Monday, April 28, 2014

Running Commentary - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

So Jonny Prophet and I are back with another Running Commentary. This time the movies is Rise of the Planet of the Apes... A.K.A. MONKEY VENGEANCE! We initially skipped this in theaters because we tend to avoid remakes. However, this one isn't quite like its predecessors and the reviews were pretty good, so when I saw it on Black Friday for $2, I bought it. Anything you would like add, Jonny?

Seriously, why wasn't called Monkey Vengeance? I didn't want a reboot of Planet of the Apes, I just wanted to see some Monkey Vengeance!

And hopefully we shall. Let's push play.

So it opens on a big jungle... somewhere.

If you don't put up a location on the screen, I have no idea where we are! This could be Hong Kong for all we know.

I really don't think it's Hong Kong. There'd be more buildings... and Chinese people.

And Batman kidnapping money launderers!

So there are monkeys walking along, birds get scared.

Hey, is that Usher?

Dude, that's not cool! You can't say a monkey looks like Usher!

I didn't! There was a black guy in a hat! He looked like Usher, who by the way is a very handsome man.

So Usher is a poacher now. I thought his music career was doing better. Pop charts are a fickle mistress, man.

So poachers capture a bunch of apes. Already humanity has some Monkey Vengeance coming!

There's Sock and James Franco!

Both of which I totally buy as important scientists!

Weed scientists.

The best kind of scientists, next to sexy chick scientists.

Franco's all excited that he has a smart monkey! He has some chemical that makes monkeys, and possibly humans smarter.

Is he creating Pineapple Express?

I'm pretty sure that succeeds in the opposite.

The scientist team of Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith and Tommy Chong disagree with your findings... and need more Doritos.

So British black guy who isn't Idris Elba gives Franco the go ahead on more testing. At a presentation, the chemical is supposed to cure Alzheimer's disease.

So the ape they tested on attacks one of her caregivers!

Monkey Vengeance is ON! And the other scientists do nothing. Seriously, nothing... they just stand there and watch, then run.

Damn it, Tyler Labine! This is the same thing that happened on the set of Sons of Tucson!

Uh ohs, Monkey Vengeance just interrupted the presentation! The stockholders won't be happy about this one!

Damn you Obamacare!  

Sad. Monkey was gunned down. Franco probably won't get funding now. Do you think this will affect Matthew Broderick's Project X?

You know, British black actor who isn't Idris Elba is the smartest guy there. He sees a monkey go homicidal and thinks... bad thing. They should start smaller, like with rats.

Or birds.

BIRDS ARE EVIL! They're already man's natural enemy and already have the advantage of flight, do we really need to make them smarter?

Moving on... so they find that the ape that went psycho had had a baby. Tyler Labine gives him to Franco, not wanting to kill it as per his orders.

What's one more monkey to put down? You already killed a dozen!

One more and he gets a free TV series!

Maybe it's a good thing that Franco took the baby ape home, then.

Oh man, John Lithgow broke into our house again!

Oh no, you think John Lithgow's forbidding the ape from dancing is what leads to Monkey Vengeance?

Yes... Yes I do. God help us, only Kevin Bacon can save us now.

So Lithgow has Alzheimer's, thus creating the urgency for his son James Franco (and possibly Barney Stinson) to find a cure.

So three years later, we see the ape, named Caesar, can use the bathroom. I hope he can wipe his ass, those would be some epic dingleberries.

Lithgow is out of control and the nurse quits, saying he should be in a home. I say he should be in prison! He killed Julie Benz! That wasn't very nice!

So even though the funding was cancelled, the lab that made the Alzheimer's serum just kept the stuff sitting around? That seems like a good idea with absolutely no consequences. So Franco steals some to, I'm assuming, give to his dad.

This won't give him split personalities, will it?

Raising Cane 2: Monkey Vengeance!

So the next morning, Lithgow is playing the piano, meaning he can now recite every line from Third Rock from the Sun ever. Caesar keeps hopping around the attic, watching the kids outside play. Apparently nobody in their neighborhood looks up?

Caesar tries to steal a bike from the neighbor and gets attacked by the kid's dad. Oh, he's gonna get some Monkey Vengeance!

And even though he was so freaked out, the neighbor never bothered to call the authorities and report that the people next door have a chimpanzee on the loose? Must have had a bad short term memory after smoking so much Pineapple Express!

Franco takes Caesar to the zoo, covered up in a stroller, to get his scraped knee examined. In a creepy moment, all the apes in their enclosure stare at them pass. THEY KNOW!

He's their Monkey John Conner!

Let's just hope McG stays the hell away from their Monkey John Conner then.

The zoo doctor is played by Frieda Pinto. Caesar wants to do her... Franco will have to settle for simian sloppy seconds.

Franco manages to get a date through Caesar's cuteness. That's right... a monkey is the Best Wing Man EVER! 

Road trip to San Franciso!

Hey! They took him to Endor!

It's just the Red Woods, Jon.

So George Lucas lied to me?

When did Darth Vader ever say Yippee!?

Damn you George!

They let Caesar loose to hunt him some Ewoks.

So wait, Lithgow is cured... you'd think Franco, regardless of any consequences from his bosses, could... I don't know... reveal to the world that he's effectively CURED Alzheimer's disease? Fuck his bosses, he could be rich!

Caesar's wearing monkey pants!

They show him leaping around the Red Wood forest and the weather keeps changing... so either they're using that as a technique to suggest that Franco kept taking Caesar back there... or that Al Gore was right and Climate Change is coming to kill us all.

It's five years later it says. Franco's doing Frieda Pinto... Caesar is jealous. They come across some people with a dog that starts barking at the ape. The ape shrieks back and the dog slinks away.

Monkey Vengeance is coming. He's entered his awkward teenage years where he listens to The Cure a lot and dresses like he's always going to a funeral.

Goth Monkey.

Here's a challenge to the readers... everytime you see the word Monkey, take a drink! Warning: You may have to get your stomach pumped.

So Franco is just now discovering that there may be consequences with raising an ape that he took just days after it was born from a mother that was experimented on, went insane and had to be gunned down for everyone's safety. For such a brilliant scientist, he's pretty damn stupid.

This is just like Deep Blue Sea... oh no! You mean when we enhance the brain capacity for sharks, they get smarter and become more efficient killing machines? Who would have thought?

He's been with Frieda Pinto for 5 years and never showed her the stats for why and how Caesar is so intelligent? I guess it never came up, despite the first time they met it was concerning this incredibly intelligent ape.

So Lithgow's antibodies are attacking the serum and the Alzheimers returns... all at once. That's tragic... and is surprisingly convenient for the plot. Lithgow gets in the neighbor's car, thinking it was his, and ends up ramming the car parked in front of it. The neighbor freaks out on him, Caesar witnesses this and goes... wait for it... APE SHIT CRAZY!

I thought you were going to say Monkey Vengeance.

Oh... there's plenty of that too. Caesar bit off the neighbor's finger! Looks like Caesar's going to have to find a new home... with Brian Cox. He's placed in an enclosure that's strangely reminiscent of the original Planet of the Apes set... weird.

Oh crap, it's Draco Malfoy!

Sad... Caesar's sad that James Franco is leaving. This will only contribute to the Monkey Vengeance.

I'm surprised the authorities wouldn't have just put Caesar down. He bit a guy's finger off.

But then we get no Monkey Vengeance! There MUST be Monkey Vengeance!

Any chance Draco's a nice boy?

No, he locked Caesar in a cage surrounded by other imprisoned apes and called him a "stupid monkey."

Then yelled out "It's a mad house, a mad house" as he walked off while the apes screamed. And Charlton Heston will return from the dead with his NRA licensed gun and hunt Tom Felton.

Franco decides to make the serum, which apparently is really a virus, airborne to try to save his father. Creating an airborne virus... no problems can come of that. He finally tells Not Idris Elba, that he gave his dad the virus and he improved. So now he can get funding.

Scientists take note: If your miracle cure is a virus, it won't end well.

Ooh, Caesar just flung the nasty food he was given into Draco's face. He's mad... and will probably blame Harry Potter somehow, but I digress... so Malfoy hits Caesar with a firehouse.

How did Draco even get this job? He clearly doesn't like the apes.

I'm guessing Brian Cox doesn't give a shit. Hence why he tricks people into thinking their ape will be in a nice enclosure, then has them locked in a cage.

Oh Sock, I knew you would have a hand in destroying the world.

Yes, lets' give the experimental super intelligence virus to the pissed off looking ape with a scar over his eye. Good plan. Nothing can go wrong here.

Not Idris Elba is joining Franco and Sock in giving the angry looking ape the virus.

So angry monkey convulses, both knocking off Sock's mask and knocking off the hose to the virus... so he breathed some in.

Maybe Tyler Labine will be smart now.

Maybe. Look for Tyler Labine in the new season of Downton Abbey!

Oh great, Downton Abbey's going to get cancelled now, isn't it?

So all the apes are in the enclosure. An Alpha Ape is challenging Caesar and all kinds of bad monkey madness is breaking out! But then Draco shoots both with tranq darts.

So angry ape is smart and Tyler Labine is sneezing up blood.

Tyler Labine has doomed us all. He's been infected with a super virus that kills humans and makes bad sitcoms. Beware CW network... beware.

Caesar's pissed. He wanted to go home, but Franco can't bring him home. Draco's brought his friends there after hours to try to get laid. He's a jerk to the apes. Caesar's gonna fuck up Draco.

Caesar stole a pocket knife from one of Malfoy's friendsHe made friends with a gorilla, then lured out Alpha Ape into the enclosure. Caesar smashed a water dish over Alpha Ape's head, sent him crashing to the ground where his new large angry friend was waiting.  Goodbye Alpha Ape... there's a new Alpha in town... and it's Andy Serkis!

Lithgow dies, not wanting to try the virus again and choosing to accept his fate.

Franco's probably going to blame Spider-man for that too.

So now Franco wants to make sure everything's safe...l because his dad'[s dead, he had nothing to lose anymore. Not Idris Elba has dollar signs in his eyes, so he wants to push ahead. Franco quits and his boss says he will push ahead.

Sock is all sick and pounding on Franco's door. The neighbor confronts him and gets blood sneezed on him... so the neighbor's gonna die.

James Franco is the worst neighbor ever!

I feel bad for his neighbor, he's not a bad guy. He was looking out for his kids firstly, then is pissed with John Lithgow smashed his car. He didn't deserve all this. Not like Brian Cox and Draco Malfoy... they's gonna gets some bog time Monkey Vengeance!

Franco bribes Cox to get Caesar out, but Caesar's been institutionalized, like in Shawshank Redemption. He decides to stay. Some bad shit's a comin' and right soon. Caesar bribes all the other apes with cookies to solidify his leadership.

Caesar breaks out and goes back to Franco's house to steal some experimental super-viruses that Franco left in the fridge next to the Sunny D. He unleashed it all on the other apes. Malfoy is going to have a real bad day.

Uh oh, Sock is dead. Everyone's doomed. The prophecy is complete... Tyler Labine has doomed the human race.

So Malfoy tries to basically fight Caesar using his cattle-prod. He again uses another Charlton Heston line (Damn dirty ape) so if Caesar doesn't kill him, Heston sure as hell will.

Oh shit! Caesar can talk! He leads the other apes (and Daniel Bryan) in a chorus of chanting NOOOO!  Caesar inadvertantly killed Draco by spraying him with the firehose while Malfoy brandished his cattle-prod. Not sure if that would work in real life, but probably pretty unpleasant anyway. He then leads his fellow simians to freedom...

And Monkey Vengeance has begun ladies and gentleman!

Oh geez, I just figured out this subplot where a mission to Mars ends up going wrong... the astronauts get lost in space while apes take over the world. With any luck, hopefully they will just have adventures with a robot and Dr. Smith.

Franco and Pinto find the apes have escaped, used a viral canister and were told by the surviving assistant that Caesar talked. Police get involved. The apes are invade the lab where Franco used to work to steal more of the virus.

In 28 days, is Cillian Murphy going to wake up in an abandoned London?

Yes, but for completely different reasons.

Oh Good, the CHiP's have arrived at the lab! Ponch will have this taken care of in a few minutes.

So with the number of apes at Brain Cox's... ape jail, even if you combine the simians in the local zoo and the ones back at Franco's lab, I still fail to see how that few of apes would really make for a big enough army to be a real threat to people. The only thing on their side against the humans is that we don't actually want to kill them out of fear of the World Wildlife Fund curb-stomping you afterward!

So a guy working for animal control nets an ape and puts him in a van. Then he is attacked by spears from apes on a rooftop. Then the former Alpha Ape rips open the back door and drags out the captive ape. The guy speeds away as several more spears miss him. At least the apes are all bad shots.

They got their training at the Stormtrooper Academy.

Seriosuly, the apes are doing a tremendous job at not actually killing anybody.

This isn't so much Monkey Vengeance as it is Monkey Disorderly Conduct.

If rush hour traffic didn't suck enough, here are some angry apes to jump on everyone's cars. They're headed for the red woods and police have set up a barricade. Cops in a copter just shot an ape... bad thing to do!  And Not Idris Elba is directing them to shoot at Caesar. A gorilla leaps into the helicopter, sacrificing himself for Caesar and killing the bad humans in the process. But Not Idris Elba is still alive, hanging on for dear life as the copter dangles on the edge of the bridge. Caesar lets him die and the angry ape pushes the helicopter over.

Goodbye Not Idris Elba! We've enjoyed your not being Idris Elba... but not as much as if you had actually been Idris Elba!

The flaw with that is I don't think Idris Elba would have let this shit fly to begin with. He's fought Kaiju, I think he can take a few apes.

So Caesar leads his monkey comrades to that redwood forest he loves so much. Franco follows them and invites Caesar to come home, to which Caesar creepily whispers back that "Caesar is home." And with that, the apes are free to start their own happy society in a federally protected national park without any fear of reprisals from the humans that were just killed, injured or just plain terrorized.

It's okay, the humans have their own problems... blood sneezing sort of problems.

Yeah... so we see in a kind of bizarre ending that the neighbor, infected with the Tyler Labine Plague...

... As henceforth we will refer to it as...

... that neighbor is an airline captain, which means that the crazy old Dr. Peters from 12 Monkeys has competition in spreading a deadly epidemic across the globe.

It's really weird, the end credits scroll up over images of where the Tyler Labine Plague spreads. It's this major plot point that it seems like the movie just didn't have time for, despite clearly wanting this to be a new franchise. So rather than show us what happens and how is spreads from person to person and how it affects the characters... we just see lines spread over the globe.

So that's Rise of the Planet of the Apes...  a pretty good, if flawed, movie.

Final Thoughts

So Jon's immediate reaction echoed my own sentiment about Monkey Vengeance... it was better than that weird Tim Burton sort-of remake of Planet of the Apes. This was an interesting take on the rise of the apes... a more believable origin that the one presented in installments 3 and 4 (Escape and Conquest) of the original Planet of the Apes saga.

I do have a problem with going about this method of an origin. The original took place in the far future of the present (of the late 60's at least). The apes had evolution on their side and had developed into far more human-like forms, being fully upright, having full mental capabilities, cognitive skills, motor skills and having weeded out most of their animalistic instincts. The upcoming sequel to Rise will give us pretty much the same apes as we had at the end of the movie. It will literally be man versus smarter ape.

While being a new idea (one that hasn't been explored by the past films) it will be far from the 'Ape Earth' we saw in the Heston films. In fact, the number of apes, worldwide, is still dramatically smaller than the human population. Even if the Tyler Labine Plague kills 90% or even 95% of the human race (even the Black Death didn't have that high of death percentages) humans would still vastly outnumber the apes. Also consider that large swaths of the globe have little to no indigenous apes, their numbers only represented by zoos. That is hardly enough to threaten man's existence. Hell, it seems like with that much free space left behind by the pandemic, apes and man would rarely have to be in contact with one another!

You have two plots that kind of get buried within the film. The bigger one was the spread of the Tyler Labine Plague but the other, which to my recollection was referenced in two quick shots, was the "mission to Mars." That plot point will certainly become a big deal because it is clearly setting up a plot scenario reminiscent of the original Planet of the Apes where a space mission goes wrong and the astronauts unknowingly crash land on a future Earth dominated by intelligent apes and psychic mutants that worship a doomsday nuke (but that last one wasn't until the sequel). I think its weird that the franchise is headed that way, but it is interesting to have the story presented to an audience that already knows the truth about what happened to Earth. Though, sadly, there won't be that epic Statue of Liberty "You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!" scene. The plus side is that Draco Malfoy won't ruin that classic Heston line like he did the others. (That actually did bug me. If you're going to have someone reuse those classic lines, at least give them to Brian Cox!)

There were some other huge plot-holes. Why did Franco keep his successful virus a secret? Obviously it was successful. Even though it was still flawed, it granted his father 5 years free of Alzheimers. I think any sufferer of that dreaded disease would leap at the chance to get 5 years, even with the knowledge that it will return. Hell, cancer victims are given many treatments just to prolong their lives for even a few months. And why was it a virus? You mean to tell me that scientists engineered a virus, probably having to use another virus as the base, to attack someone's brain? Of course that will turn bad, viruses mutate all the time! Lastly, after Caesar bit the neighbor's finger off he would have been put down. It's that simple. No Brian Cox monkey jail, no appeals, just euthanasia.

I am a little put off by the ending. You have a major plot development that will set up the entire future of the franchise play out... during the end credits. Seriously, did they run out of time or budget? Something as devastating as a worldwide pandemic that (based on what I know of the sequel) wipes out most of the human race deserves a little more than a cheap graphic. Plus, you are dealing with an event that seems to come with a story all it's own. On one hand you have humans seeking to contain the smart ape problem and on the other, everyone's getting sick and dying. It's like a whole movie could have been made where humanity is wiped out as the apes become more dominant.

In the end, though, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was pretty good. I was entertained, the CGI was excellent and I will most likely see the sequel this summer. Well worth the $2 I spent. (It takes something epically bad to not be worth a couple of bucks.)

Until next time, Stay Strange.

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