Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees!

Way back in the mid-70s, when I was an impressionable teen, six of us crammed into the cab of Tammie's cousin's pickup truck, hid some beer in the bed, and went to the Ski-Hi drive-in for their end of summer "Planet of the Apes" marathon (only the first four of the five). I don't recall a great deal from the evening, let alone actually watching the movies. I'd seen the first two already, probably the third, and possibly the fourth. I don't think the fifth had been out long enough, but it was a terrible movie anyway. Surprisingly, I don't recall whom I was "with", either. Beyond me, Tammie and her cousin (male), I can't, for the life of me, remember who the other three were. Or who I was paired with. Possibly Tammie, but that would have been highly improbable. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the girl that would have been my girlfriend at the time--that wouldn't have been her thing. All I do remember is staying through the entire run, and not watching much of the movies, and enjoying the evening (wink, wink, nod, nod).

But none of that has anything to do with this post. Movie makers have been trying to get the look of monkeys by non-monkeys for ages. In "The Jungle Book", all it apparently took to fool the orangutans was a couple of coconut halves tied to your face and a grassy skirt.

Interestingly enough, that same sort of look worked for the original "Apes" movies, as the actors' mouths and their ape mouths didn't really work well together. And while their movements didn't really mimic simian movements, they sort of became what we expected of human "monkeys/apes/gorillas" in the movies. Thank you Roddy McDowall.

When the 2001 version of "Planet of the Apes" came out, Hollywood's abilities (and that whole computer-generated image thing) and improved immensely. Faces moved more realistically, mouths actually looked like they were forming the words being spoken, and the body movements seemed to be much more "ape-like". But still, no one could doubt that you were watching a human in a monkey suit--not a highly trained ape. Close, but no bananas. So to speak.

Now, the newest "Apes" has hit the big screen. In my effort to get out of the apartment more, I went to see it (I promise that my blog isn't going to become a movie review blog!). I really hadn't read up on much of the production, but I think I read somewhere that all the simians were CGI-ed. And for all the years of trying to get humans to look like a monkey, I think they went too far the other way. While the special effects are quite good, the apes all appeared too human. I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it's because we're not used to seeing a wide range of subtle human expressions showing on the face of a chimp. Maybe it's the eyes (I'm positive on this, actually). While the apes were created by computer, there was first a human who was filmed with all the little dots on his face for the computer to capture for reference. Perhaps too well. What I felt I was looking at wasn't so much a chimpanzee, but closer to a Neanderthal or earlier human-ish creature. Not ape, not human.

As for the story--eh... It's interesting to see Caeser (the main chimpanzee) as he starts to realize his leadership abilities and forming plans. It's fun to see what references are made to the original movies (there's a direct and complete rip-off from the original's script...even more blatant and obvious than the non-existent Harrison Ford quote from last week's movie). I counted a handful of direct nods to the earlier movies. I'm sure that most of them will end up in IMDB's "trivia" section for this film.

Will I go again? Doubtful. But at least I kept my streak of watching every "Apes" film at the theater. "Star Wars" would be the only other series I can say that about. Not "Indiana Jones". Not "Nightmare on Elm Street". Not even "Star Trek". Now I have to figure out if I want to spend the money to go back and catch Olivia Wilde again. :-)


Cheeky Minx said...

You're fooling no one re your 'debate' about seeing Olivia Wilde again!

I haven't seen the new Apes movie as it seems almost wrong without the original cast. But I see what you mean about the face. Perhaps we need to anthropomorphize in order to relate.

(As for remakes generally, I'm not all that keen on them. They rarely do justice to the originals.)


Anonymous said...

I watched the 2001 version again this weekend to compare the differences. Caesar is way better than Thade who is better than Dr. Zira. Movies are half dialog and half facial expressions; but, since apes don't talk they really had to rely on facial expressions. All things considered, I think Andy Serkis who was also Gollum/Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy does a pretty good job. I won't watch it again in the theater; but I'll probably but the Blu-Ray. (BTW: I'm definitely buying the Cowboys and Aliens Blu-ray when it comes out.)

boneman said...

Oh sure...the monkeys are so funny.
See them play at human stuff. Picking up weapons, terrorizing smaller monkeys...
Great entertainment, indeed...

until one of them picks up a flugal horn and rips off some Peer Gynt.
Yeah....THEN we'll see how entertaining THAT is.


Seriosly...I mark a movie good or better if I come away from it creating more of that movie.
Kingdom of Heaven, although a segment of the past, did that to me. Came away BEING a better "knight" as it were.
Master and Commander.
(few monkeys on these)
But, as for series movies...Pirates of the Caribbean has a monkey.
...and "we named the Monkey Jack" is one of the very best lines... that the theme tomorrow?
Dress up like monkeys undressing?
wait...uh, er...