All Rise for These Apes
I just saw the new movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
I knew before I walked in that it was being hailed for spectacular
special effects, but wasn't sure what the overall effect would be on the
As an animal advocate, I of course watched it
with a much more critical eye than the average person. I know what
primate laboratories look like (much more dank than what was portrayed)
and what chimpanzees inside them go through (even worse than they
depicted). Those of us who appreciate other species' uniqueness don't
find humanizing them cute or appropriate; it's often just annoying.
film is a Hollywood-style rendering which, as such things go,
sacrifices a sizeable amount of biological accuracy and plot
plausibility in order to tell a story that will sell tickets. So you
have to be prepared to cut it some slack, even if you find yourself
rolling your eyes or stifling a "But they don't really".
Still, your eyes have plenty to take in. Visually, the
film is very engaging. The most impressive aspect by far is the use of
motion-capture photography instead of animation or (most notably) real
apes to portray the simian characters. Indeed, the ending credits list
the ape-actors before the human ones.
As director Rupert Wyatt
noted, it would have been unforgivably ironic to make a movie about apes
fighting human exploitation using animal "actors" who themselves would
have been exploited to make such a film. (Some of you may recall the
controversy over the 1987 movie "Project X," an anti-vivisection film
that used real chimpanzees who reportedly were abused).
The use of
this brilliant technology, combined with the equally brilliant acting
talent of Andy Serkis (who plays Caesar, the lead chimpanzee), is even
more impressive when you see the process behind it (click here for behind-the-scenes footage).
It is also the basis for the argument that in this technological age, there's no need to use real animals in films, especially as allegations of abuse continue ("Zookeeper," "Water for Elephants," etc. this year alone).
story itself is decently engaging. It questions the justification for
animal testing (especially when the drug in question affects humans
differently from the chimps), exposes the inadequacies of captive
environments, and homes in on the apes' physical and emotional needs.
not giving too much away to say that you'll cheer for the apes to
escape and for those who abuse them to get their comeuppance. If
anything, you'll marvel (and perhaps lament) that the revenge body count
isn't higher, given how the apes suffer in the name of science,
ignorance and greed. But if the scaled-back violence allows more kids to
see the movie, then it's worth it.
The filmmakers did an
admirable job of portraying the apes as realistic individuals (the
chimps and orangutan more so than the gorilla). Physically, Caesar is
still too human-like, but perhaps in the context of his life story, the
altered physicality represents his psychological conflict, too.
lead human character, played by James Franco, doesn't adequately atone
for his role in keeping the lab chimps confined and doomed, even though
he rescues Caesar. Those familiar with the realities of primate
experimentation will likely think the film doesn't go far enough to
convey that horror, but the general public might, to the extent possible
from a two-hour movie, give greater thought the next time they hear
about a lab protest.
We'll all just have to wait and see whether
the cinematic sequel can give rise to even more awareness and empathy.
But for now, hail Caesar!
Published by admin on 12/26/2011 11:39:28