Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis; Directed by Rupert Wyatt
At a secret research lab, behind a movie screen, a gaggle of scientists in white smocks bearing the logos of a series of Hollywood studios are busily examining and tinkering with experiments. Down one corridor are a series of glass-enclosed cages, which contain individual apes, chimps and monkeys. They are jumping around, sticking their hands out of food slots, and barking out calls and yelps.
The lead scientist, working nearby with protective goggles and gloves and using calipers, meticulously mixes a neon green concoction in a glass tube, which bears a label reading, “Planet of the Apes (1968).” He inserts a syringe into the metal end of the tube and draws out some of the glowing elixir and takes the filled syringe to one of the chimps strapped to an examination table. After pausing to absorb the gravity of what he is about to do and looking gravely at his scientific assistants — who are monitoring readouts, IV drips, and vital signs — the scientist injects the supine chimp.
At first nothing happens. The researchers look around at each other with expressions of failure and disappointment. Then, the chimp starts making sporadic movements, the monitors start beeping, the blood pressure gauge fluctuates, the chimp’s arms strain against the restraints, his chest heaves and falls, his head trashes from side to side. The researchers scramble to administer drugs and turn knobs to settle the chimp down. The scientist put his hand on the chimp’s shoulder and, leaning over the chimp, entreats him to calm down. The chimp responds to this and softens his thrashing. Then, as the scientist continues to hover over him, the chimp looks up at the scientist with now glowing green eyes and blurts out:
“Take your stinking hands off me, you damned dirty filmmaker!”
The scientist and technicians all gasp and look around at each other with stunned amazement. The experiment worked! Their new drug rapidly increased the mental capacity of this non-human species. But, their amazement is also tinged with horror due to the caustic nature of the chimp’s first utterance. Not knowing what else to say or do, the lead scientist interjects, “You can talk!” The chimp just rolls his eyes, and replies, “Well, duh.”
Still reeling from drug’s results, the scientist asks the chimp if he knows who and where he is. The chimp looks around the room and sees the movie screen on one wall. The chimp turns back to the scientist and responds, “I appear to be in a movie theater.” And, after some searching pauses, continues, “Uh that must mean that I’m a film critic.”
“That’s right,” responds the scientist. “We want to show you a movie and have you tell us what you think. Are you willing to do that?” The chimp, with frustrated irritation, says, “Yeah, I can do that. It is why you injected me with your serum, isn’t it? To test my reactions to your movie. Well, go ahead, show your worst.”
The scientist pushes a button and the table angles upward so that the chimp can see the screen. The lab grows dim as a movie appears. The scientist and technicians monitor equipment as the film plays out. It’s of a movie called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. When the film ends and the lights are brought back up, the lead scientist, after a pause, asks the chimp, “Well, what did you think?”
The chimp looks up and says, “Oh my God. It’s back. It’s the same. All the time, it was… You finally really did it. You remade a cherished film genre into a television episode!” The scientist asks, “Does this mean you didn’t like it?” To which the chimp replies, “I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than this film. Has to be. One with better dialogue and more thoughtfully metaphorical about racial discrimination, mental illness, science and religion.”
“But we added great special effects,” implores the scientist. “The chimps are all motion-capture digitally enhanced to make them look real. We updated the story and action for today’s audiences with thrilling chases. We give them what they want — remakes of remakes.” To which the chimp intones, “You know the saying, filmmaker see, filmmaker do — over and over again!”
“But…” the scientist interjects. “But nothing,” interrupts the chimp. “The dialogue is stilted, the acting is stiff, the reactions by the humans are predictable and clichéd. Let me put it this way, ‘Beware the rebooted film, for it is the filmmaker’s pawn. Alone among god’s genres, it kills imagination and exists for sport or lust or greed. Yea, it will murder a great film to possess that brother’s largess. Let it not breed in great numbers, for it will make a desert of this home theater and yours. Shun it; drive it back into its canister lair, for it is the harbinger of disappointment.’”
The scientist dejectedly looks around at his colleagues. One of the technicians finally asks, “Doctor, what have we done?!” The scientist responds, “You are right, I have always known about film critics. From the evidence, I believe their wisdom must walk hand and hand with their vituperation. Their criticisms must rule their brains. They must be warlike creatures who give battle to every film around them, even themselves.”
Hearing this, the chimp cries out, “You Maniacs! You ruined it! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” With that the chimp starts to get violently agitated. So, the technicians quickly wheel him back to a cage as the chimp screams, “It’s a mad house! A mad house!” One of the technicians inquires of the lead scientist, “What will he find out there, doctor?” To which the scientists responds, “His destiny.”
Turning back to the technician, the scientist says, “Let’s try this again — see if we can get better results. Bring me another chimp.”
Doug Young is the film critic for The Colorado Statesman. He also works in the Hickenlooper administration as an environmental policy advisor.