience looks confused.
This ending just doesn’t make any sense. None whatsoever. I guess we’re supposed to think that Thade somehow went back in time to but went back further than Marky Mark to start the ape revolution himself just as, I guess, the apes from Marky Mark’s ship had done on the planet he’d just come from. But they don’t offer up any explanation and it just leaves you feeling confused and cheated. It’s an appalling ending and a true slap in the face of Serling’s original script. To make this worse Tim Roth, who played Thade, said that he’d seen the film twice and even he doesn’t get it – and he’s in it! And while Helena Bonham Carter said that it ‘kind of’ makes sense, Burton himself has said that it isn’t supposed to make sense and that it would be covered in a sequel that he never wanted to make (just one more reason not to like him). Terrible ending aside, the film itself is a huge bore and while it seems weird to be criticising the look of the movie when I have always lambasted Burton for making all his movies look the same, this is just a bad looking brown movie. Utter trash. I know I was just bad mouthing Battle for the Planet of the Apes as being boring, but at least it made sense and entertained me to some degree. This movie on the other hand? Just hurt and angered me. I haven’t been this enraged about a film since leaving the cinema after seeing the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. It is dash of the ballderist variety.
21:35 – Thank God that’s over. Nothing makes sense and the franchise, for all intents and purposes, has been ruined. That is until…
21:46 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
After a brief bitching period about how terrible the Burton movie was, we decided to quickly act upon watching the far superior Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This was my favourite movie of last year and despite having now watched it countless times, I’m still not bored by it. It has the same great ideas and charm that made original movie so brilliant and it’s concluding moments are just beyond epic. I could go on for hours about how much I love this movie and I truly believe this to be the best entry in the series. It’s like the complete opposite of the Burton disaster in that it’s almost perfect in every way. Pure 5 star gold and an excellent movie to end on.
23:23 – Caesar is home and the marathon is over.
With 3 of the 7 films being either below average or really awful, The Planet of the Apes franchise is certainly a winner. The good entries are great and the over-arching story as a whole is really engaging, gripping and intriguing. This is also the first meeting where we’ve ended on a remake/reboot and this is the first one that hasn’t sucked. So, that’s got to be a win right?
From Best to Worst:
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2. Planet of the Apes
3. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
4. Escape from the Planet of the Apes
5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes
6. Battle for the Planet of the Apes
7. Planet of the Apes (2001)
Total runtime (including breaks): 13 hours, 23 minutes.
We couldn’t rest too much as this was a double header movie marathon as would tackle the next franchise on our list the following day.
Next Time: Final Destination…
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.