The original Planet Of The Apes is a classic science fiction movie. It’s cemented deeply in movie history and is one of those movies that has ventured into mainstream pop culture and yet it’s also very silly as none of the effects of back in the day convince us now and merely thanks to the solid story line the movie transcends the movie never became an entire joke. Something that can’t be said about the sequels.
Yet despite the classic value of the movie, the shocking and memorable twist ending raised a lot of questions with me, questions that still have to be answered. Answers that Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes might provide me.
One of the things that puzzled me the most about Planet Of The apes was that the explanation given didn’t make sense at all. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled please don’t read on. The Planet Of The Apes is in fact Earth 2000 years in the future and what has happened is, according to the sequels, World War III has ensued and destroyed human society as we know it. Somehow this set up made the existing humans go mute, apes evolve and bury all the human landmarks under the current soil except for The Statue of Liberty. And the apes live as Amish people do now, as if it were two centuries ago.
Now it’s completely understandable they went for this explanation as in that time the Cold war was in effect and everybody feared a nuclear capable of destroying the Earth. Sadly when the earth is destroyed by Nukes, it’s pretty fair to conclude that the apes are dead as well. Unless rain forests were spared but that’s highly unlikely.
Please excuse me for the long intro, but this was my main concern about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. As a prequel it’s going to set up the story of Apes becoming the top of the food chain and humans becoming an endangered species. So you might understand from my point of view I was concerned for the potential silliness of this movie, which uses state of the art special effects to bring the apes to life, even better than they were done in King Kong.
Luckily Rise of the Planet of the Apes rewrites history and takes great care to present a story in which it’s somewhat believable how man has to witness how his place is being taken over by the apes.
And we have Aids to thank for that.
The movie has a scientist, Will Rodman, working on a cure for Alzheimer’s but when an ape he’s testing it on goes berserk and wreaks havoc his boss immediately stops the testing. Despite the fact that the ape was put down it turned out she was carrying a child and was ready to gave birth at the moment. Now the potential Alzheimer’s cure makes the apes very smart and through his genes the baby ape has a much higher intelligence than his species normally has. The scientist takes him home and raises him as if he was his son, names him Caesar, and tries the Alzheimer’s cure on his dad who, at least for the time being, fully recovers.
But when the Alzheimer’s returns after a couple of years and Rodman’s father gets into a fight with the neighbors thing take a turn for the worse. Caesar, coming to the aid of his surrogate family, gets locked up in a primate sanctuary. This is where he is faced with the crimes against his species and uses his extreme intelligence to become a leader of this group of apes and eventually break free. In the mean time the follow up to the original antidote makes the apes even smarter but it turns out to be lethal for humans and acts as a biological virus like Ebola where it’s spread from human to human by contact. One cough is enough.
And so, thanks to Aids and other epidemics we now have a more plausible script than we had 40 years ago.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised as it really is setting up a different story line than the original movie 40 years ago depicted. A wise choice as the whole set up is rather silly in retrospect, epic twist ending or not. The movie focusses on the abuse and wrongdoings against Caesar, seen by most people as a mere ape, but only we and Will know how human-like this ape is. We care for him, we even cheer for him as het stands up to his captors and sets up an escape plan for him and his new ape friends to the only true free place he knows; the Red Oak Forest. While Caesar is a truly 3 dimensional character, all the human parts have nothing much to do than fit into their stereotype. The angry neighbor who hates his neighbors pets, the boss of the company who’s only concern is money, the girl friend who is nothing more than that and even Will is only there to
move the plot along, to have a connection between the Caesar and the humans. Other than his father’s disease his actions are never really explained. Why keep everything secret for five years? He could have taken his father to his boss months later. His choices are not in his best interest, they’re in the plots best interest.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a lot better than expected. While humans play second fiddle to the story, it’s clear that an ape can carry an entire picture by himself. They’re will no doubt be a sequel and I hope they will stray even more from the earlier movies and give us an apocalyptic world visually comparable to I Am Legend, where the apes are learning everything humans left behind and build upon that creating a perfect mix between technology and nature.