Of the local fauna on Barsoom (ie Mars) in Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars series, the great white apes may have been my favorite. Standing ten to fifteen feet tall, with an extra pair of arms, and usually hairless except for a white shock of fur on the top of their heads, the white apes are very much an antecedent of many kinds of science fiction beasts. And while John Carter didn't first meet them in an arena (although he did fight in an arena in the first novel), you can draw a line straight from the pages of A Princess of Mars to the arena scene in Attack of the Clones.
Which is sort of a problem, isn't it? While the imagery was born in Burrough's work, it was popularized elsewhere, and I wonder if it's possible to look at the picture above and NOT be reminded of Clones, or a dozen other similar scenes. When you go back to the source from which everything else sprang, it can be hard to convince audiences they're not just seeing the same old same old.
As for the white ape itself - I've seen it in motion at the D23 Convention, and I like it well enough. Director Andrew Stanton has enhugened the beast, which really only serves to bring it closer into Attack of the Clones territory. I think the ape moves well, and the arena scene - or what I saw of it - is well done, but John Carter remains possibly the biggest question mark of 2012 to me.