Because this week has seen the cinematic release of the terribly titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes of the Jedi, or whatever it's called, this latest WhatCulture Complete Guide is turning its attention to the greatest threat mankind has ever seen. Apes. And it's little wonder when you think about it - films like Hollow Man and Project X tell stories of man's exploitation of our simian cousins and ancestors (sorry God), and we expect them to simply roll over and accept it?! I think Dunston Checks In is proof enough that that was never going to be the case. So follow us as we chart a course through the evolution of the Monkey Threat on screen. There is a distinct pattern, and I think if we don't learn from it, we will all be looking into the damaged face of the Statue of Liberty in all-too-short a time. And personally the idea of fanning our monkey overlords does not appeal to me on any level. Oh, and before we begin, consider this - every single one of the films below is a horror. Monkeys wearing hats?! Monkeys playing baseball?!! The horror!!! The first section deals with the trigger point, and the reasons why this unspeakably terrible threat might have arisen...
Don't Free The MonkeysFilms: Outbreak (1995), 28 Days Later (2002) Historically, man hasn't always treated his furry genetic cousins particularly well, which is probably why we have films with undeniable civil rights allegories like Gorillas in the Mist and Instinct in which humans integrate within monkey communities and end up realising that it is man who is the more animal of the two species. But, no matter how bad we might feel for those misdeeds, film history teaches that we must never attempt to atone for them immediately. Because here's another skewed fable showing exactly why we shouldn't allow the monkeys to get their feet under the table as our equals (which is an inevitable part of peace). Certain films teach us that there are some humans who would seek to free captive monkeys from the evil grasp of scientists who want to inject things in them or put lipstick in their eyes or something, but in almost every case this goes horribly wrong. You see, those monkeys invariably have some hideous genetic disease that will either kill us all, or turn us all into zombies. So it's maybe just better to leave the caged ones where they are.
Cheeky Monkey SidekicksFilms: Aladdin (1992), Friends, Any Which Way But Loose (1978) There are a number of films - the Tarzan ones for a start - in which man walks hand in hand with monkeys, without too many problems - though I doubt Tarzan would get a job in an upwardly mobile city company. But in the flipside of that particular coin, there are also even more films and TV shows in which man is variously tormented by their supposed ape BFFs - because given the opportunity to be loved, monkeys like to be a bit naughty. That's why it's called "Monkey Business". Aladdin has Apu, a small Capuchin type who robs alongside him and has the attitude to match his obvious lack of moral integrity, Ross from Friends has Marcel, a destructive monkey of similar genus who poops in Monica's shoe and then takes out his sexual frustrations on everyone and everything. And then there's Clyde - a seemingly loveable rogue of an orang-utan; side-kick to Clint Eastwood, and altogether a little too human for comfort. He is violent (admittedly towards gang members), and complicit in Eastwood's character Philo's criminal activities. Yes, they're anti-heroes, and each has a considerable fanbase for a monkey/ape, but this is where the seeds of wanton criminal destruction are sown, and their position as near-equal sidekicks does little except enabling their naughtiness.
Monkey SportsFilms: Ed (1996), Most Valuable Primate (2000) Not necessarily the most obvious or immediate threat of all of the shady characters on show here - but monkeys playing baseball and ice hockey is a downright abomination of nature. Only bad things can come from this. Plus, if you think about it, that's two sports that could easily be transferred into combat skills - as any Hockey fan will tell you given how often those fixtures break out into fully-blown MMA bouts.
Monkey InadequacyFilm: Being John Malkovich (1999) , The Jungle Book (1967) If you met Elijah in the street you'd think he was like any other man, living in an apartment with room-mates Lottie (Cameron Diaz) and Craig (John Cusack) and their pets, and suffering from acid indigestion that his shrink thinks is down to his innate inadequacy complex. But you'd be wrong, because Elijah is a chimpanzee, and is the final step in this grim evolutionary series between law-abiding monkeys and the rogues that just don't listen to our rules any more. So no matter how well they sing about wanting to be equals or capturing the magic of fire And that next step can be traced firmly to this seemingly harmless little chimp and the orang-utan king, because as soon as we stop treating them like monkeys they'll stab us all the back.
Monkey CrimeFilms: Dunston Checks In (1996), Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), The Wizard of Oz (1939) Now look what's happened. You allow them to think they're in some way worthy of equality by extending the olive branch of a language system or acknowledging their mental illness and the furry little buggers start pillaging, growing wings and terrorising people, and in one horrible moment raping a human being (in the finale of the Ace Ventura sequel). That sexual assault scene from When Nature Calls may have looked funny back then, but every time I see that randy silverback violate Simon Callow, knowing what I know now, my heart is gripped in the cold, unforgiving claw of fear. And I involuntarily cross my legs. It is after all, a short simian hop from sex crimes to genocide and world-taking-over activities.
Don't Prod The Giant Super-Monster!Films: King Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young (1949) If Godzilla taught us only one thing it was that mistreating nature will eventually lead to the city-stomping wrath of a crazed super-monster. So like, don't tread on the daisies. But seriously, giant apes are a real threat, hidden away on their little islands just beyond the reaches of all but the most intrepid of adventurers or explorers, and Hollywood has already warned us twice that these beats shouldn't be trifled with. And if we do, we are only inviting inevitable doom in - so it's a message gleaned from both King Kong and Mighty Joe Young that we should urgently heed. That's unless they weren't actually Public Service Films?
The Only Logical Next StepFilm: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) It is no surprise to me that the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes happened in the alternate timeline that we watch when we go to the cinema, because it was the only outcome possible based on the dangers and lessons offered by the films above. What we have to fundamentally accept is that mankind is a terrible species, capable of awful things, and if we are to pass on our skills and experience to another species, we will inevitably botch it and lead to them getting frustrated at how we walk around like some self-appointed Homo Superior even though biting the inside of our own cheek is still a very real threat. Perhaps we should wait until we're a little bit more evolved before we start teaching other creatures our ways, or we might fairly soon be facing the first stages of revolution outlined in Rupert Wyatt's exceptional film of the summer.
The Horribly Inevitable FutureFilms: Planet of the Apes + Sequels And here's where it all ends. If we ignore the warnings this is where we will all be, cursing that ignorance as we are rounded up and treated like slaves by all manner of hopefully not quite so rubbery faced evolved super-monkeys wearing trousers. Let's work together and make sure this doesn't come to fruition. So how do we avoid the series of events that lead to that enslaved future? Well first off, we need to stop experimenting on monkeys, we should definitely not invite them to be our equals (and that goes for teaching them languages as well - so take heed Project Nim and Congo fans), or play our sports. And if we ever see a Giant Ape, let's not think of the entertainment value, please. But mostly we have to stop giving people like Draco Malfoy jobs as "monkey handlers". That's just asking for trouble.