Making Apes: the Artists Who Changed Film: Film Review

While I’m a fan of science fiction film, and science fiction in general, I have a big gaping hole in my fandom, in the form of the Planet of the Apes movies.

It’s not that the films weren’t available – they aired the films regularly on the Sci-Fi channel. It’s that I never got around to watching them. This wasn’t helped by the naming conventions of the movies making figuring out the viewing order more difficult – combined by the involvement of time travel in later films. That said, I respect what the films did, and Making Apes gives me a better appreciation of that.

Specifically, Making Apes dials its focus to one particular part of the franchise – makeup. The movie makes the case that while there were various prosthetic & makeup artists before the first Apes film, the raw number of apes that needed to be created ended up leading to the training of a large number of make-up and prosthetic artists. This in turn lead to a large number of makeup artists out there with the skills needed to create characters with various makeup designs for numerous science fiction films in the years that followed.

In short, if it wasn’t for Planet of the Apes, we wouldn’t have the forehead Klingons in later Trek series and films, the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings films, Alien Nation, and numorous other movies without that base of makeup artists that came out of the Apes movies.

The documentary makes the case very well, covering the history of makeup prosthetics before and after the Apes films, through the lens of those movies, the people who worked on them, and the various reboots. Though, sadly, there is no discussion of Professor Bobo from MST3K.

If I were to make a complaint – and I am – the film goes off on a discussion at the end of the film to talk about digital performance capture and CG characters and how that relates to the new Apes films and the future of prosthetic makeup. The discussion swerves hard into “This is destroying classic makeup effects and is destroying artistry, and is Bad!”

Let me tell you, I could go the rest of my life without hearing another Hollywood person complain about new technologies.

Still, I love the love of craft of film that this documentary conveys very well. I really recommend checking this film out. The film is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime – buying anything through that link helps to support the site.

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