Marky Mark and the Monkey Bunch
Today, because even my watery pit is not safe from the howlings and whoopings of media indoctrination, I felt obliged to go see the new Tim Burton film 'Planet of the People Who Look a Bit Like Apes to Varying Degrees Dependening How Nice They Are'
The film concerns a space monkey called Bob who crash lands on a planet in a Romanesque period of development on which everyone is Charlton Heston. Charlton Heston Legionaries and Charlton Heston Gladiators chase Charlton Heston galley slaves and poor old Monkey Bob is caught up in it all. "Get your filthy right-wing hands off me" he cries, but to no avail. Actually that doesn't happen at all. That might have made more sense. What really happens is this.
After the surprisingly tedious and unimaginitive credits (especially as the credits are usually better than the films these days) we find ourselves meandering about everyones favourite movie place. Space.
Now here's a thing. Having been beaten over the head these past few months with how much effort everybody put into being monkeys for this silly fucking film, and having been reminded at five minute intervals what a visionary Tim Burton is supposed to be, one might expect to be treated to a fascinating new angle on space travel from the twisted mind of the uncombed one. The original film, for the time, had a fairly downplayed interpretation of space travel. One might think that such a visionary mind as Burton's might conjure up some delightfuly dark and claustraphobic 'post Meer' vision of astronautics. With thirty odd years of actual space exploration to build from you would expect this contemporary version might be a little less theatrical and glorifying of that particular aspect of human endeavour than the Charlton Heston version. Then again, might it bollocks. What everyone's favourite goth instead treats us to is the exact same glory-to-America, round-doorway, chrome plated bubbly codswallop of a future that looked shit in Lost in Space and just looks REALLY nineties now.
Anyway. Marky Mark's in space on a Neimodean Trade Federation ship full of monkeys exploring some sort of non-specific amorphous blobby spacewarp timehole thingy. An anomaly, if you will. The second you spot this arrangement you immediately reason (unless you're REALLY not paying attention) that the stupid space station is going to crash on the planet and spark off Ape existance, but as usual you have to wait an hour before this point is beaten into you with a stick.
So this monkey goes into the anomoly and disappears. "But I love my monkey" cries Marky Mark, and goes off after the bloody thing. "Get back here!" says the sort of authoritarian military type who always shouts "get back here!" in these sort of movies. But not before he's had time to explain, rather as an aside, that some sort of convenient bouncy space thing is conveniently bouncing transmisions of a copy of Microsoft Encarta into the ships computer, filling it with a Fifth Element/Flash Gordon style brief history of the world. Then Marky nicks a spaceship and goes after the monkey, because if cinema has taught us nothing else (and it hasn't) it's that it's really really easy to nick stuff in space.
Danger Will Robinson. Crash bang wallop. Land on the planet.
Blimey, there's something moving in the trees. Aaargh, what's that? What sort of inhuman hairy beast is that? I fear it's deformed wrinkled face! Oh, its only Kris Kristofferson. But look! Monkeys with hats.
The film makers obviously suffer under some sort of delusion that we have done something other than plod through the space sequences, somehow unaware that they had not so much succesfully 'portrayed' the concept of crashing, as left it to assumption and an understanding that whirrling sputtering holograms of planets always seem to be indicative of a malfunctioning guidance system. Similarly they seem to believe that this first ape scene, in which Marky and some random loincloth wranglers are captured, is something other than craply edited and far too reliant on mono-a-mono set pieces. They obviously believe at this juncture that our tiny audience minds have had about enough of their 'action' (read 'nauseating camera wobbling') as we can take, and need a break from the 'hard stuff'. So it is that we are introduced to the city of the crappy wisecracks. This Animaniacs-meets-Ewoks style environment treats us with such hilarities as an ape having a haircut, an organ grinder ape with a human 'monkey' and so on and so forth. Well ho-ho-fucking-ho.
The Mantis likes a joke as much as the next giant insect, but this is supposed to be, at some level, a serious film. The Planet of the Apes franchise has always been a catalyst for some fairly heavy issues and at least a trace of that should carry through into this film, if only out of common decency. Instead the pace is set very early on for a film that is very wary of getting too 'edgy' and belies its own acheivments with a crap wisecrack the moment any tension or suspension of disbelief threatens to mount. You can take the boy out of Disney, but you cant take the Disney out of the boy.
While the story has plodded along fairly formulaicly and safely up to this point, I should mention that by now the film makes absolutely no sense. The reason is this. In the original Planet of the Apes, in fact rather the POINT of Planet of the Apes, was that the Apes were the humans and the humans were the apes. Man, by way of nuclear folly, had degenerated to a primeval state, while the Ape (through inhereted technology) had attained a state of 'civilisation' and was heading merrily towards a humanesque path of self destruction. The humans were treated as animals because they WERE animals, and it is only when Charlton Heston arrives as the only speaking human that the whole thing goes topsy turvy. In Tim Burtons version, on the other hand, the humans are as articulate and intelligent as the apes, treated as animals seemingly because of their favouring for loincloths. When one considers that the Ape species does not seem to extend far beyond the boundaries of this one city, and that they dont even have guns (like in all the other movies) then one is left to conclude that humanity's devolved state was an abitrary decision made of its own velition. There is nothing apparent to stop them developing a society other than the fact that Marky Mark has suggested it quite yet. In the same way there is nothing, except physical strength, which explains the Ape treatment of humans. Humans are equal to Apes the nice monkeys cry. Well of course they fucking are, look at them you silly hairy bastards. I dont know if by putting the Apes and Humans at an apparent equal stage in evolution, but maintaining the slave social structure is in some way meant to highlight some sort of racial issues - but it bloody well doesn't. All it succeeds in doing is making an utter nonsense of a fairly straightforward premise and confusing entirely any of the supposed messages of the Apes series.
Plot, tedium, escape, find space station.
'Hello-------this is-------one of those-----broken old S.O.S messages----that you always get in films.---It exclusively entails-----a big close up of my head, a fallen girder, and a bit of smoke.------I'm just here to tell you that the space station is the source of all you hat wearing monkey types-----just in case your REALLY stupid and didnt know already. Anyway, got to go, some one behind me has just run from right to left, indicating further chao------------.
'Hello-----this is the second S.O.S call from a bit later on----------The monkeys have all gone nuts-------they are running around killing us and everything------one's killing me right now, but I thought I better stop in the middle of it all to record this messag--------------.
I'm now going to talk at some length about the ending because it is, as endings go, pretty fucking lengthy.
Suddenly, in the midst of what half-heartedly promised to be a big battle, but was actually fuck all, there comes this point where its as if Matt Groening has stepped in and suggested how they end the film - but no one realised he was joking. Quite remarkably (though somehow inevitably) Marky Marks pet monkey pops conveniently out of a worm hole and lands his little space pod before the monkeys, who obviously hail him as the messiah. Marky approaches the messiah, the main villain beats him up a bit and they all run off into the space station - all this while no one apparently bats an eyelid. Obviously baring an accurate appraisal of their own importance, everyone is quite comfortable to let these protagonists run off and do their thing (messiah and all) without any attempt to follow them.
I should explain at this point that the interracial tensions between the apes that dominated the original have been completely replaced by the cult of the individual, and the demonising of a single villanous ape (the most 'ape looking' in the film, I might add). Now this single evil monkey has of course wound up without his army in this cavenous wreck (which still works after millenia by the way, explained away by the random mentioning of the word 'nuclear' in a neo-fifties 'nukes are our friends' sort of context) so he can have a bit of a lightsaber duel with Marky Mark or whatever.
Quick fight, Marky traps him in a cage. Fair enough. But now it gets REALLY weird. Out of the blue, Marky explains to the not-so-evil second in command ape that his life is a lie. He explains that when the station crashed that the apes and humans were working together, but then seemingly this one singular EVIL monkey (good old Cats and Dogs style 'evil'), the direct descendent of the current evil monkey, orchestrated the whole ape dominance thing. This guy's family, for millenia, over the course of evolution, had at some level not only singularly fashioned the philosophies of segregation, the understanding of the universe and the religous beliefs of an entire species - but had done it on the sly. I mean, what the FUCK does that even mean? What sort of revelation is THAT? Who what when where why the fuck did THAT come from? We knew that his family harboured the secrets of humanitys past (just like in all the Ape movies) but there is absolutely NO foreshadowing for this. You couldnt forshadow that if you tried. It makes zero fucking sense. For a start, even though we see no evidence of this, there are implications that Ape society extends beyond their crappy village - which if this is the case then how is such a shroud of mystery meant to be maintained on a national and possibly global scale?
Anyway, the film hasn't even started getting weird yet. Having succesfully passed the blame for the rascist mind set of an entire culture and species onto the geneaology of one single EVIL monkey over the course of evolution, everyone goes outside and explains this to the waiting crowds and expands, or course, that man and ape must live in harmony. Realising that its nearly the end of the film, and because their makeup is getting a bit heavy, everyone automaticaly buys into this new mindset, instantly discarding the foundation of their culture and their religious beliefs (well you would, wouldn't you?)
Perhaps it all has something to do with Moses, I dont know.
Anyway, because he has a spaceship now (albeit about the size of a portaloo) Marky Mark decides that it is time for him to go home, even though he's not sure how he got there in the first place, where he is, or the fact that surely returning would instantly negate what happened - wipe the apes from history - and completely undermine his efforts. Well, it's his decision.
Marky ponces into space and everyone waves him off with equal measures of tears and tedium. It is at this point that I had settled comfortably into the notion that they really couldn't think of a 'shock ending' and just weren't going to bother - perhaps we were meant to have already had it, I couldnt tell. But no, the film still has one shock in store - well not so much shock as utter bloody bemusement.
Marky goes back through the wormhole thingy (which is oddly harder to get into from this side) and hurtles majesticaly into, believe it or not, central bleeding Washington DC - right in front of the needle. He stumbles (where am I, what year is this?) up the steps to the famous statue of Abraham Lincolm and BLIMEY GUVNER Abe Lincolns got a monkey's face! And not just any monkey, no, its that really EVIL monkey!
Then promptly, a selection of DCPD police cars pull up and a bunch of monkey men get out. End of film.
I have three questions. What? The? and Fuck?
Is that supposed to shock us, is this a revelation? Are we supposed to know what the fucking hell that even means? Okay, first thing, is the Planet of the Apes supposed to be on earth? There are two moons at one point, but that doesn't mean a thing, anything could have happened. If it's not meant to be the Earth then this is about as clear as mud and we are left to decipher this fact, one supposes, by reading the nondescript screensaver of a navigating system that Marky Mark somehow uses to drive his portaloo. And if it's not meant to be Earth than how come the worm hole pops out so conveniently nearby it at one end? And how come there are humans there? Maybe, because this film is aimed at morons, we are not supposed to even suspect that it might be earth in the first place because we are not supposed to have seen the original, even though the ending has been spoofed to kingdom come.
Whether its Earth or not, I don't know, I don't care - it still doesnt explain the ending.
Perhaps it's all to do with (because nothing else is) those aforementioned transmissions of the entire history of the Earth (or America as it's often known) that were bouncing around the space station. Are we supposed to reason that the evil monkey (or one of his equally evil ancestors or children) has traveled through time and/or space with a complete working history of the universe and single handedly used it to reshape evolution (again)? If that's the case then that still doesn't explain why a period in history would develop in which a city IDENTICAL to Washington DC, except full of monkeys, would come about. Even if the evil monkey family were following the big book of how to shape the world REALLY closely, that still doesn't explain how a species with an entirely different physionomy would have built a society identical to human society except for with monkey statues. Surely in such an environment people would complain on a daily basis that their cars were too small, or notice that their world was fashioned for human consumption at every level. Well wouldn't they?
If that isn't the case, then perhaps we are supposed to reason that an army of spacefaring monkeys from the future have taken over 'our' Washington and 'our' Earth fairly recently. Long ago enough to have a monkey Abe Lincoln, but not long ago enough to have reinvented the car to suit their anatomy. Or maybe Marky Mark is still on that other planet and not on earth at all and ...and....
I have no Idea. Are we supposed to know what this means? Are we supposed to care, or is confusing the shit out of us meant to be some sort of clincher to hook us for the revelations in 'Planet of the Apes 2: What the Fuck Is Going On'? Any one who claims to know what happens at the end of this film is liar and a cad, beyond an explanation such as this.
"Mr Burton? Tim baby, yeah, this is the king of Hollywood here - listen. We want to make a tv series out of your monkey movie because we have preordained its success with a blitzcrieg of media indoctrination. But listen hon, we really don't want to have to film an entire series in the fucking desert - we don't want any more of that 'The Fugitive with loincloths' crap that we had in the seventies, and we plan to make the sequel movies MUCH cheaper - so if there's any way you could reshape your little monkey movie so that we can film the series in my back yard - I'd appreciate it. Thanks, I own ya babe. Ciao"
That not withstanding, how exactly did THIS ending come about?! Who could possibly read such a thing and not realise that a 'monkey Abe' Lincoln' would be (A) riotously stupidly hilarious to any American and (B) of absolutely no significance to anyone else in the world. If the above paragraph has any truth (and it does) then why not have him land in front of a 'monkey Statue of Liberty' - at least that would pertain to something.
I surrender. To conclude, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes belongs in that category of Hollywood film 'Hey, lets remake a classic story but take away all the good bits, replace it with really feeble new bits and waste lots of money on big glory shots that spend very little time on screen and are edited very badly into a sandwich of shaky nonsense'. The film is not what was promised. We were promised huge Spartacusesque battles, we got twenty exploding monkeys and a bunch of fat hairy klingons mud wrestling. We were promised a far deeper richer ape culture, we got King Louie's temple on St Michaels Mount and no apparent outside world. A cynical appraisal of the human condition and socialy and politicaly charged allegories were conveniently never mentioned, and we got less than we were promised even then.
The Mantis believes that a film should be judged on its own merits and failings, and not against how it pertains to any of its source material. But then again, bollocks. In the OLD Planet of the Apes, the GOOD one, Ape tyrrany was not only a direct result of man's own self destructive ways - but was in itself a catalyst for statements about the human condition. The apes were in some ways less destructive than the humans, but in other ways more cruel. They represented a grotesque characture of humanity from both its sides, and the alagorys were given cohesion by the abstraction of the apes' appearance. What you must remember about the original film is that at the time the Apes were by far the most convincing alien species ever commited to film, and were quite real and bizzare to audiences. Consider also the fury that surrounded the Kirk/Uhura kiss in the sixties and you realise the impact that the first human/ape kiss on film must have had. In comparison, you then realise, the new version is a huge leap backwards. In this version there are very clearly 'Ape Apes' and 'Human Apes'. Apedom in all its alien glory is limited to the features of villians and antagonists, while anyone remotely nice or humourous is decidly more human. What does this teach us children? Humans are great. Humans are Nice. Monkeys are bad. The only good monkey is a really REALLY human monkey, especially one with lots of eye makeup and a nice 'Friends' style haircut. Hardly a cutting statement from the 'prince of darkness' there. But then I suppose we can't have any nuclear holocaust related fun in this day and age because we are all trying to pretend that the cold war is over, and no one wants to piss off China.
The moral of the story then, boys and girls, is that if you leave a monkey in a room with a typewriter for a year it will eventually reshape history. If you leave one hundred monkeys in a room with typewriters, they will eventualy write Tim Burtons Planet of the Apes, but not in any kind of a hurry.
Dont give monkeys typewriters.
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