What lessons learned in “Rise of the Apes”?

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Starring: Andy Serkis and James Franco

2011, PG-13, 2 hrs.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is by far one of the most entertaining films released this summer. The movie highlights a host of social issues, including how a profit driven corporation, which uses scientific research and testing chimpanzees for financial gain, actually goes terribly wrong.

In the movie, actor James Franco plays Will Rodman, a genetic researcher whose aim is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and help his father Charles (John Lithgow), who is afflicted with the disease.

Rodman begins to make headway on his formula by testing it on chimpanzees in a concealed laboratory. Through scientific tests, the apes seem to be reacting to the formula positively and even display hyper-intelligence and cognitive growth.

As Rodman is presenting the progress of the potential Alzheimer’s cure to a board meeting, one of the apes breaks free and begins attacking everyone and everything in sight. The ape is finally put down. Later, it’s revealed that the female ape was only trying to protect the baby she secretly gave birth to while detained.

However, the research is immediately shut down and all of the apes used in the tests are put down, except the unnoticed baby chimpanzee, which Rodman takes home and names Caeser. Caesar carries the gene treatment passed on from his mother and soon enough displays rapid brain development.

For several years, Rodman and Caesar live happily together along with Rodman’s father. But Rodman is determined to continue his research after seeing how bad Alzheimer’s is taking a toll on his father. He decides to test the formula on his father. The results are positive and Rodman’s father seems to be cured. But years later the experiment backfires and the condition of Rodman’s father deteriorates.

After an altercation Rodman’s father has with an obnoxious neighbor, Caeser is ordered into a primate shelter with other apes, of which he has never had any contact with before.

Thus begins the interaction between Caesar and his new ape-mates, and at first the apes do not accept the newcomer. The apes of all kinds are mistreated by their keepers, especially one guard who at one point hoses Caesar down with a high pressured water hose in his cell.

As time passes Rodman tries everything he can to bring Caesar back home, but the highly intelligent ape feels abandoned and alone.

Caesar manages to steal a pocketknife from one of the guards and resents how he and the other apes are being treated. He frees himself from his cage and befriends a silverback gorilla. The two become the supreme leaders of the bunch.

Soon, Caesar evolves into more than your average chimp. Caesar becomes the main organizer, agitator and revolt leader.

Caesar outsmarts his capturer’s and eventually frees himself from the shelter and manages to steal some of Rodman’s formula at his former caretakers home. He uses the gas-like formula to infect his new primate friends back at the shelter and heightens their intelligence.

Through planning and plotting the apes break free and incite a primate revolution as the band of apes take to the streets causing chaos and havoc.

Actor Andy Serkis under the wizardry technology of digital creation plays the computer animated Caesar. Serkis nails the performance.

Sources say Director Rupert Wyatt based Caesar’s character off the international revolutionary Argentinean guerilla leader Ernesto Che Guevara, who helped lead Cuba’s 1959 socialist revolution.

Viewers will sympathize with Caesar who becomes the film’s hero along with his comrades, the silverback gorilla, an orangutan and dozens of other primates who fight for their freedom.

This film speaks about everything that’s wrong when animals or even humans are mistreated and abused for capital gain at the expense of science over nature.

The connection between Rodman, his father and Caesar in the movie is touching.

But the powerful relationships that develop between Caesar and his fellow primates is deeply moving as they heroically fight for their independence.

The societal parallels explored throughout this film are striking. Although the movie is considered a prequel to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, this version of all the films is exceptional and worth seeing on the big screen. Several questions are answered about how the apes came to conquer earth. Viewers also learn how millions of humans die due to Rodman’s formula, which fatally infects one of the scientists during the testing and the contagion continues to spread from one body to the next.

Rise of the Apes also makes you think twice about how real-life scientists use apes and other animals for lab experiments. More importantly, the film is pure entertainment with great action scenes, dramatic suspense and visually stunning special effects.

The film makes you wonder how far humans have come. But it also asks how far we have to go. For example, humans and really all of the world’s natural habitats continue to live with the deadly effects of global warming on the rise, not to mention man-made social ills like mass poverty, war and oppression. Maybe we could use a Caesar-like revolutionary to help us fight and change the world for the better. Go see this movie!

Photo: A close up of Caesar. Courtesy of the film’s website.


Pepe Lozano
Pepe Lozano

Chicagoan Pepe Lozano was a staff writer with the People's World through 2014. He comes from an activist family and has lived on the city's southwest side in a predominantly Mexican-American community his whole life. Lozano now works as a union organizer.