August 10, 2004

Getcher Stinkin' Paws Off Me, You Damn Dirty Ape!

You probably think that I had said this last weekend, after working an intense convention at a hotel that (presumably) never sponsored a youth conference, limping around with a bad ankle, telling people in charge that I was sore but being pushed anyway, and then getting lectured by my supervisor about taking care of myself - the same woman who, when I had a really bad case of flu, called me into the office for a work-related emergency. (And, hopefully, if my coworkers read this, they'll have a sense of humor about it - I'm letting go. Honest). However, this is a story about how a little franchise lost steam and died an ignoble death.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was the 3:30 movie on Channel 7, WLS in Chicago. It was there when I fell in love with my second favorite movie series, Planet of the Apes. Of course, I started with the movies edited from the tv series ("hosted" by Roddy McDowall in ape makeup"), and made my way with "Gorilla My Dreams Week" - that's right, baby, all five movies in one week. I owned the action figures, the comic books, the toothpaste, the dishwashing was my in-thing as a kid (besides Star Trek).

Recently, I chanced upon the documentary, Behind the Planet of the Apes, which is entertaining, informative, and is a good lesson in how to kill a franchise in five easy years. It's the kind of DVD that Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, John Byrne, and anyone who wishes to 'revamp' a franchise or character should watch, if only to avoid making the same mistakes. (And if you click on the original movie title above, you get the documentary with a reissued DVD of the 1968 classic). It's telling that the 1968 movie with Charlton Heston gets approximately one hour of narrative time, and the other movies have to share forty-five minutes.

Basically, it turns into "going to the well" once too often - diminishing budgets, decreasing creativity (if someone can tell me the difference between Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, I would really appreciate it). It also typifies the kind of thinking prevalent in Hollywood - if it's good, let's keep repeating it until it is bad.

Luckily, I have the initial DVD release for Planet of the Apes, and watching it again reminds me of just how shocking it was...and how devastatingly disappointing Tim Burton's "reimagining" turned out. Although Burton's film looks better, it doesn't have the same sparkle or all-out surprise of the original...and although Tim Burton had an original ending, nobody out-Serlings Rod Serling (who worked on the original ape screenplay, and whose ideas were played out in the final product).

So, kids, what have we learned? Originality is in short supply in Hollywood, and if you are going to remake movies, remake bad ones, not classics.

On that note, I'm going to call my friends, and we're going to steal some camcorders and redo Cannonball Run as a Beckett-esque comedy.

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