Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What is Superman?

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opened up. I've become slightly obsessed with reactions to it. I have no intention of seeing it any time soon, but I can't help reading and watching how people feel about it. I went through a similar sort of obsession with Revenge of the Sith. Maybe the best reaction so far has been this article:

19 Real-Life Heroes who Remind us Why Superman still Matters.

But there are thousands of other responses, most of which are critical. Some people do like the movie. And it made a lot of money. So there's that. But what I've really taken away from everything on the internet about this movie--the title of which I refuse to type again--is that it's poorly constructed, poorly paced, and that the director/writers don't do much interesting with Superman. This stems, it seems, from a mistaken notion of what and who Superman is; Zack Snyder, people are saying, doesn't know what Superman means.

Most of the time, I don't like to dictate what a given story means (one of the qualities that gets a story into the Best Story in the World is its capacity for multiple interpretations), but I do think that there are limits to how far you can stretch any story or character from its center before it becomes something different. From what I've read about this movie, even the people who like it don't think it's a good portrayal of Superman.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Theory

I wonder if this one image from Frank Millers' Dark Knight Returns... responsible for the pouch fad in 90s superhero comics.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Likely Story, part 2: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but in Apes 68 Taylor really has no excuse for not knowing he's on Earth until he runs into the Statue of Liberty. I mean, it's hard to believe that in all the time he was there, he never looked up at the night sky and saw the moon.

For whatever reason, reading the novel version of Apes made me think that.

Planet of the Apes, as a complex of stories, reveals itself to be all about language as the defining characteristic of humanity. It's not the tools, or the opposable thumb; lots of other animals have those. I read Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee a while back, and one of the ideas I took away from that book is that pretty much everything unique about humanity comes down to degree, not kind. Other species have architecture, use tools, develop communication systems, and whatnot; we just have developed them in greater complexity.

Language, like species, evolves, and it does so virtually without artificial selection. Sure, people sometimes try to police the way we speak, and we've developed things like dictionaries that prescribe rather than just describe language, but most efforts are futile. We can more directly, if slowly, influence the course of certain species. Language, in the apes stories, signifies not merely sapience, but more importantly the capacity to transcend through defiance. The apes' first word is a defiant "no." Language also allows for classification--it's how Caesar, in Dawn, rationalizes killing Koba. Once you've got language, as the chimps in the novel demonstrate, you can keep secrets. It's also how people consolidate power.

The punchline to Boulle's novel is that the same thing that happened on the Betelgeuse planet (called Sorros in the novel--a name given by the humans but also, strangely, used by the apes as well) happens on Earth, too, while Ulysse's in space. There's a slight problem there: Ulysse's narrative ends with this arrival on earth and the realization that he's meeting apes instead of humans. The last line reveals that, then we jump straight to the vacationing couple. The narrative leaves unexplained how, then, Ulysse's manuscript got into space. If he left Earth again, why doesn't he write about what happened? If he didn't leave Earth, how'd it get into space?

The most plausible sequence of events, I think, puts him in space with apes in control (maybe going to visit Betelgeuse?). He smuggles his manuscript and, unable to write in it anymore, he jettisons it first chance he gets. This postulates an antagonistic relationship with the apes of Earth, but there's no reason to think it must be that way. What if they're excited to see him? They might have read of his space flight in history books or records and been waiting for him, wanting to see what he's like compared to the humans they know. That would make for the beginning of an interesting story.


Well, that brings us to the end of the apes...for now. I hear there's another movie in the works, called War for the Planet of the Apes, set to be released next July. I suppose it will be good to revisit this topic then.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Likely Story: Planet of the Apes...the novel

I'd forgotten that Pierre Boulle's novel (in French: La Planete des Singes) has a framing device. It's a pretty good novel, I think. Boulle himself didn't much care for it. He also wrote Bridge over the River Kwai.

Planet of the Apes, 1963.

A couple is taking a pleasure cruise through the cosmos when they find a "message in a bottle" sort of thing. They read the manuscript inside, and it's the story of a man named Ulysse Merou, who was on the first manned interstellar flight. He and two other men went to a planet near Betelgeuse, on which they land. It's habitable for humans, and they soon find humans. Unfortunately, the people there are human in shape but not in mentality; they're animals, plain and simple--they can't talk. Soon, they're attacked by apes. Ulysse is captured and caged.

Soon he starts communicating with a receptive chimp named Zira, and eventually learns the apes' language. He demonstrates his intelligence before the apes at large, and is treated well for a while. We learn that Zira's fiance Cornelius is investigating ape origins, and the three go to an archaeological site that is older than anything apes have found. Ape history goes back about ten thousand years. At this site, they find evidence that ape civilization was preceded by a human civilization.

Cornelius eventually finds a way to make other humans talk through some weird brain science, and this somehow allows him to tap into racial memories through a woman. This reveals, luckily, exactly what they want to know about their history: namely, that human civilization did precede their own, and that humans began keeping apes as pets and servants, and that the apes slowly gained sapience, and eventually, over time, deposed humanity. Interestingly, when apes learned to talk, the first thing they did was refuse the humans' commands. It's easy to imagine this being Cornelius's story from Escape that the first ape word was "No" (dramatized in Rise).

Eventually the novelty of a talking man wears off among the apes--especially the orangutans. Ulysse has impregnated Nova, and she gives birth to a boy who shows all the signs of sapience. This of course poses a threat to the apes, and the orangutans and gorillas will certainly do something drastic in response. Zira and Cornelius conspire with some other chimps to get the new family off the planet, back to Ulysse's orbiting space craft, and back to earth.

Twist: Earth is now dominated by apes!

The novel ends with the couple finishing the manuscript, and commenting on how it's not plausible because of the intelligence it ascribes to humans. We learn what we've suspected all along: that the vacationing couple are chimps.

If a picture's worth a thousand words, how come there's so much more in a novel than in a film? A novel like Apes, which must be 80,000 words at the most, would only be worth 80 pictures. Film is thousands of frames--and each frame a picture--flickering at 24 per second, for, let's say 90 minutes. That's 7,776,000 pictures. Yet a novel feels richer. Without reducing things to raw data (pictures do take up a lot more space on a hard drive than the thousand words they allegedly represent) I have to say that we must call into question the meaning of "worth."

What I'm getting at is that the novel of Planet of the Apes feels so much denser than the film--any of the films. I love these movies; I'd go so far to say that I like them more than the book on which they're based. But they don't have a human mating dance (yep, that's something that happens in the novel), nor do they have the various speculations about the course of evolution. The narrator and characters in the novel assume a telos, a natural progression of evolution with a species dominating the planet even if they don't assume a specific end point. There's also a lot of discussion of the nature of ape as a verb--to imitate--and its relationship to the apes' sapience. The apes of the Betelgeuse planet are, strangely, stagnant when it comes to their culture, science, and development. It's implied that they haven't advanced since taking over for the humans ten thousand years before Ulysse's arrival. They can imitate, but not generate, if that makes sense. Some chimps are showing their intellect, but it's not many, and they're considered outliers by the orangutans and gorillas; they're not altogether trusted.

This stuff just doesn't fit in a movie very well.

I'm rambling on and on without end, so I think I'll continue this tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Best Stories in the World: KFR

There's this married couple, see, and they're about to celebrate their first anniversary. But their lives are hectic, almost out of control as they try to work hard enough to save money for their first house. Both are full-timers, staying late. So they decide to give themselves a break on their anniversary. On their way home, they pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The husband sets out a picnic blanket on the floor, dims the lights, and pours the wine. The wife gets the plates. They chat and flirt and though things are tough, they see a bright future ahead of them. They don't mind that they're eating cheap food. Until the wife takes her first bite of a drumstick. There's something wrong with it, she says. It tastes weird, and it feels weird. The husband turns the lights up, and they see the tail of a rat hanging down from the battered and fried drumstick.

Is there a better urban legend than the Kentucky Fried Rat? Maybe. I don't know. Who cares? The rat is glorious. So glorious that it persists--just last year a dude reported receiving a rat instead of a chicken from the fast food restaurant. He even supplied photographic evidence. What's even better: the KFC in question had the offending meat tested at "a lab," which determined that it was chicken after all.

The story comes in lots of forms. One with a particular meaning places all the blame on the wife, who promises to cook for the husband but runs out of time, prompting her to get fast food and disguise it with fancy plates and napkins.

I remember teaching folklore right around the time that KFC changed its name to the initials instead of Kentucky Fried Chicken. My students insisted that they did so because their meat had been altered genetically to the point that it couldn't legally be called chicken anymore. Which is awesomely hilarious. I mean, why would anybody think KFC operates its own chicken farms? And believing this urban legend requires a person to believe that science has advance to the point that people can genetically engineer life forms without feathers, beaks, and the like. Sure, scientists can produce embryos with snouts instead of beaks, or turn on the gene that produces teeth, but things haven't progressed that much.

So why is this the best story in the world? Well, all urban legends comment directly on some element of society, some way that we're making ourselves uncomfortable. This one's about food preparation, reminding us that we probably put too much faith in overworked, underpaid teenagers when it comes to giving us things to eat, that we put too much faith in gigantic corporations that probably don't have our best interests in mind when it comes to giving us things to eat. So the story implicates her in the tragedy for not doing her wifely duty. Misogynistic or not, the story is about our failure to engage with our own lives in the important realm of sustenance. I also love it because, like all urban legends, it makes us shudder.

This legend goes back a few decades. Jan Brunvand writes about it in The Vanishing Hitchhiker. Gary Alan Fine devoted an article to it for the Journal of the Folklore Institute.

"If Colonel Sanders was to be careful how he worded it, he could actually advertise an extra piece."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Scars make you strong: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Of the Apes movies made this millennium, this one is the closest to being a remake--of Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014, directed by Matt Reeves.

 It starts with apes fighting a bear and hunting deer. It's been ten years since the battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, and the apes are doing well in their new Redwood home. They haven't seen humans in a couple of years, so they get kind of disturbed when a few show up in their park. Caesar (Serkis again) leads a party to the human stronghold in the city and tells them to stay away. Of course the humans don't--they went into the forest in the first place to try to get a dam working so they can maintain their electricity. See, civilization sort of fell apart after Rise, what with the super-virus killing ninety-some percent of humanity.

Caesar lets the humans get at the dam, but one chimpanzee in particular--Koba (Toby Kebble)--isn't happy with it. Koba was mistreated, scarred, and experimented on by humans, so he's more than a little bit angry at the whole species. He goes to the city and finds out that humans are stockpiling their weaponry. He then steals some guns, and shoots Caesar. But nobody sees him do it, so the rest of the apes are convinced when Koba says that a human did it. Based on that, Koba is able to lead the apes in an attack on the humans, using the guns they stole and a bunch of horses that they got from who knows where. Lots of dudes and apes die.

But Caesar isn't dead, and the humans who were with the apes take him back to the house where Rodman raised him. There they fix him up, and he goes to confront Koba. The two fight, and Caesar lets Koba fall to his apparent doom. That last bit is important, because one of the ape rules is "Ape Not Kill Ape." Koba recites this to Caesar at the end, but Caesar replies, "You are not ape" before dropping him.

It's pretty grim stuff, but compelling. It's more or less a meditation on the origins and necessities of civilization. Caesar begins the movie with a scowl, which lasts until he's shot. Not even the birth of his second son cheers him up. Once he's revived by the humans, his scowl becomes a frown and he spends the rest of the movie being sad.

Caesar's a great character, but even so when I was watching this movie the first time I was disappointed by it. The whole plot with the dam felt a little light-weight for a movie about revolution and apocalypse. But this time I saw it for what it was--an excuse to throw the humans into conflict with the apes. That's why it doesn't matter that they get the dam going almost immediately. This movie borrows quite a bit from the end of the earlier apes franchise, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, in which Caesar goes into the ruins of the city to find some old recordings of his parents. It doesn't so much matter there, either, why the two groups come into conflict--though in that film the humans attack the apes' settlement. Dawn reverses that.

Battle and Dawn both highlight the ambivalence of civilization. Neither side can claim to be wholly good. Caesar's decision to drop Koba at the end highlights this. In Battle, the conflict among the apes is also inter-species; Koba's role is filled by a gorilla general named Aldo, and Aldo falls to his death through no action of Caesar's. Chimps dominate Dawn. One orangutan, Maurice from the previous film, gets some screen time, and there are gorillas, but not named or given anything to do but be intimidating.

Where Battle felt unnecessary to me because Caesar had rejected violence at the end of Conquest, this one isn't about rejecting violence. It's about, in some ways, purging the violent or undesirable element...through violence. That's the bleak part about it. It seems to be saying that civilization will always have that element, no matter how you try to eradicate it. Even redefining the problem doesn't get rid of it; it's merely rationalization. Once the apes have language, what do they do with it?

I've been interested in these movies partly because of the potential to explore a culture of another species. It's one thing that speculative fiction can do really well when it wants to--show us how someone other than us solves the same problems we encounter. Speculative ethnography. In the apes movies, we get very little culture (movies really aren't suitable to any sort of deep depiction). So we see that the female chimps attending Cornelia's labor are wearing weird face veils, which they may or may not wear during other times (not all of them wear the veils, which seem to be made of shells or something, can't really tell). The standard is to show viewers an education scene, in which kids are being taught something. Battle did that, making it fit into the conflict between the gorilla and chimpanzee ways of doing things, and showing us the second-class (or maybe fourth-class) status humans endured so soon after the revolution. Dawn gives us one such scene, during which apes are being taught by Maurice. That's where we first see the "Ape Not Kill Ape" rule. We also see their sign language, since even the best of them can speak only haltingly, with great difficulty. I'm no expert on sign language, but it looks like they've developed their own based on what Maurice and Caesar knew before their escape. I like that about the film.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Superman Links

I was surprised to learn that the Batman/Superman movie is coming out in two weeks. That explains why there are so many articles about Superman on various websites. Here are a few that seem interesting.

The m0vie blog is running a series of retrospectives examining Batman and Superman comics stories. Here's the one on Superman Unchained; one on Morrison's Action Comics run, and on about Superman and the Joker.

Speaking of the movie, IO9 put up this article about how Zack Snyder has responded to criticism of the ending of Man of Steel.

"There's nothing wrong with Superman, and hating him only proves there's something wrong with us."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Your ape...he spoke: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

There's a lot to unpack in this film. Of all the Apes movies, this one feels like it was written with somebody like me in mind.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011, directed by Rupert Wyatt.

At Gen-Sys, a laboratory in San Francisco, Will Rodman (James Franco) is trying to cure Alzheimers's disease with some kind of virus. They test on apes, and one of them shows results. But that ape goes on a rampage and is killed. They then discover that she has a son. Ordered to kill all the apes, Rodman brings the baby home to hide him. They name the baby Caesar (Andy Serkis).

Caesar inherited whatever changes the virus/drug wrought on his mother--specifically, he's extremely intelligent. Pan sapiens. Eventually his presence in Rodman's house is discovered (eight years later) and Caesar is taken to an ape sanctuary place. He's tormented by the apes and the men who run the place. But he's smart, and rises to the top of the food chain among the apes. He then steals the virus that Rodman used to make them smarter and exposes the rest of the apes to it. Then the apes kill one of the guys who run the place and escape. They set loose the apes from the zoo and Gen-Sys lab, and make their way to a redwood park north of the city. On the way, they wreak havoc in the city and confront the authorities on the Golden Gate Bridge. They win the big battle, and go to the park to make their new home.

Then there's the virus. Rodman gave it to his father to see if it would work, and it does for a while. Then the Alzheimer's gets worse, so Rodman makes the drug/virus more aggressive. During one trial on a chimp (named Koba), one of the guys in the lab is exposed to the new virus. He gets sick, spreads the sickness to a pilot, and dies. The pilot then spreads the virus, and eventually it goes global.

Also, we're told that NASA has launched the first manned mission to Mars, which disappears.

This is Caesar's movie. Andy Serkis and the technology are great. I like the story itself, which has an ambiguous relationship with the previous Apes movies. Based on just this film, we can say for sure that Escape, Battle, and Conquest didn't happen, at least not precisely the way they played out. This Caesar isn't the son of Zira and Cornelius. Yet the mission to Mars leaves open the events of the first two films.

What I like about this film is that it jettisons the time travel components. I found Taylor going forward in time okay, but once the apes came backward and planted the seed for apes evolving and taking over, I was sort of disappointed. I'm not much of a fan of stories that devolve into a "loop of inevitability." It's okay, but it's not terribly compelling. At least to me.

In addition, this film provides a more realistic way for the apes to develop intelligence. Instead of a single generation, in which apes evolve without any explanation (as in Conquest), we're given the Alzheimer's therapy. It's still easy, but it allows for several generations to develop sapience and fully upright posture. And the fact that Caesar inherits the changes allows us to accept, if we want, that he's even more developed than the first generation. He can talk, which means that the difference is physical, not merely neurological.

Then there's the virus, which allows humanity to descend as the apes rise. So from my reading, Rise presents a more streamlined (as in no time travel) sequence of events for the ape ascension. It also shows them as being apes, which makes sense because they're just regular apes for most of the movie.

There are still references to Apes 68--"Bright Eyes" being the first. And Draco Malfoy utters Heston's "stinking paws" line. I watched one of the special features and learned that the writers named the drug ALZ112 because the first apes movie was 112 minutes long. That's...well...I guess, why not? Apparently the story took shape because of the little bit of ape lore from Escape, in which Cornelius tells us that the first ape to speak said, "No." In the earlier version, the defiant ape certainly wasn't Caesar. Still, I like that they went that way with it.

It's Caesar's movie, and it's only because of him that it works. In the beginning, I pitied him. He was stuck in the house, watching the world around him, unsure of what kind of creature he was. It gets worse when he's taken to the sanctuary, beaten by Rocket the chimp. Then the emotion he evokes changes; he becomes chilling as he takes over. When he's teaching the apes sign language and the human owner of the sanctuary sees him, the look on Caesar's face is calculating, cold, and confident. At this point, he's kind of a villain, from a certain point of view.

It's interesting that the movie doesn't make any substantial comment on the animal drug trials. We're not invited to condemn Rodman for testing on chimps. We might interpret the virus and the subsequent downfall of human civilization as comment enough, but it's not framed that way (and by Dawn, the drug is all but forgotten, along with Rodman). We are invited to despise Rodman's boss, whose motivation for sponsoring the drug research isn't so much to cure a disease as it is to make money. His story doesn't end well. Rodman's, on the other hand, who illegally tries the drug on his own father and illegally keeps a chimp (though it might be legally done; we don't get the details), doesn't really end at all. He wants to help Caesar, and he's turned away at the end.

Yet we're invited to root for the apes. Americans tend to root for the underdogs, and a bunch of apes facing off against machine guns and helicopters is an underdog story. Point of view matters a lot in the apes movies. Who's dehumanized, who advocates war and bloodshed, who faces insurmountable odds? These questions matter. I'm reminded of the shift in tone that happens during Escape; in the first bit, things are meant to be light and fun, but then Cornelius has to kill a dude, and things get tense for the rest of the series. Here, we begin with pity, for Caesar as well as for Rodman and his father. That leads to simultaneously rooting for Caesar to escape and worry about what will happen when he does. Is Caesar a hero? Of course; he's an ape hero. And we're apes, albeit with considerably less hair.

Watching this film, you can't ignore the ambiguous relationship it has with its predecessors. Will things turn out as they do in Apes 68, with an ape society that's strictly hierarchical in terms of its distribution of knowledge, that's slave-based, that's essentially no better than anything humans have come up with? Or will Caesar learn anything from how he was treated and pass that on? Then again, Apes 68 takes place well into the future, so things will have changed regardless. Caesar's best intentions might not matter in 1500 years. A lot of movies can take place during that time frame.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Best Stories in the World: Ali of Persia

I'm calling it right now: "Ali of Persia" is the greatest story in the world...I write that with only a little irony.

In the story Shahrazad tells from nights 294 to 296 of the 1001 Nights, Haroun al-Raschid, protector of the faithful, is bored. He calls for a story, and this is what he gets:

This guy named Ali (he's from Persia, as you've probably figured, but he lives in Baghdad) goes to Cairo. When he arrives, this other guy comes up and grabs his satchel, claiming that he lost it yesterday. The two of them fight over it, and they're taken to the qadi (i.e., a judge). "Tell me what's in the bag," says the qadi, quite sensibly. "Whosoever gets it right is the rightful owner."

The thief goes first. He says (and it's worth quoting directly from Malcolm C. Lyons's translation): "In it there are two silver kohl sticks, together with kohl for my eyes, a hand towel in which placed two gilt cups and two candlesticks. There are two tents, two basins, a cooking pot, two clay jars, a ladle, a pack needle, two provision bags, a cat, two bitches, on large bowl and two large sacks, a gown, two furs, a cow with two calves, one goat, two sheep, a ewe with two lambs, two green pavilions, one male and two female camels, a buffalo, two bulls, a lioness and two lions, a she-bear, two foxes, a mattress, two couches, a palace, two halls, a colonnade, two chairs, a kitchen with two doors and a group of Kurds who will bear witness to the fact that this is my bag."

That having been said, and without batting an eye at the list, the qadir asks Ali what's in the bag. Ali says, " little ruined house and another one with no door, a dog kennel and a boys' school, with boys playing dice. It had tents and their ropes, the cities of Basra and Baghdad, the palace of Shaddad ibn 'Ad, a blacksmith's forge, a fishing net, sticks, tent pegs, girls, boys, and a thousand pimps who will testify that the bag is mine."

Then the first guy strengthens his case: "In it are fortresses and castles, cranes, beasts of prey, chess players and chessboards. there is a mare and two foals, a stallion and two horses, together with two long spears. It also has a lion, two hares, a city and two villages, a prostitute with two villainous pimps, a hermaphrodite, two good-for-nothings, one blind man and two who can see, a lame man and two who are paralyzed, a priest, two deacons, a patriarch and two monks, a qadi and two notaries, and these will bear witness that this is my bag."

The qadi gives Ali one last chance to prove it's his bag, and Ali says, "In this bag of mine is a coat of mail, a sword and stores of weapons. there are a thousand butting rams, a sheep-fold, a thousand barking dogs, orchards, vines, flowers, scented herbs, figs, apples, pictures and statues, bottles and drinking cups, beautiful slave girls, singing girls, wedding feasts with noise and tumult, wide open spaces, successful men, dawn raiders with swords, spears, bows and arrows, friends, dear ones companions, comrades, men imprisoned and awaiting punishment, drinking companions, mandolins, flutes, banners and flags, boys, girls, unveiled brides and singing slave girls. There are five girls from Abyssinia, three from India, four from al-Medina, twenty from Rum, fifty Turkish girls and seventy Persians, eighty Kurdish girls and ninety Georgians. The Tigris and the Euphrates are there, together with a fishing net, flint and steel for striking sparks, Iram of the Columns and a thousand good-for-nothings and pimps. there are exercise grounds, stables, mosques, baths, a builder, a carpenter, a plank of wood, a nail, a black slave with a fife, a captain and a groom, cities and towns, a hundred thousand dinars, Kufa and al-Anbar, twenty chests filled with materials, fifty storehouses for food, Gaza, Ascalon, the land from Damietta to Aswan, the palace of Chosroe Anushirwan, the kingdom of Solomon and the land from Wadi Nu'man to Khurasan, as well as Balkh and Isfahan and what lies between India and the land of the Blacks. It also contains--May God prolong the life of our master the qadi--gowns, turban cloth and a thousand sharp razors to shave off the qadi's beard, unless he fears my vengeance and rules that the bag is mine."

Acknowledging the oddity of what he has just heard, the qadi orders the bag opened. In it were a piece of bread, lemons, cheese, and olives.

The caliph Haroun al-Raschid hears this and laughs until he falls over.

This story is often referred to as "The Wonderful Bag," and believe it or not it has been illustrated as a children's book. Also, heaven help us, it was adapted for theater.

So why is this the greatest story in the world? Seriously? Didn't you just read it? What in the world is going on with this story, do you think? Why would someone invent it? There's probably some clue to be found in the escalation of items found in the bag. I don't know. Honestly, my favorite part is that Ali says the bag contains "wide open spaces."

Monday, March 7, 2016

Get your hands off me: Planet of the Apes (2001)

What does it say about a movie that I can't pick out any memorable lines, even though I finished watching it less than one minute ago? All that lingers are references to Apes 68, and that weird run through the ape caves when the humans are escaping.

Planet of the Apes, 2001, directed by Tim Burton.

The movie starts on a space station, testing chimps (and, apparently, other apes) as pilots to go into situations that might be dangerous for humans.  A few minutes in, and they send out a chimp named Pericles to explore this weird space storm thing. When they lose contact, a pilot named Davidson (Mark Wahlburg) steals a ship and goes after it. Things get all screwy because of the storm, and Davidson crashes on a planet. His ship sinks.

Almost immediately, a bunch of people almost run right into him. They're being chased by apes, who capture a lot of them, including Davidson. He's given to an orangutan named Limbo, apparently for some sort of experimentation. It's never clear to me what's supposed to happen. While being sized up, Davidson grabs a sympathetic ape named Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), threatening her in order to get free. Instead, for some reason, Ari agrees to buy him from Limbo. So, along with the pretty girl with whom he was captured, he's now a slave in Ari's house. They escape, bringing along Ari's dad and brother (?). The dad dies along the way. For whatever reason, Ari and her gorilla friend Krull go with them, and they capture Limbo along the way. A bunch of other junk happens, and eventually the group finds the space station ship thingy from the beginning of the movie. Even though it's apparently been a whole long time, the batteries still work, so they learn that the apes on the ship--who have been tampered with scientifically--eventually killed everybody and are apparently the ancestors of the sapient apes on the planet.

The apes have followed the gang to the ship, and they attack. When things look bleak for our heroes, the ape test pilot Pericles shows up. This confuses people and the fighting stops. Then Pericles goes into the ship--that's what he was trained to do--followed by the bad ape general and Davidson. There's some irrelevant fighting, and then it's over. And Davidson gets in Pericles's ship and tries to get back home. He leaves Pericles behind for some reason. Anyway, he goes back through the storm and crashes on Earth, which is now dominated by apes.

It's not a great movie. When Davidson and his gang arrive at the old ship, all of a sudden all these other people show up and start treating him like he's the messiah or something. It's weird, and out of nowhere, and doesn't contribute to the story or character development other than to have a bunch of humans there to fight the ape army when they arrive. Then there's the chase scene, in which Davidson et. al. run through a bunch of apes' bedrooms in caves because there don't seem to be any doors on anybody's rooms. This is where we learn some stuff about the apes' lives (worshiping, doing weird mating dances, etc.), but it plays so strangely that I can't even say any more about it.

The ape effects are great, though. Rick Baker is, of course, the best there is at this stuff. There was a lot of attention to ape behavior, from facial tics to the way they walk and run. There's even a moment of brachiation that no other Apes film has bothered to show us. And the male orangutans actually have cheek pouches. However, and oddly, the movie seems to think that apes have incredibly strong legs, capable of standing long jumps that put Olympic athletes to shame. That's a weird thing for them to evolve.

The previous Apes movies have all explored some aspect of something beyond themselves. In the first, it was dehumanization and the nature of civilization, with a bit of youth culture commentary thrown in. Others were about what makes us human, over and against what makes an animal in our eyes, or the threat of nuclear annihilation, or the cost of violence. Stuff like that. I can't really say that this film is about anything other than Planet of the Apes movies. There's stuff in here that only works if you've got knowledge about the previous films, and it suffers for that.

I'm not really sure what they were going for with that ending, though. Where were they going to take it for a sequel? I guess it doesn't really matter. Like gigantopithecus, this one's an evolutionary dead end.