Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(2011; directed by Rupert Wyatt)

As I said yesterday, I hate this movie. Mindless Hollywoodity, apparently written by people with no experience of science, of animals, or, for that matter, of humans. Each character is built from simplistic motives, the kind encountered frequently on TV, but rarely in life. Good guys and bad guys. The story serves the CGI, rather than the reverse. They should have replaced James Franco with asparagus. Same performance, though the asparagus would have provided more nutrition at lower cost. (I liked John Lithgow, though; his acting felt like an organic intrusion into this plastic world.) 

Of course the movie made me think of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, of which it's a remake. I don't love that movie either; it, too, is simplistic, each character defined more by his function than by any underlying reality. Yet Conquest remains a more nearly authentic movie, because it's so clearly about racism and riots in the US. It shows us slaves, many of them with black faces, literally cast off their shackles. White fascists in riot gear try to gun them down. Our culture has a long history of perverting Darwin’s ideas to show black people as subhuman primitives. Conquest turns that racist stereotype on its head. It makes the slaves literally apes, but also shows them as more intelligent and compassionate than their masters. In the end, the slaves take over. In 1972, white America would have taken that as a threat.  I believe that's part of the reason the studio eviscerated the film, taking the shock out of its violence and maybe the sting out of its subtext. Even in the gutted form we have, the movie is about something real. 

I didn't see such a core in Rise. At the heart of Rise, I saw nothing. 

It seems telling that the movie makes so many references to its predecessors. IMDB lists 24 examples of names and such taken from the 1968 original and its successors. These have the unfortunate effect of keeping the superior original always in my mind. I’m amazed it didn’t have the effect of making the screenwriters more ambitious. Planet of the Apes was a rich slice of thought, drawing on the speculations of Einstein, the cultural history of evolution, the science of the ancient Greeks, and more. But this is what I mean by Hollywoodity: Rise draws names and images from its sources without bringing in the related ideas. It’s a mash-up, not a story. The creators have seen better works; they just haven’t understood them. 
In my view, none of the sequels and remakes is worthy of the 1968 movie. But that’s a rant for another day. 


  1. I was just a small child when I saw the first Planet of the Apes movie. I did not enjoy them then, and really haven't found much appreciation for them since. When this 'do over' came out I never bothered to go see it, sounds like I made a good decision eh?
    And by the way: "They should have replaced James Franco with asparagus."
    This made me snort coffee through my nose. Too funny! (Dee)

  2. Well, this is interesting XD

    I am not ashamed to admit that I prefer Hollywood popcorn flicks over artsy movies any day (in fact, during my days at film school, it was one of the reasons why teachers didn´t take me seriously). But even so, I actually thought it was a great movie. I didn´t think the story served the CG (although some shots are obviously meant to flaunt the CG). In fact, if I recall clearly, they chose to use digital apes because one of the themes of the movie was the abuse of great apes, and so using real apes would be sort of hypocritical.

    I'm guessing the fact that you saw (and liked) the 1968 version is key here. I never saw it (only small bits of it, and the first PotA movie I saw was Tim Burton's 2001 version which was not really good...

    PS- I don´t know about the animal behavior. When I was in the zoo, apes were among the animals forbidden to beginners. Not that I would've liked to work with them anyways. Chimpanzees especially are very scary.

  3. @ Croconut--That Tim Burton one is a stinker, isn't it? The most unnecessary remake ever, with the possible exception of Gus Van Zant's Psycho.

    You gotta see the 1968 one, though. To me, it's a great example of how a popcorn movie can also be art. But maybe it did set my expectations too high. To be honest, most current movies don't please me. They seem so simple compared to the movies of the '60s and '70s. (TV, on the other hand, is much better now.)

    @Dee--I debated between asparagus and broccoli.

    1. "Most current movies don´t please me. They seem so simple compared to the movies of the '60s and 70s"

      Something similar happens to me but the difference is, I dislike movies from the 60s and 70s (I didn´t exist back then XD), but I really enjoy films from the 90s and some from the late 80s. I guess its because I grew up during the 90s and so many movies of the time hold emotional value to me somehow. I certainly believe the stories were often better back then, despite the inferior technology.

      Agree 100& about Psycho.

  4. Sounds like we have a generation gap. For me, CGI is part of the problem. I was really impressed with, for example, Jurassic Park when I first saw it, but then, as more movies began to use that technology, I found it less convincing. My favorite uses of it are the ones I don't notice. I remember finding out that the surgeries in the TV show ER were sometimes depicted with CGI, and that impressed me because I hadn't been able to tell. I also see the value of it in, for example, the Harry Potter movies, which would have been nearly impossibly to make in earlier eras. In general, though, it puts me off when it's obtrusive.

    Of course I could watch Ray Harryhausen animation all day long. . . .

  5. I think asparagus has more aesthetic value, more people hate asparagus than hate broccoli. I lose interest in most movies easily these days. They either have no basis in reality, or too much. Although I do highly enjoy some CGI art. Having spent so many years working in the field of art, I rather like the concept of bringing motion to art. Our imagination now has a third dimension and that can be either a good thing or a bad one. (Dee)


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