Monday, 22 August 2011


Lovely win for City yesterday. Smashing match and all.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. It's been a while, so apologies to those in my readership who are fans, but I am at last able to return to the Planet of the Apes theme, having watched the latest Hollywood offering over the weekend. I speak of course of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which explores the question of: how did it happen? How did Charlton Heston (my spellchecker returned 'charlatan' and 'festoon' for the great man's [irony btw] name, amusingly enough) return from his space trip to find the primates in charge?

I have checked the canon (as some of my readers will be well aware) and the original French novel posits that the ape-dominated society of the films was actually on a planet (near Betelgeuse) called Soror. There, the ancient human inhabitants used primates to carry out menial tasks for them, being eventually overthrown due to their greed and cruelty. A further twist then has it that the human who had discovered the Soror ape-controlled planet escapes to Earth, 700 years in his own future, only to find that the same thing has happened there and the primates reign supreme. As far as I can tell, not having actually read the novel, there is no attempt to explain how the apes could have risen up and defeated the superior humans. The latest 'reboot', as I have heard it tiresomely described, attempts to address this glaring gap.

Warning! There are spoilers after the picture, so don't read on if you want to watch the film.

The premise of RotPotA is that a brilliant young scientist is developing a cure for Alzheimer's Disease (ALZ-112), which he is testing on chimps. A terrible mishap with a rampaging super ape during his big presentation to the board means that he is fortunate to keep his job, but he nevertheless has his project stopped, and all of his lab chimps are ordered to be destroyed. However, one baby chimp (Caesar - son of the aforementioned super ape) survives and is smuggled out by the scientist, to live with him and his (Alzheimer's afflicted) father in suburbia.

At the same time, with his father's illness worsening by the moment (he at one point - shock horror! - shouts at his carer) the scientist decides to secretly give him the ALZ-112, with immediate and startling results. His faculties not only return, they actually greatly improve, in tandem with Caesar starting to display the cognitive abilities of a human child some years his senior, even though he is kept shut in the loft at all times (the chimp, not the father). The crucial moment comes when the power of ALZ-112 wanes, and the old man begins to deteriorate at an alarming rate. This forces the scientist to try a risky development of his formula, coming up with... ALZ-113! in order to circumvent the immune system attacks which are rendering the original drug ineffective. With yet-to-be-revealed dreadful consequences...

Then, during an episode of dementia confusion (handled with a slightly uncomfortable, almost slapstick touch) Caesar loses his rag in defence of dear old dad, and attacks the next-door neighbour, biting the tip of his finger off. Despite the lipstick-y effect on his muzzle, it's never clear whether he swallows the tip or spits it out, but the neighbour is shown at the end of the film with a bandage on his digit. Caesar is not shot, but is taken to the animal refuge, and I am surprised that the state of California hasn't sued News Corporation for the ridiculous way in which the facility is portrayed. It is run by a sly and sadistic father (phoned in by Brian Cox) and sons group and houses about 300 chimps, one gorilla called Buck and an orangutan who is able to sign fluently thanks to his circus past (?!).

The upshot of it all is that Caesar nicks loads of ALZ-113 from the Gen-Sys lab (the brain-building effects of which can be passed on 'vertically') and up-skills his simian crew, while humans (notably, the next-door neighbour) exposed to the drug (now in handy smoke form!) start sneezing blood and dying horribly. Primate world domination, we can see, is not far away, requiring only a trip to New York, and a similar leap of faith in the audience's credulity, to close the circle.

The film is s-fx heavy, and some of the set pieces (especially the scene on the Golden Gate bridge) are quite entertaining - if more than faintly ludicrous, while the movement of the apes, as if they are superheroes or supernatural, rather grates. Caesar's face is too CGI, and he is less believable for that, although there was some genuine power in the moment of his first word - appropriately enough - NO! All in all, not a bad effort, even if not canon.


Paul Pincea'velo said...

I am very happy for seeing you continue to talk of munificent APES SAGA, all be it non cannon. I have a question you will be interested in.
In excellent "BATTLE FOR PLANETE OF APES" McDonald is clearly not the McDonald of superbe "CONQUESTE of PLANETE OF APES." Why that?
I think it represents the twin themes that one man is very much of muchness and we are all our brother's keepers. And you?

Myeral said...

My own feelings are that (as described in the not-so excellent Escape from the Planet of the Apes)time is a road, with lots of turnings. A car in one lane could crash - killing the driver, whereas a driver in the other lane would go on living. This is clearly what happened to McDonald.

Myeral said...

And I must confess to never having seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but based on the synopsis, I would love to. Here's how it starts:

'In 1983 (several years after the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes), a disease kills the world's cats and dogs, leaving humans with no pets. To replace them, humans began keeping monkeys and apes as household pets.'

Paul Pincea' velo said...

IT is not true surely? tis like reading a novelle of some 431 pages and reading not the pages from 276 to 391! Anything what! But your comment on Mcdonald is juste. I guess one crash and the other Mcdonald drive through.
In passing, did you know that Pierre Boulle was fond of pool, boules and strawberry fool?

n molesworth said...

Any fule no that