I'll admit that I got Planet of the Apes much more than I got 2001: A Space Odyssey in the year I first saw both films, which was in fact the year of their releases, that is, 1968. I have no problem admitting this because I was eight years old going on nine at the time, and of course it totally follows that what Planet of the Apes was selling was a lot easier to "get" for an eight-year-old. That said, I will tell you that I can still remember, without googling, the name of the then-15-year-old prodigy who wrote an exegesis on the Kubrick film that inspired Stanley himself to rave: "What a first-rate intelligence," that name being Margaret Stackhouse. I read about her, and her writings on the film, in that sui generis mass-market paperback The Making of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and have been nursing a major inferiority complex ever since.
Anyway, back to Apes. Yeah (SPOILER ALERT), the Statue of Liberty. That really messed our minds up but good. But even more nightmare fuel came with Beneath The Planet of the Apes,the bleakest, creepiest, most outright sad and nihilistic of the series. I'll never shake the mental picture that forms my recollection of Chuck Heston pressing down on the button that will bring nuclear ruin to our planet YET AGAIN, his actul heart seeming to beat its last as he holds it in his actual hand (the one that's not pressing on the big button) even as he does so. Fucked up, man. Weirder still is that this truly inspired and Dante-esque vision occurs in what is for all intents and purposes a completely tossed-off sequel directed by Ted Post, a guy I identified as a hack of hacks when trying to discern just what it was that distinguished Magnum Force from Dirty Harry. Just goes to prove what the surrealists said about how you never really can tell about these things.
So of course I was hooked on the Apes saga, such as it was, but it isn't as if I didn't notice when the series shifted from a Heston/James Franciscus focus to a Roddy McDowell one. Nothing against Roddy, of course. But still. It was interesting to see how the subsequent films found themselves inadvertently balancing overt cheese with very confused ruminations on present-day "Black Power" activity. We continued to want to believe, but I dunno, Ricardo Montalban as a kindly circus chimp handler wasn't really making it for me. By the time Battle came out, this then-13-year-old just couldn't take it seriously. Wouldn't it be amusing, I thought, if the Apes films were made into an opera cycle, like that Ring thing? "This is the battle for the battle for the battle for the battle for the planet of the apes!" I sang, to the tune of the overture of Bizet's Carmen. "With Caesar as our leader/we know we cannot fail/For with Caesar as our leader/we found the Holy Grail!" I further extemporized. Why not? Since this was to be an operatic work in the Wagnerian tradition, it made sense to link it back to certain themes in that composer's work. As you can imagine, I raised a bit of an eyebrow when I saw that Simpsons episode with the Planet of the Apes musical in it. I am reasonably sure that nobody I went to Dumont High School with went on to write for The Simpsons.
Anyway...I'm not a religious man, but I always thought that a remake of the first Planet of the Apes film was kind of a lousy idea for the simple reason that it represented an irreproducible result. It's like at the end of the 1957 Looney Tune Show Biz Bugs where Daffy finally elicits applause from the vaudeville house audience by, as the saying goes, suiciding right on the stage; as his soul ascends to heaven (surely that can't be correct?) he laments to Bugs that the problem with this trick is that you can only do it once. Hence the essential uselessness of the Burton version, even though everyone is clearly putting something resembling their best foot forward. As for Beneath, I don't know that Hollywood would have the balls to even try, recollecting that the motivating factor behind the original was less balls than profit taking. But the subsequent Apes films strike me on principle as recombinant fair game. Still, I wasn't expecting much of anything from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is one reason it's one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer. Another reason is because it's kind of awesome. I wasn't able to discuss it in these terms in my review of the film for MSN Movies, but as you are know doubt aware, I've seen a fair amount of films, and one side effect of that is I don't get a whole lot of "holy shit!" moments in a theater anymore. And by "'holy shit!' moments" I mean parts where I'm watching the film and something happens and I go back in my seat and I say, "Holy shit!" Hopefully not too loud because I don't like to disturb my fellow moviegoers. Anyway, I recall counting at least four "Holy shit!" moments watching this. That's one for every $2.50 or so of your moviegoing dollars. Not bad.