Select Offenders will be reviewing this summer’s crop of Hollywood tentpole films with a scientifically tested set of criteria that was vetted, nurtured, dissected and regurgitated through the pop-culture gadflies who have nothing better to do than annoy other productive people in the YOMYOMF office. So, we channeled their nitpicks of the incessant reboots, remakes and rehashes that are part and parcel with Hollywood summer movies into this ongoing summer blog series called the SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER SHOWDOWN. You can read previous roundtable reviews, which are all archived here.
In this edition, we review DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES! BTW, this roundtable review is chock full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
1. Remake, Reboot, or Recycled?
Dommah: I am not intimately familiar with any of the PLANET OF THE APES films, but am aware that there are at least 60,000 of them. So there’s got to be someone out there who is all like, “Planet of the Apes is my favorite thing in the whole world!” I have yet to meet this person, in fact I have yet to meet anyone who even owns a Planet of the Apes t-shirt, but they must be making these films for somebody, right? DOTPOTA is a full reboot from the title. It’s not “faithful” to anything previous; it’s a story about a planet with a lot of apes on it, dawning.
Liz: “WHAT DOMMAH? YOU’RE NOT INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH ANY OF THE PLANET OF THE APES FILMS!??!?! Yeah, neither am I. And I totally agree with you, who is well versed and a huge fan of all the iterations of Planet of the Apes? Is there a Planet of the Apes Convention out there? DO PEOPLE ONLY SIGN TO EACH OTHER OR DO THEY SPEAK IN ENGLISH?!?!?! So many questions!”
David: This movie was awesome! I had fun with it and went along for the ride. Sometimes in these summer blockbusters I see to much of the good versus evil which is very black and white. At least here you get to see dissension in the ranks and a great stand off between the two races.
Caesar and Koba were really the heroes of the film. They brought the funk and I was just entranced on how amazing they looked being motion controlled and all by amazing actors with Andy Serkis leading the pack.
You don’t have to be a POTA fan of the past to enjoy this film. You just have to like movies.
DM: And I don’t mean to sound like an a-hole, but I’m not sure I want to meet any adult super-fan of all the original Planet Of The Apes films. I can barely keep up with the Doctor Who people.
It’s a very good film, almost absurdly superior to the cheesy originals, because thank you, VFX artists and motion-capture people. The apes are expressive and powerful in a way that shames all other talking-ape movies. The story deals with the rapid development of the apes’ (that is, Earth’s) civilization; language, acquisition of tools and weapons, political power struggles. It also pokes fun at some dumb humans who are trying to rebuild their society after an apocalypse.
I guess the first one, RISE OF POTA, was supposed to be pretty good too. DOTPOTA briefly recaps it, showing how James Franco caused the death of 95% of the Earth’s population, because that’s how amazingly multi-talented he is.
Liz: This is not a remake but a sequel to reboot of the PLANET OF THE APES franchise: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES aka THE ANDY SERKIS SHOW. I was part of the minority in 2011 who did not enjoy ROTPOTA. I thought the film was a snoozefest. I was pleasantly surprised with this sequel. I enjoyed myself throughout the film and thought the storytelling struck a great balance between having the audience understand the views of both the humans and the apes.
Also, the VFX were incredible. Hands down some of the best stuff I have seen all summer. Granted, I have to admit that I am a bit biased towards this film because a friend of mine did VFX on it. (WHAT WHAT KIMBERLY! You go girl!). But for realzy, the VFX team did an amazing job throughout the whole of this film.
*Side Bar Question: would you say that the words “RISE” and “DAWN” are pretty much similar? Semantics. I’m sure somebody will accurately tell me in the comments because I think that both RISE/DAWN are the same so.. did the creators of the franchise were super lazy and just reused the title? What’s the next one going to be? START/CREATION/EMERGENCE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES? How many beginning of franchises must we endure. I digress…
ThorHulkCritic: TECHNICALLY, RISE AND DAWN HAPPEN AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME SO HULK AGREE BOTH TITLES ARE PUNY AND ALSO HARD TO SAY. HULK HOPE NEXT ONE IS CALLED “EXISTENCE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” OR “MONDAY ON THE PLANET OF THE APES.”
OR, “SOFT LAUNCH OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.”
Anderson: I am pretty familiar with the original films, as well as the animated and live action TV series from the 70s. The original 5-part saga was pretty low-rent and Roddy McDowall was a good Cornelius, as well as Caesar, as the films jumped back and forth in time. This new reboot, is thankfully, more rooted in reality and doesn’t have a half naked Charleton Heston running around in slave garb with a submerged Statue of Liberty in the beach. I loved ROTPOTA and DOTPOTA is a superior sequel and has become by frontrunner as best film of the summer.
DM: But do you own a POTA t-shirt?
2. Asian Sidekick?
DM: The hugest problem with DOTPOTA is, as Phil noted in his previous blog entry, there are approximately ZERO Asians in it. There are a lot of apes, and some white dudes, and some black dudes, and precious few females. What’s weird and outrageous about that is, the film seems to think that it takes place in San Francisco (and the surrounding woodlands). But it does NOT take place in San Francisco, because San Francisco is a place where a lot of Asian and Asian-American people live. In the near future, it’s going to be a city of MAINLY Asian people. Literally, mainly. After the apocalypse happens, there will still be hell of/a grip of/massive amounts of tons of San Franciscan Asians (because one thing Asians are always pretty good at is populating the crap out of places) So I don’t know what all those cute shots of BART stations and San Francisco City Hall were doing in there, because the movie had nothing to do with San Francisco, because there were no Asians.
Liz: SIGH….. So apparently, in the future, after the Simian Flu wipes out the whole of the planet, Asians do not exist BECAUSE THERE WERE EXACTLY ZERO FUCKING ASIANS IN THE WHOLE FILM. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco (aka my hometown). And in my humble opinion, there are a shit ton of Asian people who live in the Bay Area. I have at least 200 relatives there myself. AND you can’t say Asian people wouldn’t survive because the majority of us are pretty darn smart and resourceful. LET’S BE REAL. If you’re in SF, you’re probably in the tech industry aka smart aka crafty motherfuckers. I feel like if anyone could survive the Simian Flu, it would be a shit-ton of Asians. here is no way there wouldn’t be Asians in this future.
Wait. Dommah, maybe, in the reality of DOTPOTA, all the Asians in the S.F. area were super smart, all got on a boat to a Hawaii and just became islanders there like the survivors of that super accurate show LOST. Maybe that’s why there were no Asian characters in this whole movie because they are totally fine living by themselves on an island!
I guess we could also say that maybe the apes in the movie were Asian in origin? FUCK THAT SHIT. I’m sorry, it’s still bullshit that there are no Asians in this film AT ALL.
DM: I think it’s funny/instructive that we all know how preposterous the casting was because we have all actually been to San Francisco. Apparently the main cast never shot in SF. IMDB says that the main shooting locations were New Orleans and Vancouver where YOU KNOW WHAT, IT IS ALSO HARD TO THROW A ROCK WITHOUT HITTING AN ASIAN PERSON WTF.
David: No Asians in San Fran? Come on! We should be the best survivors of this epidemic… we can eat anything and withstand the poisons with our cast iron stomach!
Anderson: People from San Francisco hate the term “San Fran.” That, I know. Hey at least in GODZILLA, they ching chonged it by having some scenes in Chinatown.
3. Explanasian or the “Let Them Fight” Exposition
DM: Apart from the Asian Day Of Absence problem, DOTPOTA is an artfully-told narrative that doesn’t require a lot of goofy exposition. But honestly, some contrived exposition about the lack of Asians would’ve been AWESOME, ‘cause it just don’t make no f**kin sense otherwise. As Phil proposed, perhaps the Simian flu was much much worse on Asians. “Ape not kill Asian?” No, that doesn’t explain it either.
I suppose it is possible, within the world of the film, that all the Asians already moved to Colma and San Jose. But it would’ve been nice to mention that.
Liz: I loved DOTPOTA for being so succinct in it’s story telling. We had a brief explanatory montage with news clips and audio bringing the audience up to speed at the top of the movie and then we just dove straight into the storytelling.
I agree with Phil and Dommah, an explanation as to where all the Asians went would have been rad. Maybe they’re all chilling in Millbrae or Marin? ASIANS WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!!
DM: ASIAN ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES TO MILLBRAE would be a pretty good premise for a movie IMO. It would be like our EXODUS.
David: Epidemic title sequence montage… check!
These never get boring to me… they’re just so hyper-kinetic of showing the fragility of the human race. So many good ones already from previous films:
Anderson: I actually thought the opening credits that explained what happened in the last 10 years was very effective. I went to see the film with two friends who didn’t see RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and they were easily caught up. Very effective.
Actually, what was even cooler is that Fox partnered with Vice to produce 3 short films that were released online that are prequels to this current chapter. You can check out all 3 films here. What a great way to use multiple platforms to drive this property.
DM: Oh yeah, that exposition. I thought it was just pretty colors. When the Obama clip came on I thought, “Aw, no, they’re going to blame this one on Obama, too.”
4. Ground Zero Metropolis
DM: Were we supposed to care that most of the human race died of plague? Were we supposed to root for any of the humans? Are they all just evil and stupid, like in BAMBI? These are the questions I kept asking myself while watching this fascinating film. The filmmakers’ intentionality seems very deliberated and satiric on these points.
Basically the humans’ arc in DOTPOTA is this:
- A douchey human meets an ape in the woods and shoots the ape, because, standing his ground. The douchey human’s friends are all excellently cast, in that they look and act just like the douchey hipster white kids who show up at my local bar at 1:42 AM demanding PBR and Fernet and the wi-fi password; that is to say, awful San Francisco people. These are the heroes….I think.
- The hipster humans are all angry about the simian flu, and sad that they have no electricity for their Ipads. Everyone bitches that this is somehow the fault of the apes.
- The humans go into the apes’ territory and complain about how they like totally need electricity for their Ipads. The apes are like, “Dudes we just chill in the woods and make babies and have bonfires.” The humans are like, “No, we really need the electricity. Our way of life is dying.”
- The humans restore some electricity, and then celebrate with a massive dance party in the street! Because without electricity. HUMANS HAD NO WAY OF DANCING OR MAKING MUSIC. Huh? Gary Oldman is finally able to check his unread Facebook messages, and feels a flood of emotion.
- The humans who are not dancing in the street are busy drinking Johnny Walker while shooting at empty cars with automatic rifles.
- Eventually the apes attack, and the hipsters must take up arms to defend the gates of San Francisco from the mean apes who have no Ipads and thus hate Ipads.
- At one point the gun-happy douchey human (who even self-identifies as “The Asshole”) is sitting in his car in Muir Woods smoking a cigarette, and then THROWS THE LIT CIG OUT THE WINDOW. In daylight, in the middle of a forest. Because YOLO.
- Unrelated, but did anyone else really want to hear the Journey song over that lovely shot of the “Lights” coming back on across the San Francisco skyline? I SURE DID.
Liz: Well, since it’s post-apocalyptic, the world has pretty much gone to shit. And then (and I’m not ruining anything here because everyone saw this in the previews) when the apes and the humans fight, they tear up a lot of the buildings that are still livable in San Francisco. One other moment of destruction was when Koba, the evil ape (who I liked to call Scar), burned down the apes’ home in Tiburon. What I really want to know is what kind of fire safety the apes have in their compound since the fire only burned their area of the forest and didn’t spread. Did they have an elaborate system of sprinklers? Did Smokey the Bear also help out #OnlySmokeyKnows
DM: There was definitely a Lion King thing waiting to happen. The gal I was with commented that it would’ve been nice for Rafiki to make a cameo. And hello, the Monkey King? Another totally non-present Asian.
David: The destruction is not caused by the epidemic nor the war against the human by the apes… it’s the vegetation growing on the buildings in the city. How many years past…10? Mother nature is the one that’s going to win in taking over the world… or taking it back.
5. Nolan or Schumacher?
DM: Syfy Channel is helpfully showing a marathon of the original 59,000 POTA movies, which remind us that they had a lot of fancy Star-Trekish costumes and elaborate, Schumacher-esque pageantry. This new version is certainly going for a more brutal realism (the most brutal aspect being, perhaps, that in the future all Asians and most women have vanished). But seriously, the apes’ struggle with nation-building says more real shit about the human condition than all of the Dark Knight films combined.
Liz: Nolan all the way. I was worried about cheesiness in this film, but right out the gate, we were put into a very suspenseful and real situation that set the serious tone of the film. I also think the film did a great job in balancing both the human struggles and the ape struggles. There were points throughout the DOTPOTA where I rooted for both the humans and the apes.
6. Asian Recast?
DM: Keri Russell plays the wife of the hapless bearded hero. My friend who accompanied me to the movie was quick to point out Keri’s stereotypically gendered role: she cooks, she cares for babies, she dutifully accommodates. She’s SUPER-NICE. But I’m not tripping on that, dude, she’s also a doctor, it’s not like she’s wearing a bikini. My thing is, in real life, that character, the wife of the bearded San Francisco engineer white dude, is definitely, definitely an Asian woman. #ISaidIt
The bearded hero’s son, who is also the ostensible “reason we are fighting for the future of the human race”, is an emo youngster who reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (a surreal graphic novel preferred by kids with dark tortured souls). Although frail and a little creepy, he is also the only human who has adapted to life without USB chargers (he reads and draws). That kid could’ve been cast Hapa, from the generic bearded hero’s first marriage (to his first Asian wife). Again, if we were going for any kind of realism.
Hell, all the human characters could’ve been Asian, and should’ve been. Because it’s San Fran-freaking-cisco. Oh, what’s the use.
Liz: EVERYONE COULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED BY AN ASIAN. Seriously. It’s a post-apocalyptic film set in SAN FRAN-FUCKING-CISCO. Glenn from WALKING DEAD survives a zombie plague in ATLANTA. I’m pretty sure any our heroes could have been played by Asians and no one would have questioned any of the casting choices.
David: Just CG the cast as Asians and have Andy Serkis play them all.
Anderson: There are so many Asian American government leaders in SF. We couldn’t have someone play a district attorney like Kamala Harris or current SF mayor Ed Lee? They could have survived and become crazy loons who led this makeshift society.
7. Banana Rating — 1 banana worst to 4 bananas best
DM: 3 bananas! And yet somehow, there were also no bananas. Don’t apes like bananas? No really, this is the “thoughtful” summer movie, if you’ve been waiting anxiously for that kind of thing. There’s more subtitles and anthropology than in your typical tentpole flick, but there are also the requisite action set pieces. During the apes’ assault on SF, there’s a shot from a roving armored vehicle turret that is super-long and super-awwwwwwesome. There’s also exciting scenes of resource management, political intrigue, ape-on-ape melee combat, and Gary Oldman gratuitously shooting at oil drums. What I mean is, I cannot wait to play the Video Game Of The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Liz: 3 for me. I think it’s one of the best tentpole movies to come out this summer. Is it up to par as far as storytelling and fun as one of my favorite films, THE AVENGERS? No. But it’s definitely a great movie to experience in the theaters… unless you were sitting next to me at the Arclight Dome and had a family sitting behind you narrating the whole film for you in both English and Russian. Let’s just say listening to people read sub-captions in English and then in Russian and then have a chorus of “OOOOHHHHS” emulate from behind you didn’t really enhance the theater going experience.
David: 3 fresh bananas out of 4… haha! It was a fun time and an awe to watch.
Anderson: 3.5 bananas. Up there with EDGE OF TOMORROW and I thought it was better than the first one.
About the contributors:
Liz Ho (@elizabethhoacts) I am a fortune cookie: a crispy-Asian-American-treat that will give you useless advice & lotto numbers. I love Star Trek, alpacasso, Star Wars (IV-VI), makeup, reading, and taking daily pictures of my ewok of a dog named Cooper. I am also an actor.
Dominic Mah (@dommah) is a writer, director, erratic blogger at dommah.com, and rock musical enthusiast. He tweets pop-culture critique as @thorhulkcritic. Pretty soon he will be premiering a new reality web show about karaoke bars at melancholyball.com.
David C.P. Chan is a visual effects artist and a card carrying “gerd” (geek and nerd) combined. I quote movie lines at least 50 times a day and will school you at the game of Risk!