Scott Ellington's Blog

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I had low expectations, based on previous disappointments in this franchise.

This one turned out to be a good deal more than a reasonably-plausible, remarkably coherent, intelligent origin story.

It’s also wondefully satisfying as a dovetailing, standalone emotional rollercoaster that peaks in an ecstatic declaration of independence;

the single word, “NO!“, spoken by a chimp (played passionately and believably by the incredible Andy Serkis).


On the second pass, this film’s cleverer turns (quotes, overt and implicit references) do stand up to closer scrutiny.  There are also goofy elements that absolutely don’t stand up.

When the viewer has already experienced the emotional tempest that makes this film go, the second viewing reveals unfortunate (wishful thinking) peculiarities:

  1. Star research scientists don’t get to fixate for 5-6 years on failed projects.  They get terminated.
  2. All apes don’t brachiate.
  3. References to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and to astronauts lost on a failed Icarus mission to Mars may set up still more sequels, but they ring pretty false and pointless in the close confines of this one.

There’s another level of peculiarity on which this film operates.  The human lead, played by James Franco, isn’t the protagonist.  About 24 minutes into the film, he’s shown to be a turncoat whose inability to experience the narrative from the real hero’s perspective makes him completely unreliable.  In fact, all of the humans in this piece exhibit disturbing flaws, ineptitudes and vices based in self-serving attitudes, myopias and blindnesses; greed, carelessness, cruelty, stupidity, drunkenness, lust, rage, sloth, general dickishness and complacency.  Non-human primates are presented as shockingly cooperative, self-sacrificing for the greater good and dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal, except for the really, really stupid ones;  humans.  That’s an intriguing proposition made more fascinating by virtue of the fact that much pivotal information is delived in this movie verbally by people whose interest in elocution is obviously negligible.

On your second pass, try turning on the necessary evil of subtitles.  They’re no ALZ113, but they help shortcircuit wishful thinking.


28 Jun 12 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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