COMICS

MARKY MARK IS REVOLTING!

Outside agitator defies the un-American apes

"Who are they?" asks Marky Mark in Planet of the Apes, as primitive humans trickle over the hilltops into his renegade camp. "They all want to see the human who defies the apes!" is the reply. Marky is a visionary American who has brought a new concept to the Planet: the concept of revolution. A major difference between this current remake of Planet of the Apes (the publicists demand that it be called a "re-imagining" but I don't care) and the original film which kicked off the series back in the mid-sixties is the presence of talking humans before the hero's arrival. This makes the structure of the slave/pet society unclear; humans seem like they have a lazy scriptwriter rather than any inferiority complex.

In the original, Charlton Heston finds a planet full of talking apes and mute humans. Captured and prodded by the apes, he finally cries out "Get your filthy hands off me, you damn dirty ape!" turning the planet upside-down: the apes must destroy him as a threat to their supremacy. In the third film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, two talking apes (Cornelius and Zira) are transported back in time to the 70's. Now, the story is reversed, and the talking apes pose a threat to humanity.

Conquest of... , (film #4, directed by the snappy J. Lee Thomson) takes place in 1991(!) when humans have first begun training apes as pets and slaves. Led by the talking offspring of Cornelius and Zira, apes overthrow humanity and the stage is retroactively set for film #1.

Both the old and new films seem trapped in a reactionary definition of popular resistance as something brought on by outside agitators. During the Vietnam war, US authorities repeatedly accused "outside agitators," usually commie Russkies, of initiating anti-war sentiment and provoking hippie protest. Today, this is still the standard reaction to anti-globalization action the world round. A so-called cadre of "professional activists" tour the planet in search of contented consumers whom they can rile with crazy-talk about the Evils of Corporate Rule. Though the outside agitators are heroes in both Apes series, the subtle spinning of reactionary theory into popular consciousness remains effective.

A deviant talking ape or human was the crux of each of the original films. In this new film, the other humans can talk, though they can't rap. Why, then, do both apes and humans arch one eyebrow at Marky Mark and say, "This one seems... different?" What is it that makes him a mystic revolutionary?

The answer comes from Marky Mark, when asked what tribe he's from: "US Air Force!" So: his secret power is that he's an American.

Ah, America, that revolutionary dynamo. Born and raised in the USA, fed corn from Iowa and guns from Texas, Marky Mark could never accept the yoke of slavery. Nor could he stand idly by while this planet of non-Yanks foolishly accept their backward state, like non-Yanks everywhere on our own planet.

America once had some justification for bragging about revolution. When the French revolted in 1789, Yankee liberalism was a major influence, and the gift of the Statue of Liberty is proof of lasting gratitude from some French republicans at least. Throughout the 19th Century, Europe quaked in fear of the Yankee example and its offspring. The 1837 revolts in Upper and Lower Canada, widespread European upheaval in 1848, Nihilist anti-Tsarism in late-century Russia, constant wobbling of France between Empire, Republic, and Commune, and so on, shook the very sociopolitical foundation of the West.

But the American example did not necessarily feel the need to reiterate itself too often. In fact, when in 1860 southern US states themselves decided to throw off the yoke of faraway central government, Lincoln demonstrated just what the USA really thought of revolution: he freed the slaves in the rogue states as a punitive measure and crushed the fledgling nation in war. Unfortunately, Planet's surprise ending seems to deliberately miss the boat on a good Lincoln/ slavery insight in favour of the world's most ham-handed and irrelevant sequel set-up.

By the 20th Century, America seemed to have firmly fixed on an anti-revolutionary course: they currently defend the pre- revolutionary Chinese government in exile on Taiwan; they sent troops in 1917 to fight for the Tsarist Whites against the Reds in Russia; they have tried everything under the sun to end Cuba's revolution; they steadfastly ignored Spain's revolution; and let's not even talk about El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Why, then, is Hollywood so fixated on Yankee as rebel? Why don't they update their rhetoric for the 21st century? Let's computer-animate James Dean for Superpower without a Cause. Or get fatcat Marlon Brando as a tank commander in The Tame One.

Unfortunately, the way things are going, the biggest film of the century will be Planet of the Americans.