Saturday, 20 August 2011

“Caesar is home”

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: directed by Rupert Wyatt; written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
The latest instalment in franchise of The Planet of the Apes opens with a scene that might seem extraneous – amidst a forest that is equal amounts beautiful and strangely unsettling an ape is captured. We don’t know it as yet, but as the animal is separated from its kind in a severance that seems particularly iniquitous Wyatt and his team are underscoring what will become one of the puzzling things about the film – a stringent exercise, it would seem, in emphasising the disparity between humans and animals.
It all begins in a laboratory in San Francisco where Franco’s Will is working on a drug to reverse Alzheimer’s, a drug being tested on apes and a drug which become shelved when one of the animals under treatment destroys the lab in maternal rage. The object of her maternal consternation is Caesar, an ape born with the gene who develops to become a paragon of his race. The film doesn’t depend on a lack of foresight as to what is to come (even though it depends on an uncertain type of suspense in the latter half) – when Will and Caesar first go to the park an eventual parting of ways is stridently evoked. The parting occurs when in an effort to defend Will’s father Caesar bits a neighbour landing him in a facility for chimps – and there the paradigm shift occurs as he moves from being man’s best friend to embracing his “nature”.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes benefits from an overwhelming precision. There are no superfluous supporting characters and each scene represents a specific movement forward. The film is essentially a fable, as such it depends on a speediness which doesn’t allow for – or even insist upon extended characterisations. It’s all about the visual, and Wyatt and his team deliver. The film is superbly edited and visual effects are seamlessly added to present the whole leading to as astounding showpiece set upon the San Francisco Bridge. Until then it’s uncertain where the narrative stands on the spat between human and ape and as a key promoter of the animal testing is destroyed by an ape it seems they make up their mind, which – with not much time left in the story – sends the film into curious territory seeming to exist as an allegory for animal rights and when the final scene occurs it seems to underscore that animals and humans should remain separate (albeit, equal in that separation). And really, that’s where my brain can’t help but being carted off in its own direction and I have to spend much more time trying to reconcile the film’s dictum with the film itself.
The issue of scientific ethics is one mired by centuries of debate so I’m neither here nor there on the actual scientific merit of the research. What is bewildering is the implication that, perhaps, there should be no mixing of different cultures. It’s difficult to ignore the potential for metaphor in the apes struggle and amidst the poignancy of Caesar’s homebound claims it reverberates a more disconcerting concept a union between different facets is impossible. There’s an early scene where Caesar asks Will if he’s a pet, a claim Will adamantly denies. And considering Caesar’s ability, and the bond the two have forged, such a title might be insulting – but I’m never completely convinced by what the narrative offer to believe that the apes have it that bad. The primate facility does harbour the despicable Dodge Landon who seems to harbour a significant hatred for the animals but the movement from destroying him to the entire city is dodgy. The thing is, Wyatt never explores that aspect of union between the two civilisations thoroughly, what remains is a thrilling spectacle which leaves a residue of a vaguely bitter backwash. The film offers off a visually satisfying dramatic account of innocuous acts leading to rebellion, but thinking too long on the equation prevents complete compliance after the fact – even though it’s difficult to not be enthralled during its runtime.



Yojimbo_5 said...

Nice. And the dichotomy is part of the mythos of the "Apes" series.
For me, the movie is an upside down version of the first "Apes" movie (way back in 1968)—and that initial hunt for the lab-apes parallels a scene where humans are hunted by apes in the first film—both scenes containing cultural echoes of stealing humans for slaves. The other movie it echoes is (as with the first "Apes" series, specifically Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) is "Spartacus" right down the cages and the quest for freedom, symbolized by Caesar as the image of his window in his attic-room. This one is a good one—it surprised me how effectively it did its job, with little reliance on dialogue.
Really? The attendant's name is Dodge Landon? That's funny...

Candice Frederick said...

yeah the whole scientific debate was really the most poignant part of the movie to me. that really elevated i for me.

Simon said...

I just thought the Dodge character was so ridiculous. I'm sure there are people like him, but he was so exaggerated (or maybe just badly acted, I couldn't tell).

Castor said...

Uh Freida Pinto was totally extraneous! Still can't tell whether she is just a pretty face or whether she can actually act. Overall, really liked this movie, my favorite blockbuster of the summer alongside HP 7.2

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

yojimbo ultimately, yes, it is a rather good one. i'm thinking wyatt is a director to watch, his ability to transfer emotion so succinctly is impressive.

candice it's definitely more than just another blockbuster.

simon i'm not sure. i mean, felton isn't a horrible actor but the dodge (what a name indeed) did seem incredibly one-note. i wonder what was the story behind his hatred of the apes.

castor let me save you the trouble. no, she can't act. i didn't want to get explicitly negative, so i just didn't bother mentioning her. good god, she is wooden.

Fitz said...

I like your point about the meeting of cultures. Perhaps there is no way for some groups to let go of their tensions and just be. Maybe this point will be illustrated more in a sequel.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fitz maybe, even though i have a feeling a sequel might not be as resounding. i don't find much sympathy for the apes, so maybe that could be addressed.