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Harry survives the Forbidden Zone with the Rolling Roadshow for PLANET OF THE APES!

I’m just outside of Page, Arizona – the sandy hills are too scary for our Dodge Durango, so we’ll be hitching a ride into Ape territory with Tim League and the Alamo’s All Terrain Vehicle. They came prepared with anything and everything. Oh accept we’re all terrified of the Lawgiver and the Forbidden Zone. Just like in the finale of the great PLANET OF THE APES… the Earth here is cracked. Lightning bolts are dancing about us… but even worse that towers of illusory flame is… the rain.

This day has been spent upon the north rim of the Grand Canyon, the painted desert… over the very backbone of this land and then in and amongst Lake Powell. Crossing that dam and looking back at the mountains of the Forbidden Zone was just awesome. They don’t look real, they look like matte paintings by Albert Whitlock… they deserve a lavender sky above them. In fact, it’d been so long since I saw PLANET OF THE APES – the original and best version, that I actually thought I wouldn’t recognize any of the landscape… but by golly – there it was! Couldn’t believe it. The whole bloody thing began to play itself out. Didn’t hurt that I had the score to BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES playing – oddly… the music in tandem with the landscape… it actually gave me the creeps… Could have had something to do with the lightning… or just how unearthly it looked around here.

By the time we got back to Page, Arizona – we were suitably jazzed to be seeing PLANET OF THE APES. Only, it was pouring ass rain. I had faith it’d work out, Tim and crew are a come hell or high water type of badass organization. I figured, they’d just get to innovative.

Ok – so the trail to this amphitheater… it was not passable by any vehicle that didn’t have 4 wheel drive and wasn’t weighed down. Well, with the satellite link up to the AICN satellite which is in geo-synchronous orbit with the “Argo” well… as always, we’re heavy. Now where did Tim League suddenly come by this super 4-wheel drive vehicle? Well, back in Austin, Tim is a member of The Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks… And when he saw a fellow Elk with the exact right vehicle for the task at hand, he greeted him as a brother Elk and instant and blissful cooperation was at hand.

Yes, we’re in secret society territory. As we’re driving along, we ask about the Alamo truck. “No, there was no way to get it in there, so we’ll be going with the little rig and no screen” – No Screen? What the hell was he planning on projecting upon? As we’re ramping up and out of the 5th Sand Dune – I see the amphitheater…

It is a stunner. Smooth stratified sandstone in pinks, oranges, reds and beige. Impossibly smooth and the shapes and lines… so elegant and majestic. In the light of the setting sun the colors pop like that old psychedelic FANTASIA poster from 1970. And this one wall of this natural amphitheater is flat, with naturally formed bric-a-brac around the edges that give it this framed look… as if it had been waiting a millennia for Tim and the Rolling Roadshow to bring Charlton Heston’s magnificent mug to its surface. Surely… “That’s where we’re projecting it,” Tim says as we hit another dune and plop upon the stone floor of God’s theater.

“That’s going to be so cool,” I enthuse.

“Or it could be disasterous,” Tim says as lightning strikes and rain continues to fall. Father Geek, Kubla Khan and I are all deposited – Tim’s rushing back to gather more folks, more supplies… He’s the very picture of Alice’s White Rabbit… “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late – to a very important date! Oh me oh my, I’m late I’m late I’m late!”

I’m so glad I have no responsibilities on this trip other than writing to you about all of this. I can’t imagine all the layers of this particular series of events that Tim and the folks throwing this amazing epic affair would be. As I sit gawking at the beauty of this magical and mystical place – the Rolling Roadshow crew are creating a theater from scratch… Like Scotty patching the Enterprise together or MacGuyver with bubblegum and paperclips – they’re testing the sound system to bounce sound in such a way as to not get an echo effect in this canyon/amphitheater, protect the multi-zillion dollar speaker and projection and generator equipment from the ravages of cloud piss.

More than one member of the crew are licking a finger, holding it to the wind and with binoculars searching the far southwestern skies for… for what? Hope? Despair? What?

It’s now an hour before complete darkness- the amphitheater is beginning to find its audience. More and more folks have begun to spill into the place. Father Geek is about halfway up the rear canyon wallface – Some insane folks are about 40 ft above his position… they’re going to die, they’re probably all on drugs.

As has become standard in these twilight hours – the tour-mates gather about to gossip about their days, the plans for the next day, the accomplishments done in the hours since Monument Valley – and the route they’ll take to Bakersfield, California. Then there’s the Ape-speak… the various ways we each say, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” Everyone is trying to teach my nephew to say it, but he steadfastly refuses to say the word “damned,” yet everytime someone says the line he cackles – though he has no idea what it means – or that it is even from the movie we’re all about to see.

I can’t imagine a time where I didn’t know PLANET OF THE APES – it’s been a part of my life since my youngest days. I had the Mego dolls… all of them. My parents were cool that way, but not quite cool enough to get me the Mego Ape City Playscape. But my Apes fought with Conan and Isis, Captain America and Evil Knieval. They used to fight out on the bar-b-cue pit that was made out of strange rocks in my backyard as a kid his age. At 5 – STAR WARS hadn’t quite happened, but a ton of Apes had – and I loved it.

Many of you can’t imagine the pre-Star Wars days of fandom. The days where the world of the fantastical was ruled by Ray Harryhausen, George Pal and… Apes. I remember I had a ‘Ben Cooper’ (I think) made Halloween costume where I was Dr Zaius. About a year ago I met the TV Dr Zaius at an Austin convention and I geeked rather strongly about it all. I still remember when 20th Century Fox invited us all to GO APE with that wonderful recruitment poster to see all 5 Ape films. That was such a cool time.

Now things are so cluttered. Everything screaming for attention weekly. Everything “special.” It’s one of the things that attracted me to this Rolling Roadshow event. It was a chance to get excited about something intimate, yet absolutely truly captivating and unique that this all is. I love that I’m far off the map of my “usual” territory both physically and mentally. I have no idea what the box office gross this past weekend was and I really don’t care. To me, I’m lost in a world of atlases and destinations, views from a window at 75 miles an hour. Everyday it’s transforming around me and how cool is that?

The nephew is playing with some of the regulars on this journey and it’s beginning to get dark dark… and to the northeast is the edge of the storm system that was blowing over. The V in the rocks opens up a sunset view of otherworldly colors – and the Roadshow crew have lit Tiki Torches that are now lighting the way to the bathroom and the amphitheater itself. Hotel buses are bringing in loads of folks – each finding a place upon the rock.

Tim begins to explain the uniqueness of the screening the audience is about to experience. Then the lights go out – and almost collectively you could feel the heads look to the sky… it is now devoid of cloud cover… crystal clear. Gorgeous. The trailers tonight would be Heston and Monkey related Tim had told us… but the first two trailers had another significance to me.

The first trailer was for TWO-MINUTE WARNING – the football stadium thriller starring Heston and BROCK PETERS – I’d read earlier that day that Brock had passed away. It’s cool and sad to see him tonight, the very night I heard he had died. Then the trailer for SOYLENT GREEN screens and there’s Brock Peters again. Neither of these are particularly his shining cinematic moment – but neither of these are particularly negative either. I really have a fond spot for both those titles, yet just seeing him on screen this night makes me wish I was watching TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but then… the trailer for THE OMEGA MAN comes on… bliss. “Because the last man on earth ALWAYS carries an AUTOMATIC WEAPON! Because the last man on earth is Not Alone!” “Your name is MUD!” Giggles come from the audience. Then the last trailer hits… MONKEY HUSTLE starring Yaphet Kotto and Dolemite, mutherfucker! This was followed by BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – and my nephew got his first look at Apes – and his reaction, “Is this a Star Wars movie, I want to see this!” Heh.

The trailers played wonderful on the sandstone – and oddly I thought the pinkish hued rocks would give a “Eastman Color” look to the PLANET OF THE APES print, but not at all. The projection bulb was so bright that it lit up that sandstone as if it were a screen.

This isn’t to say that it was a perfect. There was a slight dimensionality to it all – but it gave the film an increased level of being dreamlike. For example – when Taylor is looking through the bars and talking to Nova – and both of them have their faces pressed fully between the bars… there was something slightly warped about it, but not in a headache way, but in a THIS IS SO DAMN COOL & WEIRD way.

My nephew loved PLANET OF THE APES – he thought it was very “badass” – which is my nephew’s highest recommendation for a film, and usually only reserved for films with martial arts, swords and with stop-motion animation.

I wasn’t expecting the PLANET OF THE APES screening to really blow my mind, but this place – this gorgeous locale, spending all day in and around here looking at the beautiful locations in the Lake Powell area… and then this amphitheater which was just amazing. At points in the film, where I had the film memorized… sometimes I’d just look up at the powdered stars of the Milky Way and I noticed the dancing beams of light from the projector… a man made Northern Lights. There was a feeling in this place that was hard to pinpoint – but it dawned on me afterwards. Had a black monolith and neo-man been dancing around us… it would have been perfect.

We were looking at cave paintings at 24 frames a second – and though thousands of thousands of years have passed, some call them millions, millions? Hmm… EEEEK, having a flashback. Seriously though, the screening was so unique. No artifice of mankind cluttered the imagery. In a word, it was magical.

This amazing film. I can’t believe how wonderfully this movie moves in comparison to the Burton remake. The only real enhancement between the two was Rick Baker’s stunning make-up, but in all other ways – this movie absolutely owns the remake. It just flows so quickly. And the arrogance and ego of Taylor is just so convincingly projected by Heston. You don’t doubt his character for a second.

But even more so… the simian cast is more at ease and natural in their characters. As much as I enjoyed Tim Roth’s chimp, Roddy MacDowell’s was just so real to me. I don’t know why, maybe it’s just an absolute love I have for Corny and Zira. Everytime they were onscreen – I smiled. I also saw my nephew utterly entranced by Zira. The magic of Kim Hunter. She just makes you want to hug her. I swear she makes her makeup blush, it’s the damnedest thing, and it’s all in her eyes and body posture.

After the screening we went back to our Best Western overlooking the Forbidden Zone and while the nephew was asleep, Father Geek and I stared out the window and just smiled. This really is a magic trip.

Now, we’ve got to head to California for the screening of NORTH BY NORTHWEST. I can not wait to meat the cropduster from Hitchcock’s film. He shared one of the most iconic cinematic moments in the history of films with Cary Grant – and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. Bakersfield here we come!

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 26, 2005, 3:29 p.m. CST

    yet another cool poster

    by gredenko

    kudos to the designer(s) putting these posters together

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 3:58 p.m. CST


    by Banky the Hack

    Man, Harry, all of these stories so far have made me jealous, but I don't know if I'll even be able to read the Close Encounters one. I'll probably go into conniptions that I didn't get to attend that one :(

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:04 p.m. CST

    Nice Harry! Why didn't you take me along? Talkbackers are yo

    by Orionsangels

    One of the first movies I ever saw as a kid. You never forget the ending, classic.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:15 p.m. CST


    by whatyoufear

    i don't get it.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:22 p.m. CST

    Great account, Harry -- and great pix!

    by Roguewriter

    Thanks -- it's about as good as it gets except for being there! I remember watching APES on the "CBS Evening Movie" with my dad... must have been 1976 or 1977. My dad's not big with the patience or the don't-spill-the-beans gene, so he spent the whole movie just waiting for me to see that ending. It stayed with me for AGES, shook me up no end. Still one of my fondest movie memories, and one of the very best I have of spending time with my father. Again, nice piece of writing, Harry. And the imagery is simply gorgeous. Keep it up!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:28 p.m. CST

    fuckin' a

    by lopan

    gorgeous pictures, great story. this whole thing sounds like a blast, hopefully next time around i'll be able to come out to one. i'd kill to go to the devil's tower screening...

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:40 p.m. CST

    That sounds awesome.

    by Incrediburgible

    Nice poster too. Someone should do a remake of POTA. Maybe get Tim Burton to do it, and get Mark Walberg to play the human, and have all the humans be able to speak, and maybe get Kris Kristofferson in it for 10 seconds... that would be so cool and it's such a great idea... just think of the possibilities. (NOT)

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Bakersfield sucks...

    by Jaka

    lol! Sorry, sorry. It probably doesn't if you live there or something....or are a farmer....but no amount of movie history could make Bakersfield actually "cool". None!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Awesome photos

    by Stone53

    Great photos of one of the most beautiful areas in the country. My family lived in Page during the early 60's while my dad was a construction worker on Glen Canyon Dam. There was no lake at that time and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" was filmed there. My mom was one of the nameless cast of thousands and at lunch one day we sat at a table with Max Von Sydow (who played Jesus). Unfortunately, we moved before Apes was filmed.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:29 p.m. CST

    These reports have been really great so far, Harry...

    by DocPazuzu

    ...Planet of the Apes... Damn... One of my faves of all time. POTA, the 1933 King Kong and Star Wars were probably the three most formative films of my life, with the shocking ending of POTA being the most searing experience of them all - especially at such an early age. I had never seen anything like it before and that last image blew my mind and haunted me for months after. No film experience has ever shaken me so totally to the core as when I saw that ending at the age of eight. I still get chills today when I see it, even though they're most likely a nostalgic residue more than anything else. It's still a wonderful film in every respect. Can you feel the hate, Tim Burton?

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:40 p.m. CST

    The remake could have rocked so hard

    by performingmonkey

    The Apes remake is still the only Burton movie that doesn't seem to have his stamp on it. Others may disagree but...fuck you, I'm right! Sure, the makeup is impressive, but so what? The writing wasn't. These are the guys responsible for the screenplay to Superman IV: The Quest For Piss.....OK they did other things, but still... All the potential was there for the Apes remake to be excellent. So what's Wahlberg doing these days? Oh yeah, The Brazilian Job. Excuse me if I don't see it.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:48 p.m. CST


    by loafroaster

    ...too true, the promo posters for all the movies have ROCKED so far (my fav being Repo Man). As a graphic designer, my hat is off to the team behind them! Great photos too! Oh, and I can't remember Planet of the Apes being that hot; the ending with Marky Mark crash-landing in the alternate planet, it kinda sucked...wait a minute...IT WAS A REMAKE! DAMN YOU BURTON! DAMN YOU TO HELL!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:49 p.m. CST


    by loafroaster

    ...too true, the promo posters for all the movies have ROCKED so far (my fav being Repo Man). As a graphic designer, my hat is off to the team behind them! Great photos too! Oh, and I can't remember Planet of the Apes being that hot; the ending with Marky Mark crash-landing in the alternate planet, it kinda sucked...wait a minute...IT WAS A REMAKE! DAMN YOU BURTON! DAMN YOU TO HELL!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 5:54 p.m. CST

    Damn Dirty Ape-Watchers

    by spiderinside

    I'm so jealous of you bastards just chillin' all over the American West while you watch cool movies. I'm gonna kill my high school advisor.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 6 p.m. CST

    anyone know what this ones about?

    by satansteve

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 7:01 p.m. CST


    by -guyinthebackrow

    Uh... enjoy.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 7:18 p.m. CST

    Repo Man Needs a Sequal!

    by fiester

    They're all still around and could use the work. I for one would like to know what became of Otto and the gang.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 8:20 p.m. CST

    antelope canyon

    by redshirt

    Hey Harry! I hope you got to see antelope canyon while you were there, that is one of the most beautiful and alien landscapes on the planet. You would have loved it!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 10:21 p.m. CST

    "Meat the Cropduster"

    by zacdilone

    Sounds like some porno screen name.

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 10:26 p.m. CST

    I hate every ape I see, from chimpan-A to chimpanzee...

    by Uncle Stan

    Rock on with Dr. Zaius and The Ministers of Science!!

  • Aug. 26, 2005, 11:26 p.m. CST

    I'm torn between jealousy and awe

    by Latauro

    Whoever programmed this festival is a fucking genius.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 12:20 a.m. CST

    by foreignerbelt

    RJ Fletcher would have written a better story. but that was pretty good. great pictures too.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 1:49 a.m. CST

    GOD im fucking Jealous

    by Dmann


  • Aug. 27, 2005, 1:50 a.m. CST

    GOD im fucking Jealous

    by Dmann

    ignore that last post. I wish i had Josh with me taking this trip... I wish i was there, buddy.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 6:01 a.m. CST

    Burton rules!

    by Wormie

    OK, Burton's POTA was disappointing. It's an OK film, certainly not as good as the original, but better than Conquest or Battle. Oh yeah, and his Batman movies were better than Batman Begins.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 6:42 a.m. CST

    We were looking at cave paintings at 24 frames a second

    by JAGUART

    Time did pass Harry, Only it was fast forwarded TO THE FUTURE!

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 8:51 a.m. CST

    I'd pay good money to see harry in a dr. zaius halloween cos

    by vicious_bastard

    Great read Harry.

  • The white sterile look had a 70's sci-fi feel to it. And the makeup was better but then the make up in the original was pretty good, exspecially for its time. As for the sequels, POTA had a Highlander type definite one movie story. But like Highlander they had to make a bunch more movies and a tv show anyway.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 2:18 p.m. CST

    Tim Burton Blows

    by Incrediburgible

    I got dragged out to see Wonka at the IMAX theater and wanted to claw my eyes out. I actually fell asleep during the squirrel scene. Burton should go disappear up his own poop chute. Depp mangled his role, and no one was there to stop him. And that's just sad, see.

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Yeah, I remember those days...

    by Moonwatcher

    before Star Wars, when Harryhausen and Disney and James Bond movies were about the only special effects moments you could expect to see regularly on screen. Then came 1968, with POTA and 2001, and nothing was ever the same after that. And it wasn't just the ending that was shocking back then - seeing Heston's naked backside was a bit much for an audience made up mostly of 13 year olds. I also got to see all 5 of the movies in one sitting in one of the downtown theaters in Aurora, Illinois - I think it was the Isle (probably closed down by now). Anyway, great idea and great reporting, Harry. Now, how about coming to Iowa next year and running Field of Dreams at the original diamond?

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 6:40 p.m. CST

    by Gungan Slayer

    damn harry, your out there having such an awesome time and I'm here stuck in college. Anyway, I've always hated remakes, and the Burton POS POTA film is one of the remakes that I hate the most. Really. WTF was the point? I remember there in the late 90s when talk of a new ape film was starting. I was like: kick ass! Part 6 is coming! But nooooo, it had to be a remake, and a shitty one at that too. I'm telling you, there are some movies that should never be remade, and POTA is one of those movies. Now, if Fox can give us that part 6. Fat chance of that happening....

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 7:32 p.m. CST

    OK, Burton's POTA was disappointing. It's an OK film, ce

    by Bart of Darkness

    Nope. I know which Apes films I'd rather see and it sure ain't one directed by Tim Burton. Jeez I'd rather watch the pilot for the TV series again. If Burton's POTA was on TV, I might leave it on in the background but I certainly wouldn't sit down and give it my undivided attention. I lost 2 hours of my life to that tripe in the cinema and, in the words of The Who, I "won't get fooled again".

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 9:16 p.m. CST

    grand canyon

    by mashman1212

    my family and I went to the grand canyon when I was a kid. my older brother fell over a guard rail and died. I don't appreciate the mentioning of any place like it. how dare you harry, how dare you? for crying out loud...

  • Aug. 27, 2005, 11:20 p.m. CST

    Allright, let's not go overboard

    by I Dunno

    You can't compare the Tim Burton remake with the numerous sequels and the TV show. The remake might have sucked but at least it looked good and they tried. You can't compare that with the horrendous sequels where even the filmmakers said they were told to make more movies but had no idea what to do. Burton's film was somewhat pedestrian and the ending was non-sensical but it didn't actively hate the audience liek those sequels and the tv show.

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 2:51 a.m. CST

    Why no pictures of the Screen?

    by MST3KPIMP

    Harry.. why not some shots of the actual screen with the film in progress to give us some sense of the presentation?

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 5:47 a.m. CST

    oh my god I was wrong/it was earth all along

    by Colonel_Blimp

    So you finally made a monkey (yes we finally made a monkey) yes you finally made a monkey out of meeeee! Fave simpsons moment ever. The POTA remake (or reimagining...) wasnt THAT awful. It wasnt brilliant but it was ok. beautifully photographed, great production design, cosutmes and makeup. marky mark was crap though. all in all an ok action movie, but it just cant compare in any way to the original. which is one of the best scifis of all time. Both brains and muscles. truly stunning. btw did you notice that harry actually looks a lot like dr zaius, even without the halloween costume? and did anyone but me think that shyamalans the village thematically had a lot in common with the original POTA?

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 11:25 a.m. CST

    ideas for future travelling roadshows

    by Ace Hunter

    "UHF" in Weird Al's one bedroom apartment....."The Phantom Menace"/"Attack of the Clones"/"Revenge of the Sith" in a pile of feces.....and "Basic Instinct" in Sharon Stone's vagina

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 12:24 p.m. CST

    I'll give you that Burton's POTA was better than ESCAPE,

    by FluffyUnbound

    But it wasn't better than BENEATH, and it sure as heck wasn't anywhere near as good as CONQUEST.

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Meat my crop duster.

    by 3 Bag Enema


  • Aug. 28, 2005, 2:59 p.m. CST

    This series by Harry actually reminds me of a great book by Kevi

    by 3 Bag Enema

    You know, Kevin Murphy. Tom Servo and Bobo from Mystery Science Theater 3000. He wrote a book about one year of his life in which he dedicated himself to see at least one movie, with the rule that it has to be projected, every day. He went to odd and obscure theaters all over the world, spent one week eating nothing but what they sold at the concession stand, and made it into a brilliantly entertaining and even poignent story. I recommend it to film lovers. Not a book of film critiques, it's about the movie-going experience itself. Good stuff.

  • Aug. 28, 2005, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Alamo Drafthouse is coming to Dallas!

    by Dataset

    It's about time!

  • Aug. 29, 2005, 8:59 a.m. CST

    The Two Places All Classic American Sci-Fi must go are...

    by zinc_chameleon

    Aruvapai Canyon in Arizona and the Los Angeles storm drains. You could have an entire evening of films based on either one. Looking forward to seeing your tour of the drains, Harry.

  • Aug. 29, 2005, 9:08 a.m. CST

    Why the F...

    by Redrockmullet

    didn't you show us the Alamo All-Terrain Vehicle for crying out loud?

  • Aug. 30, 2005, 6:18 a.m. CST

    great report

    by ScaryJim

    but but but to the guy bereating the 'numerous sequels' to POTA - You are wrong , the last two movies didn't have enough money behind them but they take the story round in a perfect circle nevertheless . 1,2 and 3 i think are as good as each other storywise and for fucks sake can you imagine the furore there would be nowadays - mainstream films in which the earth is destroyed by the hero at the end and a film in which the two leads get brutally murdered at the end ? all that social commentary aswell.. For me apes wins over star wars everytime .It's vastly overlooked nowadays because people can't get past men in suits . and fuck fuck fuck the remake! fuck it all to hell.

  • Because I HATED how every Apes movie ended after the first one. And going back in time? Bah! Show me more Ape worlds! Thousands of years of evolution and there is still just one little village? BAH!! Give me MORE!! I hated the remake, it traded story for action and not even very good action either. And Apes isn't Apes without Zira, Cornelius, and Dr. Zaius. Who the hell cares about Thade, Attar, and whatever the hell Helena Bonham Carter's ape was named? I say restart the franchise with Taylor and Nova's son leading a terrorist rebellion against the apes while the apes debate about committing genocide or trying to accept the suddenly organized humans! The Apes have become US!!!