Sunday, August 14, 2011
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Primates of the World, Unite!
just saw "Rise of Planet of the Apes": a prequel to the 2001 remake of the Hollywood 70s franchise based on the 1963 French novel by Pierre Boulle. Considering the attitudes to France in the US (one Christian nutcase recently declared the Statue of Liberty to be an evil idol smuggled into the country by the French Freemasons), the authors (of the remake (Rupert Wyatt dir.) wisely decided not to acknowledge the initial inspiration. Too bad because the novel is hilarious and highly recommended. It has the most unusual love triangle you're likely to encounter in literature (hint: think of a Frenchman torn between a stunning beauty with the mind of a monkey and a wise and compassionate lady with the body...you guess it!) No such risque situations in Hollywood, of course, where mindlessness is hardly exceptional. However, even though I went to the movie ready to curse, like Balaam I've been forced to bless. It is actually quite a good movie and moreover, I see it as an interesting cultural symptom.
The plot hinges on the discovery of a cure for Alzheimer's which has the unintended consequence of raising the intelligence of the primates on whom it is tested. It also eventually unleashes a wold-wide plague. So the movie handily taps into two great cultural anxieties: the aging baby boomers confronted with their own mortality and cuts to Medicare versus the young generation who feel unfairly saddled with caring for their elders and probably would not mind a plague or two in the old-age facilities. So far so good; but suddenly the movie abandons geriatric angst and moves on to depicting the mistreatment of the lab primates, which is quite heartbreaking. And when Caesar the genius ape rebels, teaches his fellow chimps, gorillas and orangs to speak, wield weapons and crash cars, and leads them to the promised land in the redwoods, I at least was ready to cheer.
Call it far-fetched but I could not stop thinking about the current worldwide unrest: the Arab spring, the disturbances in London, demonstrations in Israel...Perhaps the new age of revolution is upon us. So let it come. I can only hope that when the downtrodden rise up, they will be as restrained and humane as Caesar the ape.
And finally a personal note: all the movie catastrophes happen in NYC and LA, so I was very pleased to have this particular apocalypse strike my beloved city of San Francisco. The movie has some great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods.