BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

Going Ape

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 11:21 UK time, Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Planet Of The Apes films were incredibly important to me when I was growing up, so I am a bit nervous about the new film Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes that is releasing this week. Here is my take on the history of simian cinema.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructionsIf you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit Mark's blog to view the video.

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am mainly dubious because in the trailer a gorrilla takes on a police helicopter. I just think that is moronic, they are smarter not superpowered.

  • Comment number 2.

    Mark - Being the same age as you (well next month, anyway) I have exactly the same emotions regarding the 'Apes' films.
    I may not have got the comic books, but I did collect the TV bubblegum cards. And stuck them in a book.
    And, as only *real* geeks did, I also bought the Super 8mm 8-minute cutdowns to show at home (in b/w silent subtitled versions, as that was all I could afford at the time). I even went so far as taping the sound of the original film off the TV and attempting (poorly) to create my own matching track to the 8mm version.
    Match THAT!

  • Comment number 3.

    loved the old movies and TV show as a kid....thought the Tim Burton remake was the biggest let-down in cinema history....waited for this one with trepidation

    and it was amazing...loved every second of it...haven't been so engaged with a movie in years..even had a big loud *gasp* moment, and i'm not usually vocal during movies, except to laugh

    it was touching, it was tender, it was witty, it was tense, it was thrilling, it was chilling, it was scary, it was spectacular...and all in the right places...and the Orangutan a sight to behold

    if you had any love for the old movies or TV show at all you HAVE to go see it...took a couple of 17 year olds, and they enjoyed it almost as much as me (without all them years of emotional investment in the story)

    hanging out for the sequel already..

  • Comment number 4.

    Don't worry Mark. It's great.

    Just get your stinking paws on a cinema ticket now, you damn dirty ape ;)

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh and SiouxZee - I know exactly which moment you mean, and me and my wife both gasped at it too. Great cinema.

  • Comment number 6.

    As soon as I saw the trailer for this I knew I wouldn't be going to see it. There's just something about that CGI chimp that gave me an instant dislike to it.

    Also, am I the only one who laughed out loud when this video first cut to Mark in the middle of a field?

  • Comment number 7.

    but it was so cute when it was a baby

    dylan, i'd waited nearly 40 years for that moment

  • Comment number 8.

    Surprised to hear you rated 'Beneath' as the best of the sequels, i always thought it was a square peg in the series. For my money 'Conquest' was the best which the new film seems to emulate,your doing 'Escape' a disservice by calling it childish as once the film hits its stride it's pretty good and has a bleak ending, but 'Battle' really was a klunker.

  • Comment number 9.

    I like how Mark is so despairing at the DVD cover of Planet spoiling the film that he goes ahead and gives away the ending of Beneath.

    Spoilers annoy me more than anything else in Film/TV world. Not the spoiler itself, more the minefield which is talking about ANYTHING which has been seen.

  • Comment number 10.

    Not many film critics can make me want to see a 40 year old film about men dressed as apes as much as I now want to see beneath the planet of the apes!

  • Comment number 11.

    I saw the 'reboot' recently and was pleasantly surprised. However, I feel that the director took an easy way out which will ruin any possible sequels.

  • Comment number 12.

    At the risk of this thread turning into the Yorkshiremen sketch, us all sat round saying we 'ad proper ape movies when I t'were a lad, I too am of that age. No cgi fer us, our actors spent proper 32 hours in make up.... erm, sorry.

    My first PoA was Beneath... which is the most bizarre point to enter the series. It must have been a re-release as I think I must have been about 11, it warped my young mind enough, even though I remember being very engaged with how wonderfully strange it was, although I do also recall finding some of it a bit tedious and heavy going, but the weird factor balanced that out, I was enjoyably traumatized by the bleak ending. It's kind of the El Topo of the series. Even though any of the rest of the lot are more accessible, I enjoyed, but was slightly let down by the rest, just because, though they are good speculative fictions, they never get as out there as Beneath.

    Of course, I hated the Burton, but mostly because, even though most of it is unobjectionably very average, the attempt to redo the twist ending makes absolutely no sense on many levels -- just insultingly stupid to the intelligence of any primate, regardless of how opposable their thumbs are.

    Not sure from the trailer, I'm afraid I will now have to duck the hype for the new one, as if I grant it expectations, I set myself up to be unfairly disappointed rather than pleasantly surprised.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm in my early twenties and I LOVE Planet of the Apes, but I can't believe you defended the awful Tim Burton version! It's one of the most egregious travesties I'm ever seen.

    I'll definitely be seeing the new film, and I'll keep my fingers crossed. Even if it disappoints, at least we're guaranteed another excellent performance by Andy Serkis.

  • Comment number 14.

    Mark's fled the London riots and is hiding out in the countryside somewhere...

  • Comment number 15.

    I am glad that someone else likes “Beneath”. I don’t understand why the film is so hated by the critics and most fans. This movie scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. It really does a number on your mind if you are watching it as a 10 year old in the early 70s. I think the movie is too scary and depressing for many fans taste. However, Beneath is a great sequel to an iconic movie.

  • Comment number 16.

    I love all 5 of the ape films even though some are a bit dodgy - I think the original and conquest are the best -

  • Comment number 17.

    I too am a fully fledged POTA fan. One of my earliest movie memories is watching the original on telly & I had the original novel & the novelisations of the sequels, comic books, even the weird Adventure Comic's series which mixed POTA with the Alien Nation movie/tv show. Recently rewatched the original on bluray (in fact it’s the only film I’ve owned on all formats) & it still holds up, a great combination of blockbuster thrills & intelligent plotting full of ideas. The sequels all have their merits, even Battle as it gives audiences the chance to see John Huston in ape make up!

    When I first watched Beneath I was disappointed, all the mutant human stuff seemed a distraction to my young eyes which just wanted more apes. . .& more Linda Harrison! However I like it a lot more now for its sheer oddness & the inventive tangent it takes with the concept.

    However I really feel that you’re doing Escape a disservice Dr K. Yes it has a lightness of touch in the first two thirds but this gives way to a dark sense of inevitable fatalism in the finale. & also it highlights one of the great successes of the series, Roddy McDowall & Kim Hunter. You really believe in them as characters, this was quickly established in the first film but is fully developed here with a bickering likable realistic couple who just happen to be talking chimps. In fact it makes the doom laden ending & dark 4th film more affecting. Also Escape cleverly reworks many of the elements of Pierre Boulle’s original novel. & don’t forget that great opening scene, “Welcome gentlemen to the United St..ates?!?”

    Conquest is the one that I felt least satisfied with, mainly because of the abrupt change of tone in the finale which undermines all that has gone before. But watching the unrated cut is a vast improvement, a bloodier provocative revolution with no hint of compromise at the end. In fact I really can’t see the new film being as daring. But it’s gotta be better than Tim Burton’s movie. . .hasn’t it?

    Oh & let’s not forget Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score for POTA.

  • Comment number 18.

    Beneath the Planet of the Apes is one of my most terrifying childhood experiances. I had watched the first one loved it, and so got hold of the second, only to be so scared that I stopped watching the apes films altogether.

    A horribly bleak future for humanity and the planet, intense satire on religion and and all round nihilistic view of life and where we are all going gave me nightmares, and still does to this day. A film that ends with the end of the world caused by the effective de-evolved insanity of the human race.

    Having seen your video I might now visit the rest of the Apes series, but I'm not going near Beneath again for all the money in the world!

  • Comment number 19.

    Now, I may be remembering this wrong as it was oh so many moons ago, but I think the BBC or Channel 4 did a Planet of the Apes season in the early 90's where they aired all 5 movies and I can't remember if it was consecutive nights or one a week. At that point in my young life (9-12) I'd seen bits of the TV series and read a bunch of the comics but had only seen the first film.

    Each film was aired at a watchable time (6pm-8pm start) as I recall, save for "Beneath" which aired at 11pm...

    Fortunately, through the wonders of VHS, it was recorded for me; it blew my mind and to this day remains my favourite entry in the series

  • Comment number 20.

    Crash Landen 14* Mark's not hiding out in the country he's died and is broadcasting from the Elysium fields, also no ones mentioned the Planet of the apes musical from the Simpsons.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mark, would love to see your take on "Rise of the Planet...", don't forget to post your review here

    I saw it myself yesterday and I was very impressed, probably because it was the film I was least looking forward to seeing this summer. But it surpasses nearly every film I've seen so far this year and it deserves to be a hit

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm so pleased to hear this. I've never met anyone else who thinks Beneath … is the most fascinating movie of the series. Original, provocative, creative.

    Mind you, I think you could have mentioned the original book Monkey Planet, and the author's interest in human nature which also emerges in his other book-inspired film classic "Bridge on the River Kwai". Some interesting connections and comparisons to be made there, methinks.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ #14: That's what I was thinking too. Stay safe everyone out there in the UK!

  • Comment number 24.

    I went to find the 'Dr. Zaius' clip from the Simpsons on YouTube after I saw this!

  • Comment number 25.

    I am also of that age, my wife is 9 yrs younger. I loved the films but she grew up on the tv series and is actually quite frightened by the apes and wont come with me to see the new one. For me the first one is the best and has some iconic moments in now much copied.

  • Comment number 26.

    Has anyone seen the guerilla (Boomboom! sorry) advertising that has been done in the UK surrounding the release of this movie?

    The timing of this is interesting to say the least but I'm sure the marketing people can't believe their luck.

  • Comment number 27.

    I remember very clearly watching "Planet Of The Apes" when it was released in 1968 and being blown-away. I just couldn't believe that end!
    You mentioned in the video that "Beneath" had an AA certificate upon release but that was "Conquest". "Beneath" was released with an A certificate.
    I've just bought the five films on Blu-ray and am eager to watch the lot once again.

  • Comment number 28.

    The new one does look good from the trailer and the advance word is good, but I like Conquest the most (especially in the more bloody and political Blu Ray cut) and this could completely contradict it. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be in continuity with Tim Burton's version, the original or none of the above, so it could stick out like a sore thumb. From the US box office takings I think another one is a dead cert.

  • Comment number 29.

    Great call on the Simpson's Planet of the Apes The Musical somefellacalledlime.

    "I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzee" = Genius.

  • Comment number 30.

    I've been a fan of Apes since the early seventies, and tried to view Rise with an open mind. Early trailers did seem disappointing, but the latter trailers made it seem that it was actually going to be and interesting and thought provoking film well worth watching.

    So, I've now watched it. Is it good? It's more alright than good, and I was a little underwhelmed. It's conceptually light, weak on politics and message, simplistic in its characterisations, in fact I'd go as far to say that it wasn't too much qualitatively different from the Burton film, which itself was fairly light and lacked the intelligence of the original (although I don't dislike the Burton film, finding it enjoyable in a popcorn movie kind of way, but it has numerous serious flaws that can't be ignored). The human characters are very flat and forgettable, the "baddies" very black-and-white (unlike the original film and its sequels, where the antagonists had their reasons), it's something that's very safe and doesn't stray into grey territory. However, saying all that, the one thing that they get right, which is essential if this franchise is to continue, is that they made me care about Caesar, adding emotional depth to his character. Andy Serkis has done a good job in making Caesar feel real enough to care about. The film should be congratulated for that. Now if they'd only give 10% of the emotional depth to some of the human characters...

    Does the film deserve a sequel? Yes, they've done enough to make me want to see the story continue. I also think that a coming sequel will probably have a more interesting story than this one, where you'll not only have conflict against the humans, but you'll have inner conflict within the apes. I do hope, though, that they add some grey into their characters instead of having them as simplistic as they have in Rise.

    So, all in all, I'm slightly underwhelmed by this film. However, as a popcorn film, it's one of the better ones. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I found it entertaining in parts, but it also felt like I'd eaten a Milky Way when I was being enticed by pictures of a roast dinner. So, one of the better films of the year so far, but should have been better.

    BTW, Escape might start off all happy-clappy and jolly, but it sure gets quite dark by the time it ends. It's far from a childish film, more an emotional roller coaster. Also, you'll find a lot of Apes fans consider it the best sequel.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dont worry about the new film. It does ok and isnt an abomination like TB's pharse was.

    It is very engaging and respectful towards the original with lots of nods and winks to them that vary to from subtle to very obvious.

    Warning though, do stick around for the credits as it carrys on during them but not after them.

  • Comment number 32.

    @Howie - Don't forget the fact that the trailer luckily resembles large-scale rioting. I was sat at a train station yesterday and a huge TV screen played a loop consisting of Sky News footage of rioting and looting, followed by apes smashing police cars, windows, so forth. 20th Century Fox lucked out.

  • Comment number 33.

    Random wheat field? explain!

  • Comment number 34.

    Dr K, please let us know what you think of Super 8.

  • Comment number 35.

    Rich Indeed:

    "I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzee" = Genius.

    The British version: "I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzed".

    I'm pretty much indifferent to the POTA series, though actually I didn't mind Beneath the Planet of the Apes. This new film looks interesting; I might wait for the DVD.

    Without sounding too arrogant (why the hell not?!), I'm so proud that it is British directors - Wyatt, Jones, Nolan - who are giving the world intelligent, thoughtful and popular thrillers that don't treat the audience like idiots. I'm right chuffed!

  • Comment number 36.

    After rewatching Beneath I’m still not as enamoured of it as Dr K. The mutant human bomb worshiper stuff is fun & pretty whacky but it takes bloomin’ ages to get to all that stuff. Despite some good scenes with the apes there’s almost an hour of padding really with boring chases & wandering around. So it ranks as number 4 in the series for me, it’s enjoyable with a nice pessimistic ending but not as good as POTA, Escape or Conquest.

    Watching Escape again it’s still for me the 2nd best, the shift in tone may not satisfy some fans of the series but it demonstrates how radically different each film is in tone/execution, something that no other franchise has replicated as far as I am aware. It’s also an intelligent & playful reworking of ideas in the original movie & the novel, & has wonderful performances from Roddy McDowell & Kim Hunter.

  • Comment number 37.

    I too grew up with the apes.Your video brought back a lot of happy memories of me monkeying around. Monkey Magic!!! I always wanted to be the the general in the leather!!!I loved the make up. Heston and Mcdowell were great, we dont seem to have screen actors like that anymore. Burtons film was all style no substance. Fingers crossed with the new one.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think I was one of the very few to not have been spoiled by the ending (I'm 27 and first watched it when I was about 12) and was totally blown away by it and still think it's the best ending to a film ever.
    I think it's crazy that 20th Century Fox put's the spoiler on the front of a DVD cover trying to get another generation to watch it.
    I think I would have been put off watching it if I already knew the ending and there are far better ways to use iconic images from the film, like that fantastic space craft that crashes on the planet to Taylor being straped and being controlled like a dog to put on the cover.

    I'm really looking forward to the new film as it's had a good word of mouth. Like the good doctor I too am a massive fan of the Apes franchise (this and the Alien franchise) so much so I listen to this "Ape Shuffle" at least once every month and dance to it like there is no tommorow.

    The original franchise is never going to be topped so I think the best thing to with it is do something very new but keep the ideas of the original series.

  • Comment number 39.

    Planet of the Apes is a truly great film; one of both Heston & McDowell's best performances, an intelligent script, Gerry Goldsmith's superb score, the make-up effects and of course that ending!

    Made at a time of nuclear paranoia, civil rights agitation, ghetto riots, the ending of the Vietnam war the Apes movies tapped deeply into societies concerns.

    The new Rise of the Apes might also tap into our concerns (equally they might put people off seeing it) following this week's riots.

    Imagine if instead it was 1972s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes being released, that ended with the words:

    “Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall. The day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!”

    At the time some saw that as quite radical & inflammatory.

    My only concern about Rise of the Apes is the trailer appears to give the entire plot in 30 seconds. Talk about spoilers!

  • Comment number 40.

    A huge dilemma this weekend for yours truly should I go see it? or should I hold on to the wonderful memories of the original movies. With Charlton Heston galloping along that beach, and dropping down on his knees in despair when the full realisation of what has happened to Earth finally hits him, for me it's right up there as one of the most powerful and thought provoking endings to a movie in cinematic history.However I shall ponder on it ..........

  • Comment number 41.

    Not seen the film yet and like Mark I am a fan of the originals so I too have my fears. However the one cause for Hope is the presence of Andy Serkis , who I believe is a certified Genius, If anyone can help them get this right he can.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think The Good Doctor is a little unfair on "Escape...". Who can forget the haunting ending, with the baby chimp's cries morphing into "Mama..."?

  • Comment number 43.

    I agree with you professor .. Beneath is the best and most hard hitting movie of the series . It had a profound effect on me as a child. It was the only movie not to feature Roddy McDowell in person Although they may have used his voice. I haven't seen it yet but Rise of the planet of the apes seems like a re-make of Conquest.

  • Comment number 44.

    I like Rise of the Plant of the Apes. I like the strange parallel to The Ten Commandments (offspring of a captive is taken in by the ruling class and ends up leading a revolt across the water to the holy land) and found the motion capture to be among some of the greatest special effects I have ever seen on screen.

  • Comment number 45.

    I actually liked Tim Burton's film. I thought that it was a novel and interesting take on the original story and that the performances were strong. I also thought that the cliffhanger climax was effective and was a great set up for a sequel. Most of all, I liked how the apes were actually actors in makeup, not motion-captured cgi, which I always feel is lazy. Seriously, what was wrong with the Burton film?

  • Comment number 46.

    I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes and thought it was a satisfactory reboot of the franchise. I am only twenty two but have watched the DVD boxset of the original films and found them entertaining and intellectually interesting. Ultimately Rise is the starting point for the next chapter in the franchise and I look forward to the next one.

  • Comment number 47.

    I really enjoyed that video blog Mark. It's always nice when critics/writers shake off the shackles and reveal how passionate they are about a particular movie, book, tv show or piece of music. The love for media that begins in childhood is often the strongest and most enduring and evocative of one's youth.
    Have no fear Mark, the reboot is really rather good with some great nods to the originals.
    Here are my thoughts

  • Comment number 48.

    Well I've done the dirty deed so to speak and toddled off to see said film yesterday. Not a patch on the originals for me personally, however it's certainly not without it's merits, mainly due to Caesar who you just can't fail to take to your heart. Also it did rather leave me wanting more at the end of it all which rather surprised me. There have been some awful cinematic offerings this year, this film isn't one of them, and nice to see both adults and children equally enjoying the movie, not a peep out of the pesky kids for once! :-)

  • Comment number 49.

    Try reading the original book - puts everything in a whole new light.

  • Comment number 50.

    I saw it yestaday and I was quietly impressed, I think some of the cgi worked and some didnt, Freida Pinto was underused to a certain extent her charecter wasnt well written. The story was good, off course it kind of ended on an anticlimax....reason being that they will continue the story. I didnt have as much fun as I did watching the originals...but hey I was a kid then.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hey I to would like to leap to the defence of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, because it's not as dark as Beneath and it is fairly family friendly in the first half, then it turns dark as the apes and their child are seen as a threat. I also think Eric Braeden as the charecter Hasslien is very well performed, hes a sort of the villian but he isnt, he absoulutley believes his actions will save millions, and he cares about a great many important things, interesting antagonist.

  • Comment number 52.

    You can relax, 'Rise..' is way better than it's trailers would suggest as it manages to both honour the original Apes movies, from the 60's and 70's, whilst successfully relaunching the beloved franchise in a post 'Dark Knight/Inception' summer movie landscape.

    As for the filmmakers, I think all involved should be given the praise they rightly deserve, whilst the creative director of it's marketing campaign ought maybe to take some to off? To think I very nearly passed this one by due to it's distinctly lack lustre trailers.

  • Comment number 53.

    My partner and I have just watched the films (and tv series) again in prep for 'Rise..'. Our 'paws' are crossed in the hope that it wont pong like Tim Burton's 2001 'reimagining'.
    We still think 'Planet..' is king with 'Beneath..'(a disgracefully undervalued sequel) right behind it. 'Conquest..' is also a worthy entry and whilst 'Battle..' may be harmless piece of fluff in comparison to the rest, it's good fun nontheless.
    But, like a few others on this thread, I have to take exception to your
    assessment of 'Escape..'. It may well start off in a (deceptively) 'childish' manner, but it's gear change into dark waters at the halfway mark is very smooth and successful one indeed, retaining the bold pessimism of it's predecessors very nicely, whilst simultaneously being as faithful to Pierre Boulle's source material as the original. It's a genuine wolf in sheeps (or chimps) clothing.

  • Comment number 54.

    hi Dr. K,

    given your enthusiasm for the planet of the apes series, I thought this little short animation i did in 2009 might picque your interest. It deals with apes and humans living together in an urban environment, but in a more idealistic, wholly more naive way.

    the film is featured here

    i would love to hear what you think of it!


    Neil McDonald

  • Comment number 55.

    I think Im not the only one whom would love to hear what Mark thought of this "restart" of the classic series. Im one of those whom love the original Charlon Heston movie but dislikes the followups (and the more of them you see the worse they get)

    Come on Mark, let us know what you thought about the new film !!

  • Comment number 56.

    > Come on Mark, let us know what you thought about the new film !!

    For an avid Apes fan, he's taking his time to watch it. ;)


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.