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Sunday August 7, 2011 11:26 am
Q&A: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
Writer Rich Handley knows more about Planet Of The Apes than any three of you combined.
As the editor/compiler of two massive reference books - Timeline Of The Planet Of The Apes and Lexicon Of The Planet Of The Apes - he’s delved into the nerd minutiae of the movies, comics, TV shows and animated cartoons like Cornelius digging in the Forbidden Zone.
And we are all better people for it - because the only way to prevent the Apes from taking over, is to keep talking about it and disrupt the timeline.
On the occasion of the release of the new Apes extravaganza, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, I went right to the source to ask Rich a few questions about continuity, apes and more.
Note to all: This interview might contain some spoilers (you think?), so you are forewarned.
TOM MASON: So, reboot or prequel?
RICH HANDLEY: The press materials and official statements regarding Rise of the Planet of the Apes have been rather cagey. However, having leafed through the script, and having learned a good deal about the film's concept, I think it's rather clear that this is a reboot, and not a prequel.
Tom: What clues tipped you off?
Rich: Rise takes place in 2009, and [spoiler alert] contains mention of Taylor's mission -- which involves a NASA expedition to Mars, on a ship called the Icarus. This makes it incompatible with the prior films for several reasons. In the original films, Taylor's mission left in 1972, not 2009. Taylor and his crew worked for ANSA, not NASA. Taylor's mission took him out to deep space, not to Mars. Although the fan name for Taylor's ship has long been "Icarus," and although some model toys and Mr. Comics' Revolution on the Planet of the Apes mini-series utilized that name, a mockumentary on the Blu-ray set christened the film with the wonderfully ironic name of "Liberty-1."
Tom: And yet they went with the fan name for the ship.
Rich: I was surprised to see Fox decide to go back to "Icarus" for this film -- not only because it had already named the ship something else, but also because naming a flying vehicle after a mythical character who crashed back to Earth while trying to fly is like naming a cruise ship the "Titanic II."
Tom: Charlton Heston played Taylor in the original 1968 film. And now there’s a Taylor in Rise. Same guy?
Rich: Just so that it doesn't look like I've lost my sense of perspective, I realize that Taylor's mention in this film is very peripheral, and is merely there as an homage for die-hard fans. But the fact that Taylor's crew is leaving almost 40 years later, from a different space agency and on a different mission, makes it clear that this isn't the same Taylor.
Tom: He’s not James Franciscus either. So who is he?
Rich: His name, and that of the Icarus, are just Easter eggs, much like the names Caesar, Landon, Dodge, Jacobs, Franklin, Buck, Bright Eyes, Cornelia and Maurice (as well as Burke and Verdon -- a misspelling of Virdon -- in BOOM!'s prequel comic), all of which just provide nods back to the older films and the TV series.
Tom: But the big question is how does this movie tie-in to the established Apes history?
Rich: The events of this film simply don't match up with what we know about Apes history. For example, the first ape to speak (before Zira and Cornelius went back in time in Escape From The Planet Of The Apes) was called Aldo, and that he did so after apes had been enslaved by humans for many years. Even after Zira and Cornelius went back in time, the events still don't line up with this film. Caesar can't be the same ape, given that his background-- and his parents -- are entirely different. In 2009, Earth was a radioactive wasteland in the original movies. The United States was a fascist dictatorship in the originals.
Tom: So how does Rise fit in with Tim Burton’s one-shot version?
Rich: Some have suggested Rise is a sequel or prequel to Tim Burton's remake. Thank god, no. To me, it's clear that this film is a complete reboot -- which isn't to say that I'm not excited about it, because I'm stoked as hell, especially given how overwhelmingly positive the buzz has been from reviewers.
Tom: As the creator of books Timeline Of The Planet Of The Apes and Lexicon Of The Planet Of The Apes, I’ll bet it feels like we’re in the middle of a pop culture resurgence with the franchise. Are you furiously making notes for addendums?
Rich: I've been maintaining a file of information to eventually add to both of them, from a number of sources, including Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, BOOM!'s monthly comic, BOOM!'s film prequel comic and, now, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There's a wealth of new information to be added to both books, which I will definitely get to... some day. There are tons of new characters, locations, items, scientific terms, events, etc., all of which need to be worked into both the lexicon and the timeline book.
Thanks Rich! As always, run over to the Hasslein Books website and check out the handy Handley reference books. If you’re at all interested in Apes history, both of his books are must-haves. And I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Check out this review at Forces of Geek.
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