Monday, February 11, 2013
Ask JKM a Question: A Different Ending for Burton's Planet of the Apes (2001)?
Regular reader, SGB, wrote this on Friday, during Go Ape Day!:
“As you celebrate the anniversary of the release of the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, what would be your opinion regarding Tim Burton's Planet of The Apes 2001 if the film’s opening scene had instead been the crash landing of Leo at the Lincoln/Thade Memorial in Washington, D.C.?
That means that the film would have been examining what happened on Earth and had plenty of social commentary regarding apes inserted into our modern technology society? I think this would have been fascinating.
Thank you, John.”
SGB, that idea sounds preferable to the film we actually got in 2001.
The Burton film played the Lincoln/Thade Memorial ending as a kind of gimmicky punch-line that was largely unrelated to the central narrative. It plays as a gimmick, an attempt to (lamely) match the original’s Statue of Liberty imagery.
Now, if the last shot had been the first shot as you suggest -- an astronaut returning to Earth in our present and finding an advanced simian society -- we would have been a lot closer to the Pierre Boulle book, which still hasn’t been adapted faithfully. I still hope that a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes) takes this approach. It could, technically, because the prequel script makes mention of a missing space mission as Caesar plans his revolution. You just know it’s going to return to Earth in 3000 or thereabouts to find ape supreme.
I believe that original Boulle book could be adapted faithfully, even today, with a few new flourishes to account for developments like the net and social media, and a splendid satire would emerge side-by-side with the requisite action elements.
The thing is, Burton’s film was actually close in some ways. The Boulle book ended with Ulysses (the Taylor figure) returning from a distant world to find Earth populated by intelligent apes. The idea was that apes were destined to rise everywhere, wherever intelligent life existed.
So the Lincoln Memorial Ending isn’t that different from the ending of the book, except the book had the opportunity to contextualize its conclusion. Ulysses and Nova escaped from Earth and desperately went looking for a world, any world, where humans would be supreme. The final joke? His words were being read by space-faring chimpanzees, ones immediately dismissed his story as a fairy tale.
I really wish Burton had found a way to go with that ending. Some may not have liked it in comparison to the Statue of Liberty ending, but it would have had the cover of being faithful to the original text.
In short, however, I would love to see a Planet of the Apes (not unlike the animated series) where a technologically-advanced ape culture is featured. That is, in fact, what Boulle intended in Monkey Planet.
Don’t forget to ask me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com