This past weekend, Holy Taco was invited out to LA to the Rise 50 Summit, where we and some other kids on the internets were schooled in the apely ways of the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes from 20th Century Fox. We were taken to the inner ape sanctum where we met the film’s director, got the inside scoop on some special effects from WETA and we also enjoyed a lot of free food and booze because Holy Taco lives on donations. But none of that prepared us for Caesar, the star of the new movie. Caesar is an insanely realistic chimp created by WETA and the motion work of Andy Serkis. Suck it, Dr. Zaius!
In honor of the new movie and its badass new approach to ape awesomeness, let’s check out the roots of intelligent film monkeys and how we got to this point. Sorry, no free booze.
Planet of the Apes 1968
You might look at this movie as cheeseball today, but all we have to say about that is this;
That’s Charlton Heston making out with a monkey. That’s what started the Hippie movement. Heston hated that so much he founded the NRA and shot monkeys on sight from then on out, but that’s a different story.
In 1968, this movie was actually really popular and it deals with some serious social issues, which any decent sci-fi movie should be doing. Sure the effects were cheesy, but it was 1968. In 1968, you could put tin foil on a toddler and call it a robot and 70% of people would believe it and attempt to organize a posse of disposable minorities to destroy it. Anyway, this was a chimp, done with make up and prosthetics, over 40 years ago.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970
As soon as everyone realized the first Apes movie was kick ass, they started the sequel machine and gave us this;
That’s a gorilla with a hat that makes him look like a cross between a snake and a penis. Not really the most killer look, but if you’re a sentient, talking gorilla you can get away with some questionable fashion choices.
Escape From the Planet of the Apes 1971
In what is commonly known as a “bad idea,” the producers of Escape decided to switch up this sequel by having three apes escape from their planet (get it? It’s a clever title) and then fly back to Earth in the 70’s . Oh man, life is topsy turvy! Check out this bad ass;
Yeah, so we’ve gone from Moses making out with Bubbles to this Hugh Hefner looking chimp at a hotel. Man, these movies are golden.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes 1972
Arguably the best of the old Apes franchise, because it was preposterous and starred Ricardo Montalban, who you might remember as KHAAAAAAAN!, this is the actual plot of the movie – a disease kills all the cats and dogs. In response, human keep monkeys as pets. They notice the monkeys are kind of smart and, naturally, make them into slaves. One monkey, the child of two smart monkeys from the last movie, leads a revolt and teaches the other apes to use weapons and fight back and, by the end of the movie, they’re already talking. So the lesson is monkeys are already as smart as humans, they just hadn’t been motivated to prove it until they were forced to be couriers and garbage men.
I don’t want to sound racist, but all these apes look the same to me.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes 1973
Inexplicably, in this final film, the magic had faded and so had the budget, leading to the most “dude in a monkey mask” effects yet.
Wow, look at that gorilla-like physique, huh? This is what a gorilla would look like on a diet of figs and tepid water. And laxatives.
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes 2001
Fast forward to 2001 and Tim Burton breathes new life into the franchise by making a movie that no one, and I mean no one, understood. Seriously, the ending made no sense. It didn’t even try to make sense. In fact, it took a steaming turd on sense and then asked sense’s mother out for dinner, told her she had nice cans and then stiffed her with the bill.
Anyway, this is Helena Bonham Carter as a monkey.
She’s like a trendy hipster ape, I guess. It’s hard to put your finger on most of the things in this movie. But hey, look here.
I don’t know what to say about this other than that’s exactly how I imagine Paul Giamatti would look if he were an orangutan. If the Monkeynator ray we’ve been developing in Break’s boiler room ever gets done, we’ll try it on Giamatti first and see how it turns out.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011
Now it’s now and, after 33 years worth of monkey make up and prosthetics, 20th Century Fox got a script for a movie that explained why these damn, dirty apes are so smart and damn dirty. And they almost passed on it until James Cameron made Avatar with the FX people at WETA, proving special effects had advanced far enough to make photorealistic monkeys in a movie. Well, they proved you could make a big, blue Pocahontas, but then they extrapolated from that the monkey thing. And so now we have this;
That there is a full on computer generated chimpanzee named Caesar. The team at WETA actually pioneered software just to govern the apes’ hair, to make the hair work in the way real hair works, adjusting to body movement, getting tangled, rustling in breezes, the whole deal. 100 man hours in every single frame of footage. Do you know how many frames are in a movie? Generally about 24 per second. Holy balls.
We’ve come a long way since Heston put the moves on a lady ape, and I have it on good authority that no one will make out with an ape in this new movie (yes, I asked).
Also, I have to say the following. Go with it. In accordance to FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I have been compensated by 20th Century as a part of the “Rise 50.” However, all editorial content has been created by me and reflects my personal opinions. Also, I know the difference between apes and monkeys.