Monday, 11 July 2011

Thoughts on 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

I'm quite fond of re-imaginings of classic films through prequels/ sequels, compared to straight up remakes. Often, both re-imaginings and remakes are pretty awful (Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes providing a very apt example). However, the reason I tend to side with new prequels/ sequels are the fairly obvious ones (pre/ sequels add to the general mythos of a film, remakes tend to pale in comparison etc.), but one of the real benefits is the way in which films based around classics reawakens interest in the original film, which brings me on to the latest film in  Planet of the Apes series.

The original film version (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, and starring Charlton Heston, has one of the most iconic, and best known, twist endings in cinema history. If you don't know what it is, stop reading now. At the end of the film, having spent the majority believing they have landed on an alien planet inhabited by a race of highly-intelligent apes, Taylor (Heston) finds the remains of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that the planet has been Earth all along.

Which is where my problem with the new film Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes in. Okay, so it may be the second most-spoiled film ending ever (after Darth 'I am your father' Vader), and may be so well known that Fox were fine with putting a picture of the Statue of Liberty on the actual DVD case, but there will be people who don't know what happens; those who have been in a coma since 1968, young children, people with parents whose hatred of apes led to them banning their kids from seeing the original - in short, a rich and diverse section of society. 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, if you can believe it, about the rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is actually Earth, so its really a film about how monkeys take control of the Earth. Whilst the producers clearly thought making the connection between the Planet of the Apes and Earth explicit in this film's title would be a spoiler-laden step too far (personally I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace our Ape Overlords is much catchier, but each to their own), there's no real getting around it with the trailer:

Even seeing that, you're left in no doubt that it's Earth that the apes will 'rise' on. Even the YouTube account is called ApesWillRise! There's no getting away from it. And with that, all the mystique and surprise of the original is destroyed for anyone who's managed to avoid hearing about it so far. The ending won't mean anything if seen for the first time by someone who's seen Rise (or even just the trailer) - they'll know it's Earth from the beginning. It'll deprive a generation (or at least a good portion of one) of one of the greatest twists in cinema history. And it'll probably make Charlton Heston angrier than ever.

'You Maniacs! You spoiled it! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!'