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.

Next: Battle for the Planet of the Apes


Posted on July 14, 2017, in Movies, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Planet of the Apes – Sequels/ Reboots

    A speed review of all the Planet of the Apes sequels/reboots.

    We’re going ape about Planet of the Apes! The crew sit down to discuss the original Planet of the Apes series. We ran out of time, so we couldn’t discuss Tim Burton’s relaunch. We did a little mini review, but we had some technical issues, so we’ll need to re-tape it again in the near future.


    • Every Planet Of The Apes Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

      Which one is king of the apes?

      A triumphant Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy has just come to a close.

      Less than a decade ago, the notion of such a thing existing was utterly bananas, but they did it. They reinvented a dormant franchise and helped it reclaim its crown.

      Prior to the release of 2011’s surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the world hadn’t seen a competent new addition to the series in decades, so what Caesar and his CG simian army have achieved is remarkable.

      Despite the franchise’s woes over the years, the Charlton Heston original remains a classic, but with a stellar new trilogy to compete with, how does it stack up in 2017?

      And where does Tim Burton’s ill-advised attempt to remake it rank on a list of movies which has swelled to nine entries since the turn of the decade?

      Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973)

      This was one battle too many for the Planet of the Apes and it left an ugly scar on the face of the series for years to come.

      A slashed budget was Battle For The Planet Of The Apes’ worst enemy and the results made its simian masks and costumes look like something from the bottom of the bargain bin at a backstreet fancy dress store.

      This is a shame, because Battle is one of the most ambitious installments, daring to take things a shade darker by having the apes face off against an army of post-apocalyptic humans (or the closest thing to them the FX resources would allow).

      The subtext about the value of freedom and equality is in place and series mainstay Roddy McDowall is as reliable as ever in the role of Ceasar, but he’s about the only thing in the movie that is convincing.

      The large-scale conflict the series was building towards goes off with a whimper, and the photography and editing reek of cut corners.

      Rounding off the original series, Battle paid out in chimp change.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: