Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Apes don't like gridlock either.
I finally checked "Rise" out today. After having lived through the original Planet of the Apes with the late Charlton Heston and the sequels that followed, this latest take was interesting, although it had a few plot points I tend to take issue with. And trust me, the end of this movie is definitely set up for its own series of sequels.

The genesis of intelligent apes this time around is genetic manipulation by man. What follows are the 29 Steps to Ape Domination according to this movie:
  1. Open to Bad Humans capturing Innocent Apes in their jungle Eden. They are caged and shipped to GenSys, the Bad Pharma Company, employer of the Misguided Scientist Who Will Cause All That Is To Follow.
  2. Misguided Scientist is developing a cure for Alzheimer's, a gene-based therapy named ALZ-112 that is delivered by an altered virus. Misguided Scientist has a father who suffers from Alzheimer's.
  3. One of the captured apes is female and pregnant. She is pregnant with Caesar, the future ape leader. No one is aware she is pregnant. Major Plot Point.
  4. Misguided Scientist is using Caesar's mom as one of the test subjects for ALZ-112. She shows enhanced intelligence by repeatedly solving a Towers of Hanoi (called Lucas Tower in the movie) puzzle. She develops green flecks in her eyes and is nick-named Bright Eyes by Misguided Scientist because of it.
  5. Misguided Scientist shows results of  Bright Eyes enhanced intelligence to Greedy Boss, who sees Major Money in the treatment. Greedy Boss subsequently schedules a presentation to the GenSys' Board of Directors to gain their approval.
  6. During the presentation, GenSys lab staff attempt to bring Bright Eyes in a cage up to Misguided Scientist's presentation. Little do they realize Bright Eyes has just given birth to Caesar. Their attempt to put her in a cage will separate her from Caesar which infuriates Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes breaks loose and goes on a rampage throughout GenSys.
  7. Bright Eyes breaks into Misguided Scientist's presentation in front of the Board of Directors. Before Misguided Scientist can act Trigger-Happy Security Guard shoots Bright Eyes dead. Scene pulls back with Bright Eyes dead and bleeding profusely on board room table.
  8. As is typical in such movie situations, Misguided Scientist has his project shut down. In the process they euthanize twelve other apes using in the ALZ-112 testing. Newborn Caesar is spared by the lab staff and is taken home in a cardboard box by Misguided Scientist. Major Plot Point.
  9. At Misguided Scientist's house we are introduced to his Stricken Father. Son introduces father to infant Caesar.
  10. A three year period passes in which Misguided Scientist works from home to look after Father and Caesar. Caesar grows more intelligent, surpassing an equivalent human child's intelligence (age-wise). The Father grows worse.
  11. Misguided Scientist brings home four doses of ALZ-112 and gives a dose to Father. Father shows pronounced regression of Alzheimer's the next day. As the days pass the Father's intellect grows beyond what he was pre-Alzheimer's. Misguided Scientist is thrilled.
  12. Caesar lives in the attic of the Misguided Scientist's house, which has round windows at both ends. One day Caesar sees the next-door children riding a bike which fascinates him. One day, a window is left open and Caesar goes out to find that bicycle. In the process Caesar crosses paths with the children's father, an Asshole Airline Pilot. The AAP goes after Caesar with a baseball bat, but Caesar is rescued in the nick of time by Misguided Scientist and Father.
  13. As time passes Father begins to regress, as the Father's immune system starts to fight and kill the virus delivery system. This is the setup for the next major stage on the Path of Doom of Mankind.
  14. During a very bad episode of Alzheimer's the Father goes out and gets into AAP's car, starts it up, and begins to just ram it back and forth between two other parked cars. AAP sees this, goes into a rage, drags Father out of car, and pokes him with his finger. Caesar sees this as aggression against Father who he cares for. Caesar attacks AAP to defend Father, biting the poking finger. Caesar is captured and sent to a Sadistically Run Primate Facility (SRPF) for wayward apes.
  15. The SRPF has an Ape Romper Room. The first time Caesar is allowed into the room it is with the other SRPF's apes. Caesar is beat on by the current alpha male, but before anything bad can happen, both are hit with tranquilizer darts and put back in their cages.
  16. Caesar learns to communicate with all the apes, especially the orangutan Maurice. Caesar one day attempts to show Maurice why the apes must band together to be strong. He uses sticks, creating a crude fasces, a reference to Caesar's name entomology, ancient Rome, and fascism. Maurice rather brightly notes that the apes are too stupid.
  17. SRPF is run by Indifferent Father and his two sons, Stupid and Sadistic. Sadistic has a Lame Friend. Sadistic loves to torture the poor apes. Stupid watches T.V. and occasionally objects to Sadistic's sadism. One evening while Sadistic and his Lame Friend are showing to girlfriends the interior of the center, Lame decides to tease Caesar. Caesar grabs Lame by the throat and steals his knife.
  18. Caesar uses Lame's knife to create a crude tool that lets him get out of his cage and explore the SRPF, finding it's weaknesses. He eventually sees the numeric code on a door lock, which he later uses to escape one night and head back into the city.
  19. In the meantime, the Misguided Scientist has spilled the beans about his original trials with his father, and the problem with the immune system, to the Greedy Boss. Misguided Scientist tells Greedy Boss he needs a strong agent to deliver the gene therapy, something in a handy aerosol. Greedy Boss immediately sees Major Money again, gives immediate go-ahead to Misguided Scientist. This leads to a stronger (read: more viralent) agent, ALZ-113. Major Plot Point.
  20. During an initial test of ALZ-113 on an ape test subject, the ape is strapped to a bed and a mask placed on its face to deliver the aerosol agent. The ape breaks free, knocks a hose delivering the agent loose, and knocks the mask off the one lab staff that saved Caesar. Unbeknownst to him he gets a snoot full of the aerosol agent before he gets his mask back on. Major Plot Point.
  21. Misguided Scientist takes home four of the new ALZ-113 canisters. One is used on the father, but the father dies the next morning. The ape test subject is showing high intelligence, at one point spelling the Greedy Boss' name, 'Jacobs' on a touch screen monitor. Meanwhile, the one lab staff exposed to the agent is getting progressively ill, coughing up blood. Right before the lab staff person dies, he goes to the Misguided Scientist's house looking for the Misguided Scientist, knocking on all the doors. The AAP hears him, comes down to yell at him for disturbing the peace, and in the process is sneezed on with infected blood. Major Plot Point.
  22. Three days after exposure the lab staff person is dead, discovered by his landlady, bleeding out through the eyes, ears, and nose. Meanwhile Greedy Boss has given the go-ahead to start major production of ALZ-113. Misguided Scientist warns Greedy Boss about the consequences of sloppy testing of ALZ-113.
  23. During all of this a manned mission to Mars, the "Icarus", is launched. Major Plot Point.
  24. Caesar sneaks out again, this time to go to the Misguided Scientists house. While there he finds the other three canisters of ALZ-113. Caesar takes them back and opens them in the SRPF, exposing all the other apes. The next morning all the other apes are intelligent. Major Plot Point.
  25. Sadistic and Stupid try to control the apes. In a scene with Caesar, Stupid utters "Get your paws off me you damn dirty ape", at which point Caesar says his first human word, "No." Sadistic eventually winds up dead, Stupid winds up in a cage and traumatized, and the apes make a break and head for GenSys.
  26. The apes overrun GenSys, releasing all the other altered apes. Greedy Boss walks into the middle of the mayhem, listening to a phone call telling him that ALZ-113 doesn't affect humans the same as apes, it kills humans. Greedy Boss finally sees the apes, who chase him out.
  27. The apes make a break for freedom across the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of them make it across to Muir Woods. In the process a gorilla sacrifices itself to take out a helicopter trying to kill all the apes. Greedy Boss is on board. The copter is taken down. Only Greedy Boss survives. Greedy Boss begs Caesar to save him, but Caesar turns away and lets one of the GenSys test subject push the wrecked helicopter off the bridge and into the bay.
  28. Misguided Scientist finds Caesar in Muir Woods and asks him to "come back home." Caesar whispers to Misguided Scientist "I am home." Surprised, Misguided Scientist agrees. Scene closes on Caesar and his ape comrades up in the top of the trees, looking back across the forest to a burning Golden Gate Bridge.
  29. Movie ends with the AAP leaving for the airport. As he heads towards his flight his nose is bleeding. The scene ends with yellow airline routes running across the world as infection vectors, with yellow areas around major cities indicating the rapid spread of the lethal infection.

Homages to Past Movies
  • Misguided Scientist named Caesar's mother 'Bright Eyes' due to the green color flecks in her eyes as a side effect of the ALZ-112 virus. 'Bright Eyes' was the name given to Taylor by Dr. Zira in the original Planet of the Apes film.
  • The flight to Mars is Icarus. This is the name of the spacecraft in the original Plant of the Apes film.
  • Caesar plays with a model of the Statue of Liberty in Misguided Scientist's attic. This is a homage to the Statue of Liberty scene at the end of the original Planet of the Apes film.
  • Sadistic uses an electric prod and a water hose on Caesar. These were used on Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes film.
  • Sadistic says two lines, "It's a madhouse! A madhouse!" and "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!", which were Taylor's lines in the original Planet of the Apes film.

Plot Holes
  • They didn't check Caesar's mom enough to note she was pregnant. I find that very hard to believe a good veterinarian staff at a major pharmacy company would be that grossly incompetent. Gestation for chimpanzees is 237 days, humans 266.
  • GenSys uses heavy tech. A simple video feed would have been sufficient to show Bright Eyes at the board meeting. But then we wouldn't have had a rampaging ape that needed shooting, and a shutdown of the ALZ-112 project.
  • Even though the project is shut down, there's still a lot of vials of the stuff floating around, and slack enough security that the Misguided Doctor can sneak material out of a supposedly secure lab.
  • Keeping an ape in a residential area  for years on end without somebody complaining a lot sooner.
  • Sneaking infant ape Caesar out in a cardboard box from GenSys. With holes cut in it. That didn't draw any attention from security. Really.
  • The miraculous remission the Misguided Scientist's Father's Alzheimer's. I'm assuming he had regular medical care, with a real doctor, who would have freaked out over that patient's near-instantaneous remission. A real doctor would have been all over that like, pardon the expression, ugly on an ape. Questions would have been asked. The ape would have been out of the bag.
  • The second breach in protocol where the Misguided Scientist brings home four canisters of ALZ-113.
  • The failure to quarantine the lab staff when his face mask was yanked off for more than 24 hours. That would have shown the virility of ALZ-113.

Final Points

"Apes" has been a foil for the fears of the culture in which it was written and later filmed. The original story by Pierre Boulle had the intelligent apes/primitive humans on a planet orbiting Betelgeuse. According to the story the planet was at one time ruled by humans in their distant past. The humans built a technological society and enslaved their apes to perform manual labor. Over centuries the Betelgeuse humans grew ever more dependent upon their ape servants until the humans became so lazy and degenerate that they were overthrown by their ape servants and degenerated into a final primitive state. This follows the idea of a decadent bourgeoisie and their 'deserved' fall at the hands of the oppressed (in this case the apes).

In the original Planet of the Apes film human society was destroyed by a nuclear war, leaving the majority of the human descendants in a primitive state. Later sequels to the original filled in the origin history, including the slavery issue of primitive apes. As a product of the 1960s and 1970, the original film incorporated fears and themes of the times, specifically nuclear war and racism.

This latest movie taps into a series of contemporary fears, which include the fear of contamination of genetically modified (GM) products, primarily food, fear of Alzheimer's (and other degenerative diseases), fear of the rapid spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, and the fear of unintended side-effects of rushing new drugs to market.. Mix in the usual fear of science run amok and a fear of a major industry (in this case, Big Pharma), and you have a potent paranoid stew.

One major problem with this movie is the string of improbable events that have to occur in the order postulated to produce the movies' denouement. Any one of those major plot points are tough enough, from having an ape at your house for years to poor protocol in handling ALZ-112 and ALZ-113, to how everything mixed together. I will give points to combining the vectors for the ape's intelligence and the demise of humanity's civilization into one vector, the virus ALZ-113. It's clean, if improbable. And as much as I liked the characters, character development was minimal at best, producing stock simplistic characters. In particular it's Yet Another Movie About Science and Technology Destroying Us (YAMASATDU), and I'm getting a bit tired of it. It's all that science and technology that gave us the movie with its marvelous effects, about the horrible consequences of using science and technology.

This latest movie is ripe for a sequel. The Icarus launch, the rapid spread of the ALZ-113, the man-made human killer, the escape of the intelligent apes, all are a setup to a re-boot of the original Planet of the Apes movie. I have no doubt that there will be a new Planet of the Apes, and more to follow after that I'm sure.

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