Apes Will Rise, Hopes Will Fall

And in two minutes, Fox completely destroys any interest I had in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I’m talking, of course, about the newly minted teaser trailer for the long-in-the-works Apes prequel/reboot. Figuring enough time has passed since Tim Burton’s best-forgotten remake, Twentieth Century Fox is dusting off an old standby, pinching bits and pieces from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes to craft what now appears to be, thanks to the teaser, a generic thriller with franchise elements tossed in for the sake of box office name recognition.

Now, I could be completely wrong once we see the movie in its final form, but for now, the trailer leaves me with these few assumptions:

1. Rise is not an Apes movie, not really. It’s a horror movie with some dopey action elements slathered throughout. We’ll see gorillas punching helicopters (much to Elisabeth Rappe’s chagrin, #gorillaattackshelicopter has yet to take off as a hot new meme), chimps breaking out of jail, and monkeys gathering on rooftops. Gone is the social commentary of Conquest, with its angsty take on race relations; Rise replaces this with nature-run-amok filler. Change the title and exchange, say, insects for the apes, and you’ve got just another one-note creature feature. (Or as Will Goss quipped on Twitter: “Soooooo… it’s Planet of the Apes meets Deep Blue Sea.”)

2. For a movie about apes, this one’s going to be all about the humans. James Franco gets all the screen time here, except for that money shot at the end where we see the suspicious chimp’s eyes look all, um, I dunno, eye-like. (Isn’t “Suspicious Chimp” a Radiohead song?) The social commentary here, it seems, is all about how scientists keep tampering in God’s domain, or how Big Pharma is screwing everyone over, or how nobody in an boardroom that clean and shiny should be trusted. The apes, abused servants in Conquest, gave their human masters a bit of well-earned comeuppance by the end of that film; in Rise, humanity will fall not because of their own collective misdoings, but because of the actions of a handful of douchebags – making it, what, a commentary on Wall Street? I give up.

3. Say, who gets top billing here? Oscar-nominee Franco? Fan favorite Andy Serkis, once again doing the mo-cap thing? The director? The writer? The producer? Nope: it’s WETA Digital, the folks handling all the visual effects work on the picture. And that’s ultimately where the trailer goes off the rails. Rather than hype the creative team or the story, the teaser is all about “OMG TEH AWESOME FX.” Plot? Who needs a plot? We’ve got CG monkeys with realistic eyeballs!

So: an Apes film in name only, that’s not really about apes, without a story? Get your stinking paws of my franchise.

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