Monkey Panic!

Image from moviecarpet.com.
Or, as my good friend more aptly titled it, Monkey Panic! (2011). Whatever you call it, it's clear that, despite my resistance, the shame is on me. I'll start by saying that if I've seen any of the previous renditions of The Planet Of The Apes, I've forgotten them completely. I remembered enough of the general gist of the story to know that it was going to end with a planet full of super intelligent monkeys (aka: furry humans), and a bittersweet apocalypse. But the subtitles of the movie, the introduction of the different monkey characters, the ground this origin of the story was based on, was lost on me. Still, the trailer left a bad taste in my mouth, so settled into my theater seat and braced myself. The result? It was more fun than a barrel of genetically enhanced killer monkeys. 

The strength in the script relied in its slow build up. Rise Of The Planet Of--fuck it, that's a mouthful. Monkey Panic! was, essentially, about how Caesar and his gang of mad apes destroyed the human race and claimed earth for their own. Yet the movie spends maybe the last twenty or thirty minutes actually in the monkey-human battle for planet earth. If you can even call it that--they're really just battling to cross a bridge. But that's the thing this script does right, it takes what should be a huge movie of epic proportions and boils it down to the simplest terms. It has less to do with the actual Planet of the Apes and more to do with the genesis of Caesar, the leader ape. We take our time getting to know Caesar, starting at day one, when scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), steals him from the lab to keep him from being terminated. Will Rodman isn't your average "mad scientist" himself. He's not looking to make humans smarter (see: everything that's wrong with The Lawnmower Man (1992)), he just happens to stumble upon a superhuman serum while looking for a cure for Alzheimer's. Again, keeping it small, making it believable, and hooking the audience into this world. Monkey Panic! spends most of the movie exploring the psychology of Caesar and gets us invested in his plight before they start throwing the crazy shit at us. For by the time he finally grabs the cruel hook of human oppression and utters his first human word, we're holding our breath waiting for it. 

Ohai, Faceripper Monkey.
Performance wise, everyone does a great job. Well. Almost. Everyone except our main human, James Franco. I don't know what exactly he was thinking for this role, but he seemed to sleep walk through the majority of it. I've got a sneaking suspicion that he thought he was filming Rise Of The Pineapple Express. I understand, I zoned out half way though the title myself, he can't really be blamed. But everyone else more or less hit the mark for campy monkey movie. David Oyelowo stole the show as the money hungry businessman looking to make an extra buck off his apetastic friends. He honed in on that vibrant, exaggerated acting style that's needed for a campy movie like this, and I enjoyed him so much I couldn't help but root for him, even if he was the closest the movie got to an antagonist. Lastly, Frieda Pinto does an excellent job at being gorgeous. A Plus. Another score for the script--they did away with any forced cheap side love story. He got the girl in the first ten minutes, and we were happy. Done. Draco Malfoy also did a stellar job as Draco Malfoy. Sorry--did you expect him to ever move on from Harry Potter? As for the monkeys, Andy Serkis was the badass he always is. The Orangutan does a great job looking wise with his inverted mushroom face. King Kong makes a brief, heroic appearance, and we're rooting for him the whole time. Lastly, Face Ripper monkey also had a cameo, but for some reason Caesar had him cut back on the face ripping.

All in all, for a movie that I was not looking forward in the slightest, I was glad I actually went out and saw it. It was a lot of fun, the script was smart (even with a couple mandatory plotholes), and I didn't leave the theater feeling like I got monkey poo thrown in my face. I'm not going to go apeshit for Monkey Panic!, and I doubt I'll watch it again, but it was a satisfying, emotional thrill, and that's more than you can hope for most movies these days. 


  1. Great Review! I wasn't actually expecting to be as moved as I did from this material but Serkis just really channeled the inner ape within him, and nails this perfect motion-capture performance as Caesar. I also sure as hell hope that he doesn't get snubbed as well. He already did for LOTR!

  2. Really! I agree with everything you said. I was not expected to be moved by an ape but...he balanced human and ape just enough for us to really sympathize with him. In short? Serkis is epic.

  3. Your cool review is still not enough make me fork over real money to see this. I just can't do it, not when sexy Jason Momoa and wicked awesome Rose McGowan are hitting the theaters next week in Conan the Barbarian.

  4. I feel that--I wouldn't have forked over money for it if I wasn't forced to do it. I was glad that I did, but it's not necessarily a theater movie. Netflix will do fine. And Rose McGowan explodes my ovaries, that is all.

  5. You're right: This a perfect movie when it comes to Netflix or the library. Looking forward to seeing Conan The Barbarian. Should be silly and gory fun.

  6. Word! It's a good rainy day Netflix movie. And I'm with you on Conan--silly, gory fun is what I crave.

  7. I hearty attached with this film. I saw this film about 4-5 times and believe me, equally enjoyed each and every time. And I never felt bore.

  8. 4 or 5 times is the true test of devotion! It's a satisfying enough movie on its own that you can watch it multiple times without getting old.


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