Our neighborhood Blockbuster did not exactly have a sparkling selection of cinematic classics. It was rare to find a film made before 1970. The foreign-film section was mostly bad martial-arts non-classics; actually, the store probably had more Shannon Tweed movies than subtitled movies. You could find the 1998 TV-Movie Rear Window, starring Christopher Reeves and Daryl Hannah, but you could not find the somewhat-better-known 1954 film version, starring James Stewart and Daryl Hannah and directed by Alfred Freaking Hitchcock. But I can’t hate on my old Blockbuster too much, because it gave me one cinematic treasure that I still value to this day: The Planet of the Apes series.
I had been a fan of the original film since I was a kid — I was so young when I saw it that I was actually surprised by the ending, which I think is probably impossible after you turn 6. But over the course of one glorious week in my early teens, I caught up with the rest of the series. Now, you can quibble about the later films — none of them comes even close to the original, although I have an abiding love for the second film — but there is one thing that is undeniable: The titles of the Apes movies are awesome. Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and the franchise-capping Battle for the Planet of the Apes — each title conjures up a gloriously pulp-tastic aesthetic. And even better, there’s not a colon in the bunch!
Tim Burton’s 2001 Apes reimagining lamely opted out of adding an exciting new noun or preposition to the mix. But surely part of the appeal of the just-released reboot is that it continues the trend with the similarly bombastic title Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In light of Rise‘s box office performance, another Apes movie seems likely. When I spoke to Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the Rise screenwriting duo, they were mostly mum on sequel plans, but they did confirm the need for what Silver called “a cheesy-but-fun noun” in the title. Jaffa suggested Revenge on the Planet of the Apes. In the comment boards of that post, Shannon Nutt suggested Triumph of the Planet of the Apes (which is awesome), while Glenn suggested Evolution of the Planet of the Apes (which is awesome, but it would anger the all-important Creationist demographic, so consider it unlikely.)
Here are some of my own ideas, plus some quick elevator pitches:
Across the Planet of the Apes — In the wake of the events at the end of Rise [SPOILER ALERT], as human civilization collapses around them, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) has to lead his band of refugee primates from the woods of Northern California back to the safety of their home in the Congo. Tensions run high when Caesar agrees to work with a surviving band of plague-ridden humans, led by a man named MacDonald (Anthony Mackie.)
Above the Planet of the Apes — A century after the events in Rise, a descendant of Caesar named Octavian (played by Andy Serkis) becomes a fighter pilot in the war between plucky Afro-European chimpanzees and evil British bonobos. Tensions run high when Octavian meets his new co-pilot: A hotshot named Brent (Tom Hardy), one of the few remaining humans on Earth.
Inquisition on the Planet of the Apes — In an exciting tale that doubles as a religious allegory, a descendant of Caesar named Tiberius (played by Andy Serkis) is a scientist hunted by the government for his controversial studies into human/ape evolution. Tensions run high when Tiberius has to depend on a human rebel leader named Armando (Joseph Gordon-Levitt.)
Madness of the Planet of the Apes — A descendant of Caesar named Caligula (played by Andy Serkis) rules over a semi-utopian ape civilization, in which science has advanced to nearly unthinkable heights. Tensions run high when a time-traveling human from the early 21st century named Milo (Taylor Lautner) accidentally introduces the apes to smart-phones, thus creating a society of idiot creatures who can’t stop playing Words with Friends.
Homicide on the Planet of the Apes — A descendant of Caesar named Claudius (played by Andy Serkis) has to solve a serial murder mystery in New Ape City. Tensions run high when his investigation leads him into the Human District of Old Brooklyn, presided over by the brutal Governor Kolp (Stellan Skarsgard.)
Planets of the Apes — A descendant of Caesar named Nero (played by Andy Serkis) leads a space fleet against a human colony on Mars, and it’s up to the noble human colonist named Taylor (played, why not, by Andy Serkis) to rescue his species from the Ape Invaders.
This is fun! PopWatchers, do you have any Apes titles in your back pocket? Tell, tell! And if you can include some sort of real-world resonance, all the better. (Recession of the Planet of the Apes, anyone?)
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