Post-Apocalyptic Update: Apes Have Now Conquered Hollywood

Well, it turns out that the Monkey Issue was a good idea after all; Rise of the Planet of the Apes actually opened to rave reviews. Even after the five other Apes movies in the original series and Tim Burton's lackluster re-boot in 2001, audiences still want their fill of ape-on-human action. The film opened to $54 million dollars- that's $20 million more than the top-end of what was predicted. In fact, it trounced last weekend's winner Cowboys and Aliens, which dropped 56% of its previous gross to earn only $15.7 million. But Apes' rampage didn't stop there. It also proved that Ryan Reynolds is not a box office draw (for the second time this summer) with The Change-Up opening to only $13.5 million. Who knew the movie would be such a big hit? Well, nobody.

The truth is no one really wanted to make it. Peter Chernin, former News Cooperation president, had a lot of trouble attaching a director to the project. The laundry list of rejections came from Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), the Hughes brothers (Book of Eli), etc. However, Fox and Chernin Studios (Apes is their first film) continued to fight for the project, eventually signing Rupert Wyatt, who's only ever made one theatrically-released film, The Escapist. But the cards began to fall into place, as Chernin signed on James Franco (127 Hours), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), and the Peter Jacksons' WETA workshop to create the lifelike digital apes.

Speculation still swirled that the film would end up being a bomb (in the bad way, not like "it's da bomb!"). As recently as July, Franco seemed to be apologizing for the film in an interview with Playboy: "They haven't shown me the movie yet, so I don't know what the result is. I did reshoots, and it sounds to me the final movie will be different from the screenplay, which had a lot of character development. The movie seems to be more action now". In a combination of both selflessness and hubris, he at least tried to blame the expected bad press on his own detractors, "But people still have it out for me, so they're going to go after the movie".

Surprisingly though, the reviews haven't been anything close to what Franco predicted. Ty Burr from the Boston Globe, who describes the film as "part Frankenstein, part Spartacus, and part Rebel Without a Cause but With an Extra Chromosome'',  actually predicts that "you may find yourself thoroughly emotionally invested in a drama about a downtrodden minority who unite behind a charismatic leader and rebel against their thoughtless overlords". Now that doesn't sound like a B-movie about monkeys smashing shit at all. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers goes so far as to suggest that Andy Serkis, the man behind LOTR's Gollum and 2005's King Kong, should be nominated for an Oscar for his role as Caesar, the lead ape. Serkis himself seems to be developing a certain bravado for his motion-capture niche: "I think actors are afraid that if they're not seen on-screen, then that's a real problem. But for me, that's never been an issue because I love filling a role that, like I say, transforms [me]".

Apes has a certified 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And the lightening quick word of mouth reviews kept the film from slowing down after it's opening night. So, what're you waiting for? Get out of this week-long humidity and get some schadenfreude joy out of seeing sunny San Francisco taken over by vengeful genetically-enhanced super apes.

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