Monkeying Around

A great riff on the unexpected box office success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes  — “Hit Happens” — is posted at Grantland.

First on the list of things that went right was a decision to dump the trailer featuring male lead James Franco, who alienated critics with his work as host of the Oscars, and cut another showing the movie’s real star:

Fox’s marketing department recalibrated, shifting the focus to the movie’s digital apes. In the weeks leading up to Rise’s release, motion-capture actor Andy Serkis — who “plays” the movie’s main ape via CGI but never appears on-screen in physical form – hit the publicity trailer alone.

And to insure Hollywood’s publicity mill paid attention they also launched an over-the-top campaign asking voters to make Serkis an Oscar nominee.

This was a bold move if you consider the poor track record other motion-capture movies, but it was rewarded:

“I wonder how the success of Apes makes Robert Zemeckis feel,” says the producer, “after his endless series of motion-capture disasters — Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, Mars Needs Moms — lost millions and led to the shuttering of his studio.”

Grantland’s authors also give a hat tip to Roger Ebert’s review of the granddaddy of the genre, Planet of the Apes (1968), which begins humorously:

My highly reliable public opinion sampling system, consisting entirely of taking the word of taxi drivers for everything, leads me to the conclusion that “Planet of the Apes” is one of this year’s most eagerly anticipated movies…