Getting A Rise: Why X&HT Didn’t See Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

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I was going to see it. Really, I was. I had the day all mapped out. Chores in the morning, then an amble into town to catch an early afternoon screening. I was quite looking forward to it.

But as the day wore on, my enthusiasm began to dwindle. By the time I got the doors of the Reading Vue, all I could manage was the feeling that there really were better things that I could do with my time. So I went into the Hobgoblin on Broad Street, and over a pint of Mr. Chubb’s Lunchtime Bitter, mused on the reasons why I’d suddenly lost all interest.

First of all, I considered, taking a sip while settling into a cosy snug at the back of the pub, Rise is a blatant attempt at starting a new franchise. Fox have of course been left without a cash cow as the Harry Potter films have finally finished, and have to be hunting around for a new series to start taking up the shortfall. Now, in my exceedingly humble opinion, franchises have turned the summer blockbuster market into an artistic void. Sequelitis has infected Hollywood like a bad case of knobrot, and the movies coming out of that policy are about as palatable. With 32 movies in the next year either based on existing properties, or reboots and remakes, the marketplace is choking on old fumes. Why should I encourage that behaviour? While I accept that my approach to these films is akin to The Pirate Code, I try to steer clear of them. There are many other better films out there that deserve my patronage.

One of them, I mused while enjoying the bright, hoppy fizz of the Lunchtime Bitter on my tongue, is the original Planet Of The Apes. A masterpiece of clever social commentary and solid storytelling, with one of the all-time killer twists. It spawned a raft of sequels, of course. All of which told the story of the fall and rise of apedom in a twisty, timeloopy fashion that made sense and, more importantly, ended in a satisfying way. Hence my concern about a new Ape franchise. The original films pretty much invented the concept in the form that modern audiences would understand, so in some ways it’s natural for Fox to glom onto the property as a moneyspinner. But the new story adds nothing to the canon. Which means, to my mind that there’s a good chance that any sequels will forge a different path. One that leads straight back to the Tim Burton version of events, and the monkey statue in Washington. Now, I could be wrong, but I’d rather not take the risk of encouraging that kind of behaviour.

Speaking of which, I reflected as I tilted the last mouthful of Lunchtime to my lips, it’s about time we stopped enabling Andy Serkis. Now, I mean this in a good way. He is a fine, thoughtful and innovative actor. But he’s been stereotyped. It used to be that when Hollywood needed a clever monkey, they went to effects wizard Rick Baker. Now, it’s all Andy Serkis crawling around a capture volume in a leotard covered in ping-pong balls. To all the smartypants yelling about Lord Of The Rings, I will simply respond with this algorithm: Gollum = shaved orang-utan.

Andy deserves better than this, Readership. It’s disrespectful of his art and talent. A boycott of his mo-cap monkeying is, I feel a harsh but fair measure. I’d rather see the man than a digitised performance any day.

I stepped out of the Hobgob into sunshine, the beer warm in my belly. A walk home along the Kennet beckoned, with perhaps a little visit to a book shop on the way. That somehow seemed like a much more pleasurable way to spend the day.

I love movies as much as anyone. But sometimes a pint of good English beer and a book are all you need to make your day.