Title: Bright Eyes, Ape City
Subtitle: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos
Edited by Rich Handley and Joseph F. Berenato
Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (March 13, 2017)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton originally for BookPleasures
Many times over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a number of essay collections published by the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization. Sequart specializes in analytical explorations of popular culture figures, especially characters like Batman and the X-men who have roles in both comics and on screen as well as sci fi phenomena like Star Trek in their comic incarnations.
Naturally, the publisher’s first look into Planet of the Apes lore began with 2015’s The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes edited by the same team responsible for this year’s comprehensive look into, well, pretty much every other incarnation of Apes projects. This includes analyses of Ape films, books, TV shows, even British rodeos. British ape rodeos?
In fact, nearly every page of Bright Eyes, Ape City is filled to the brim with surprising historical tidbits and well-considered perspectives from Ape experts and self-admitted Ape geeks. Appropriately, the essays begin with Robert Greenberger’s “Welcome to the Monkey Planet,” an appreciation of author Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel where it all began.
I suspect most serious Ape geeks will want to compare their own perceptions with the essays that discuss the first five films, including “Love Conquerors All: Sci-Fi's Greatest - and Most Feminist – Couple” by Ian Brill, “Nothing Ape is Strange to Me: Looking at Escape and Conquest Through the Eyes of a Zoo Professional” by Corinna Bechko, “The Second American Revolution: Did Another Coup on U.S. Soil Precede the Apes' Own Conquest?”by Jim Johnson and “The Mis-Shape of Things to Come: Paul Dehn's Planet of the Apes” by Neil Moxham. Throughout this section of the book, the critics explore the social commentary and religious imagery on the large screen, and we are teased with speculations about some of the series unconnected plot points.
But if you want to prove just how serious an Ape geek you are, you gotta know about and care about the short-lived live and animated TV shows as explored in “It's a Madhouse Every Week!” by Dayton Ward, “Escaping to Tomorrow: The TV Series Novelizations” by John Roche, and “Saturday-Morning Simians: Animating the Planet of the Apes” by Zaki Hasan. No, if you want to earn your Ape geek merit badge, you gotta know about and certainly care about the live arena shows and British rodeos as recalled by Dave Ballard.
Most general readers will be interested in the analyses of the more recent ape films, beginning with editor Rich Handley’s “800-Pound Gorilla in the Room,” his re-evaluation of the much-maliegned Tim Burton reboot. Then, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and this year’s War for the Planet of the Apes are compared and contrasted with the first five ape films in Edward Gross’s “Caesar: A Tale of Two Kings.”
But the real diving into Ape ephemera can be found in Steven J. Roby’s examination of the film novelizations, Paul Simpson’s review of the film scores, and everything else you can possibly imagine in “Before, Beneath, Beyond, and Between the Covers of the Planet of the Apes: A Meditation on Precursors, Predecessors, Ripples, and Rip-offs” by Stephen R. Bissette and “Ape Shall Never Spoof Ape: Skits, Parodies, and Piss-Takes” by Matthew J. Elliott .
Clearly, most readers of this collection will be die-hard ape aficionados. Other sci fi geeks will likely want to explore some, if not all, of the offerings. All film and popular culture libraries should shelf this entry, as well as the rest of the catalogue of the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization. Looking at the article titles alone should signal these are intellectual and scholarly critiques, not simple, affectionate fan blog pieces.
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