Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I've never exactly been a Planet of the Apes geek, following the franchise through countless films over the years, but I've always appreciated the original, and its fertile sci-fi premise. I can't imagine this is actually a spoiler anymore, as it's probably on the level of Darth Vader's paternal relationship to Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, but the big reveal at the end, that the Planet of the Apes was really Earth all along, is perhaps one of the most stunning and emotional twist endings in popular sci-fi history.

Naturally, being a prequel of sorts, Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes no secret of that fact and chooses to explore how modern technology and human civilization as we know it (more or less) today could possibly have led to the passing of the baton from humans to apes, and in the Earth originally becoming the Planet of the Apes. Which is also a fascinating premise, especially given how familiar most people are with the old story. Modern cinema technology, also, has enabled us to tell a convincing and emotive story featuring apes as central characters who are not (yet) evolved "ape-men", and are closer to the "primative" ancestors that live in zoos and jungles today.

I missed Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it played in theaters, but I heard a lot of good things about it, both from the press, and from people I know who had seen it. And with the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, scheduled to hit theaters very soon, I made it a priority to sit down and watch Rise in preparation. And my verdict is that it was as good as everyone says. The story was fantastic, the digital effects impressive, and the characters sympathetic. Especially Caesar, the chimp who changes everything - brought to life by Andy Serkis, the man behind Gollum in the Lord of the Rings.

I also appreciated the little nods to the classic Planet of the Apes - as well as, presumably, the future fate of this story - both in the appropriate placement of the infamous line "get your stinking paw off me, you damn, dirty ape", and in the subtle hints at the manned Mars mission which apparently goes missing. I'm not sure what the plans are for this movie franchise, but I would be excited if they make it into a trilogy, with the final installment tackling the original Planet of the Apes plotline, with all of the precedent and creative talent of the other two titles in the series backing it up.

I am now looking forward even more to the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I'm not sure what story it will tell, but I hope it's some intermediary, further tracking the progress of the ape revolution in taking the planet over from the humans. I thought the plot device of the man-made chemical - developed in the relentless pursuit of science to conquer man's weaknesses - being responsible not only for the intellectual evolution of the apes, but also (spoiler) the ostensible extinction of man via viral pandemic was clever, unexpectedly propitious (from the perspective of the apes' coming revolution), and also reflective of modern fears (I couldn't help thinking of 28 Days Later at various points in this film).

I look forward to the continuation of the story in the sequel.


  1. Glad you liked it! I really loved this movie. It's a story I've always found fascinating but unfortunately that remake they did in the 00s wasn't very good. This new one rectifies those mistakes. My one and only complaint coming out of the theater after Rise, was that I expected to see more of the war between ape and man. Which, incidentilly, is exactly the content Dawn of the Planet of the Apes appears to be focused on!

    I definitely concur on the 28 Days Later parallel. It's always an interesting parallel to Carnosaur -- the millionaire's plan was to infect mankind with a debilitating virus which would decimate the population and make room for the rise of the dinosaurs.

  2. I was impressed with how well they handled Caesar's part of the story. Even as a human, it made me really sympathize with the apes, and feel like they *deserve* their revolution. I can't wait to see it happen!