Worst to First: Ranking the Planet of the Apes movies
The ninth movie in the Planet of the Apes saga opens in theaters today. That can only mean one thing. It’s time to rank some Apes. The first movie, released in 1968, was an adaptation of a French science-fiction novel (La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle). That movie was followed by four sequels released annually from 1970-1973, a live-action TV series, a cartoon series and waves of Apes-related merchandise. After a twenty-eight year absence from the big screen, Fox attempted to reboot the series, but their first effort was a misfire. Then in 2011, they successfully launched a trilogy of prequels of which War for the Planet of the Apes is the most recent.
We won’t be ranking the latest movie because most of us (myself included) haven’t seen it yet. But we will go ape (had to be done) ranking the rest of the movies in the series.
8. Planet of the Apes (2001)
RT Score: 45%
Box Office: 180,011,740 (#2)
BO (Adjusted for Inflation): $281,135,300 (#1)
McDowall or Serkis: Neither
Summary: Fox spent decades trying to reboot the lucrative Apes franchise, but they could never get their act together. At one point, Oliver Stone was attached as a producer. He had a very action-heavy script with Arnold Schwarzengger set to play the lead. But one Fox executive felt the script wasn’t comedic enough. He demanded a rewrite to include a scene in which the apes played baseball. When the screenwriter turned in his next draft without the baseball scene, he was let go. This resulted in the director, Philip Noyce, walking off the project which once again went into limbo.
Later, Chris Columbus developed a version that took elements from the original novel. Schwarzenegger was still attached and James Cameron was going to produce the movie. But after the success of Titanic, Cameron decided that monkey movies were beneath him. So he went on to make movies about blue aliens instead.
By the time Tim Burton came on board, Fox decided that come hell or high water they were releasing a new Planet of the Apes movie in July of 2001. Burton started work on the project in February 2000 which left very little time for a movie of this size. The original script carried an estimated price tag of $200 million dollars which the studio wanted cut in half. So two months before filming was scheduled to start, new writers were hired to rewrite the script to accommodate a lower budget. Changes were being made even as construction began on the sets.
Given the conditions under which the movie was made, it’s not surprising that the end result is unsatisfying. Burton called the movie a “reimaginging” but really that was just an effort to avoid calling it what it was – a remake. The problem inherent in remaking Planet of the Apes is that the first movie has a fantastic twist ending. The ending is so good that just about everyone knows it whether or not they have ever seen the original movie. It has seeped into pop culture so thoroughly that it is unavoidable. If the new movie recreated that ending, no one would be surprised by it. But topping the original twist is virtually impossible. Burton’s movie tried to come up with a new ending, but their twist made no sense whatsoever.
If you look at the box office figures for the series, the 2001 remake posts some solid numbers. Adjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing Apes movie of all times. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. (Note: The newer movies outperform Burton’s Apes if you include worldwide grosses.) Ultimately, Fox decided not to follow-up on the reimagined Planet of the Apes. Which is a good thing because this the least interesting movie in the series if not necessarily the worst.
Posted on July 14, 2017, in Movies, Worst to First and tagged Andy Serkis, Charlton Heston, James Franco, Kim Hunter, Mark Wahlberg, Planet of the Apes, roddy mcdowall. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.