Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011)

“We gave him a gene therapy that allows the brain to create it own cells in order to repair itself. We call it the Cure to Alzheimer’s.”
The final part of my posts not only covers the latest film in the series, it also represents the beginning of the new future for the saga. There is something quite satisfying when you know that this film, through honouring the previous films, manages to also set-up a franchise for the future – with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes due to hit in 2014. Rupert Wyatt chooses two actors – James Franco and Freida Pinto (Interestingly, stars of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-nominated 127 Hours and Oscar-Winning Slumdog Millionaire repectively) – to lead the film. It is an approach to the franchise which we last saw in Conquest for the Planet of the Apes though. This time we see the true rise of the Apes … rather than the rise of the Apes once Zira and Cornelius screwed up the natural timeline.
Abuse of Animals, Abuse of Power
Unlike Burton’s attempt, Wyatt harks back to first film but flips the themes around. No deeper subtext from the outset. It is clear as day – animals are treated badly. The opening sequence sets up a group who capture a considerable amount of chimpanzees, due to be sent to the USA for experimentation. I want to write how it “raises all sorts of questions regarding treatment of animals and abuse of animals in captivity”, these same questions were tackled in the first Planet of the Apes, but in a slightly different manner – turning the tables on Charlton Heston’s ‘Taylor’.
Unlike the first film, I believe that by portraying the abuse of animals so clearly, it begs the question as to whether there is a further parallel to a societal issue. The language of the the Landons (Brain Cox and Tom Felton), the abusers, is about power, dominance and control.

“You will learn to know who’s boss”

is one line which feels as if the parallel is the abuse of power others wield within an educated society. The idea that those who are powerful in society abuse the control they have. Those who have power also have a duty and responsibility to look after those who are more unfortunate. As this is an enclosure, hidden behind closed doors, it is implied that the issue is rooted within Western society.

Capitalism as the New God
The narrative runs alongside the life of Will Rodman (James Franco). He is a doctor employed by a pharmaceutical company ran by Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) – but there is a conflict of interests. Rodman is motivated by the pursuit of knowledge (a theme in all the films) and personal-interest in curing disease – specifically Alzeheimers, which his Father (John Lithgow) has. His passion for this cure is not financially-motivated and nor is it through an aspiration for power and control. We are clear that this is an honest and just cause. It is Jacobs who is motivated by financial-gain – and he has power and control over Rodman. We are in a world whereby, for some reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the dream of curing disease is second to profit and wealth.
It is the same as what is happening in the Landon’s ape sanctuary. He does not value the life of the animals, and his son has been brought up no doubt to feel the same. The same capitalist attitude Jacobs holds is akin to Landons – except, in societies eyes, Jacobs is an acceptable abuse of power whilst Landon’s we can all agree is wrong. The priorities in society are wrong. The apes are used, abused and killed for the sake of the ol’ dollar. Indeed, Rodman is used for the sake of money. These conflicts will inevitably create a revolution as those without power and without control fight for what is rightfully theirs – a right to equality.
The Future
The last five years have been dominated by economical frustrations. The recession, the bankers and the capitalist model for society simply failing hard-working families. I believe The Dark Knight Rises will be tackling this very issue – and I believe Batman Begins and The Dark Knight hint at economic inequality – this is very much a theme for Hollywood too. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I believe, is about the rise of awareness in this climate. Social-networking means more people talk about the issue and their voice, outside of these networks, will be heard. Social change can be much quicker in this current age as people understand better and see the injustice.
After a rewatch, Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn’t perfect. Some scenes fall flat and the special effects aren’t superb, but there is something real and relevant about what we are watching. Even the relationship between Caroline Aranha (Frieda Pinto) and Rodman is a given – no unnecessary romantic cliches, they simply are. The camera movements swoop and rotate, crashing through buildings as the Apes annihilate San Francisco but what is engaging – scratch that – fascinating, is the deeper meanings that are consistent with the franchise. Rise of the Planet of the Apes flips the story around in every way except one thing is missing: God. The huge discussion about religion and God that features so prominently in Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes is completely missing and instead, it is replaced by money and capitalism. A regressive tax-system that celebrates wealth over the common good. Money is the new God.
The brute force and dominance of the ape over powers every ounce of wealth the ‘system’ provides. These apes operate on trust, loyalty and support – not profitability or a carefully-considered work-life balance. Do we trust the free-press when they hack the phone-lines of grieving parents? Are we loyal to parties that change their manifestos once they gain the seat? Indeed, are they loyal to us when they go-back on the promises they claimed in the run-up to election? Do we feel supported when taxes hit teachers and doctors whilst no one is held accountable for the deep recession we find ourselves in? Trust, loyalty and support. When you think about it, there is a reason we cheer the apes on during their attack and escape from San Franciso – and its not because they’re cute. It’s because they’re us.
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