Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Movie Review
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Caesar Leads the Charge in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), is the 21st century entry into the series of simian cult films depicting a world gone ape. While better than the last Planet of the Apes film about a decade ago, this one tackles the question of how the apes gain intelligence and take over the world. This movie has a strong surface connection with the 1975 film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but also contains many parallels with the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film, which starred the legendary Charlton Heston.
Before discussing the connections with the original movies, first, we need to take a look at Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film stars James Franco as a scientist working for a genetics research lab which apparently ignores PETA, since much of their research is done on live primates. Franco's character is attempting to develop a cure for Alzheimer's, a disease which afflicts his father, played very skillfully by John Lithgow. While testing his attempted cure, Franco injects the experimental drug into a chimpanzee he calls "Bright Eyes." She develops advanced intelligence as a result of the drug, and Franco is encouraged enough to (illegally) inject his father with the drug, with initial positive results. One highlight of this film is the tenderness shown in the relationship between the son and the father. Both Franco and Lithgow do a very good job conveying how the pain and suffering incurred by Alzheimer's afflicts the victim's relatives as well as the person falling into dementia.
Long synopsis made short, a problem back at the lab causes Franco to (again, against the rules) bring home a baby chimp that was the offspring of the super-intelligent Bright Eyes. As it turns out, this chimp child, named Caesar, inherits the drug-enhanced intelligence of his mother grows into a simian with the intelligence of a very smart human. One thing leads to another, and Caesar gets into trouble with the law, and is locked up in a primate sanctuary that is basically a jail where dozens of unwanted apes are kept in captivity and treated with sadistic cruelty by one of the employees, played by Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy of the Potter movies). Felton plays a character who exhibits far less humanity than Caesar, and he does it with a casual sinister sneer that will get him well-deserved typecasting as a bad guy. Even Malfoy did not act this cruel!
As we know from the trailers, Caesar leads his people in a rebellion against the humans, and, Moses-like, leads them out of the wilderness of the human city and into the safety of the forest. In a literary sense, Caesar is the classical Romantic hero, a very unique leader-character who seeks to right the wrongs done to his "people," and then leads them out of the urbanized, evil city of humans to the clean, safe, green sanctuary of the forest. And, to carry the literary and historical allusions even further, the Caesar of this film, is in many ways, a simian Moses, leading his people out of slavery and literally into the Wilderness of Muir Woods National Monument forest north of San Francisco. And, to get the apes to the wilderness, Caesar must lead them across the sea (San Francisco Bay). In the scenes of the bridge from above in the movie, the viewer can see the bridge as "parting" the waters ala Moses in the Book of Genesis. Oh, and on that point, the Moses analogy is even stronger considering that the lab that created the super-intelligent apes was called "Gyn-Sis." Subtle biblical allegories, eh?
For those of an older generation who remember the original movies, here are a few thoughts on comparisons to the older versions of the film. This movie contains several Easter egg-type moments, from the news story of the launch of the Icarus space craft which takes Charlton Heston in the original movie to the Planet of the Apes. We also see Heston in a brief glimpse of a television show (could not tell if it was from his ape movie). The scene that connected most strongly with the old film is where the sadistic Draco Malfoy, eh, I mean Tom Felton, is about to hit Caesar, and Caesar grabs Felton's arm to stop the blow. Felton shouts "Take your hands off me, you damned dirty ape!" Now, as any "Apes" fan knows, that is the most famous line spoken by Charlton Heston in the first Apes movie, and it is when he was being disciplined by an Ape. The shocker in that film was that the humans in that Ape-dominated world were unable to speak. Charlton actually speaking was amazing to both the apes and humans in that 1968 scene. Likewise, apes in the real world aren't supposed to speak, and this moment, after Felton repeated Heston's line, is when Caesar speaks, and says, in English, "No!" to his human tormentor. In this sense, the modern scene is a mirror image of the scene in the original film, with the roles of master and slave reversed.
Overall, the Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good film, and well worth watching. The means by which the apes gain intelligence and language are more logical than the means in the old Conquest of the Planet of the Apes from 1972. The acting is good, (Lithgow is still my favorite), and the moral of the story is that if you aren't nice to the animals, they could rise up and kill us all. Oh, and the way in which the human race as a whole falls to the apes, is also quite logical in this film, though I won't give it away here. See this movie!
Movie Review Summary:
Movies and TV Historyguy.com Reviewed by Moviesandtvhistoryguy.com on August 6, 2011. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Good Flick!)
A positive review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes with comparisons to the original Planet of the Apes films. Rating: 3.5
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