My favorite film is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I greatly admire the fact that twenty-first century reboot of the classic Planet of the Apes series has been attempted. It is therefore all the more painful for me that it is so poorly done. In fact, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and its sequel Dawn) has to be one of the worst films ever. It compensates for its poor quality with its unique idea of intense primate action and nonhuman hero, following in the footsteps of the immensely popular King Kong franchise.
Warning: the whole movie is going to be spoiled, so don’t read the rest of the article if you have not seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, not that there is much that can be spoiled.
In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a group of apes are in a lab, the Gen-sys, where they are tested for a drug that increases their intelligence, part of a project to cure brain degeneration, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. One ape escapes, goes berserk, and is killed, so that the management euthanizes the other apes and scraps the whole project. But two lab workers, Franklin and Will Rodman, find that the escaped ape gave birth to a baby in secret, which meant she was being protective (by escaping, she thought the humans would be lured away, a tactic done with predators in the wild). Not having the heart to euthanize the baby, Will Rodman takes him home and names him Caesar. The baby turns out to have caught the smart drug from her mother’s womb. So Caesar secretly grows up being the smartest chimp on Earth in a suburban household that also contained Will’s dad with Alzheimer’s and Will’s girlfriend who is a veterinarian and a primatologist. They met when Will took three year old Caesar to her over an injury sustained when Caesar went into the angry next door neighbor’s house. Caesar for the first three years of his life undergoes an intense education which primarily involves learning sign language. Then, for the next five years, he is taken to the Muir Woods and spends his time swinging about the treetops. That is all that is shown of his life. Caesar is also made aware of the existence of the Gen-sys and the San Francisco zoo.
When Caesar attacks the grumpy neighbor, he is taken to an animal sanctuary called the San Bruno Primate Shelter but which only contains great apes. For some reason, the different species share the same place, which they go out to during the day. When night comes, the keeper tells the apes to go back in their cages, which they all unanimously do. Huh. And it is here that Caesar’s epic rise to power and becoming a leader of an ape rebellion against humanity begins.
And this is how it entirely goes.
Caesar is told he cannot go back home just yet, Caesar gets depressed, Caesar meets talking (sign language) circus orangutan, by a great stroke of (Hollywood) luck, a local guy (who gets an unauthorized entry into the shelter by the corrupt shelter keeper) gets close to Caesar’s cage with a wine bottle he opens with a pocketknife, Caesar grabs him and gets his knife, Caesar opens his cage at night (cage has an outside lock into which one can insert anything), Caesar opens a gorilla cage, gorilla, which was in solitary confinement, is happy, gorilla and Caesar get out alpha chimp and beat him up so Caesar becomes alpha, Caesar a few days later steals a jar of cookies and feeds it to all apes while teaching alpha chimp to share, circus orangutan tells Caesar the next day that apes are dumb, Caesar the next night goes out to San Francisco and takes some drugs from Will’s house, an aerosol can containing a newly-developed virus which enhances an ape’s intelligence enormously, Caesar goes back to the shelter and sprays it all over the apes (then leaves the cans on the ground, yet nobody noticed them), the next day, apes all get smart, Caesar holds a conference in which he goes ooh, ooh, and ah, ah, as night comes, Caesar refuses to get back in his cage, leading the teenage keeper to get inside the atrium with him and start electrocuting him, Caesar beats him up and puts him in a cage, the apes get excited, Caesar releases them all, they put another keeper in a cage, the apes all go out to San Francisco and release all the apes in the Gen-sys labs and the zoo, hundreds of apes go wild in the streets of San Francisco while a police helicopter containing the Gen-Sys CEO follows them, Caesar and the apes cross the Golden Gate Bridge, police and Swat team collect on the bridge, but not at the base, when Caesar gives signal, the apes jump out from everywhere and grab the officers’ guns, defeating them, man on police helicopter starts firing on them with machine gun, Caesar appears in front and throws chain at him without getting shot, another man starts firing handgun at Caesar, gorilla then appears and jumps hundreds of feet off the bridge onto the helicopter (the most improbable scene in the movie), helicopter crashes onto bridge, and the apes get off the bridge without further hassle, because there is no police presence off the bridge.
This is Caesar’s “prison conversion to charismatic pan-ape revolutionist,” according to Nick Pinkerton of the Village Voice. Battling a SWAT team is no child’s play, yet all the training the apes got for it is eating cookies, as well as taking the brainy medicine. During the uprising itself, the apes did not encounter any sort of firing or any serious conflict with humans until they faced the police gathered at the end of the bridge. They then somehow know how to deal with the weapons? The time span for the creation of the ape uprising is also very short. Caesar spends an indeterminate amount of time in the shelter before “Caesing the knife” (though probably it was very long, since Gensys started and succeeded in creating a new species of virus during his incarceration). After Caesar becomes the alpha male, probably a few days later, the cookie handout, the first stage of the training in fighting the SFPD and SWAT, occurs. The next day, the orangutan tells Caesar, “Apes are dumb.” That night, Caesar goes out for the drugs. The next day, Caesar holds speeches. That night, the uprising itself begins, which ends that afternoon with hundreds of police officers and Swat personnel being subdued in a matter of minutes.
Yeah! The Revolution will be televised! The Revolution will be Hollywoodized! The Revolution will come on four legs and slap mindless action in your face! And it was all thanks to the cookies. Wonder what brand it was?
If not the start of an ape rebellion against humanity, then just a planned and coordinated uprising to free captive apes into the wild, should have been far more complex and taken more preparation, skill, and hard work. Caesar is after all an eight year old chimp who spent his whole life living in perfect comfort and peace in California, while the bunch of rowdy apes in the shelter had to go out and perform very complicated actions, which included fighting a SWAT team, which is no small matter. There should have been a lot of preparation, a lot of training, a lot of things going on during the transformation. There should have been a story. Most of all, the movie should have been filled with ideas, lots and lots of ideas, concerning the massive transformation about to befall the world.
Yet, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and from what I hear, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, have no ideas at all, unlike the original film series which began with the Charlton Heston movie. This is a shame, because they could have combined ideas with action in the reboot. I think that the original Planet of the Apes series was popular because (in a time when Hollywood was oriented towards ideas) it had ideas (but no action), Tim Burton’s 2001 remake was unpopular because it had neither ideas nor action, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is popular because it has action but no ideas (in a time when Hollywood is only oriented towards the former). Well, I believe that the new film series could be both exciting and intellectual.
There are also many absurd things in the movie. At the beginning, when an ape escapes from a lab and gets onto a table in front of corporate executives, a guard comes and shoots the ape several times while the execs are behind her. How on Earth could a female ape in a lab go unnoticed being pregnant and giving birth. Why would a company halt for eight years a groundbreaking project in treating neural diseases just because a chimp test subject escaped, making them conclude the drug makes one go mad (it reminds me of how one American scientist in the 1800s said that mental illness makes slaves run away). The project is scrapped on the basis of one sudden outburst from one chimp. The project was opened up again when some guy said to the CEO that he five years ago stole the drug and tested it on his father with Alzheimer’s, which cured him.
How could a primatologist live with a chimpanzee whose intelligence was greatly enhanced by a secret project and not notice it at all? How could any mainstream animal shelter put chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas in the same space, (while putting a particularly dangerous gorilla in a small cage all the time). It is the universal rule that you do not put animals together if they are a danger to each other. Chimpanzees can very well be a danger to orangutans and bonobos, while gorillas can be a danger to all. When Caesar went in, the alpha chimp started viciously attacking him. He, however, does not ever threaten the old circus orangutan. By the way, in the shelter, there was seen just one orangutan and one gorilla (which was in a cage), but when the apes were on the Golden Gate Bridge, several orangutans and gorillas were there. They could not have been taken from the zoo, since apes there did not receive the aerosol and had no preparation for the uprising at all. The orangutans, at a call from Caesar, went from under the bridge and quickly grabbed the SWAT men’s guns, while the gorillas, on just one gesture from Caesar, went over to overturn a bus and push it towards the police. And how could the police chief on the helicopter have placed the police blockade on the bridge itself, and not on the base of the bridge. The apes simply went around them by climbing under the bridge and over its wires. Then, there is the question of how apes, which never received a single bit of training, disarmed an entire SWAT team and several police officers. Finally, when Franklin’s mask came off when the ALZ-113 was released into the air, why was he not quarantined or checked? The Gen-Sys did not even take notice when he fell ill.
It seems Rise of the Planet of the Apes has its plot run on inconsistencies and oddities.
Do note one thing, and that is that Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes place in 2018, in an America which seems to be very corrupt and inefficient. By the time Rise came out in 2011, it was already manifesting itself in real life when America was struck by a recession caused by corrupt finance, and not even Obama, who advocates economic policies similar to what Hitler used to skillfully end the depression in Germany, could alleviate it at all. So Rise is probably making a political statement that America is going seriously down in the years to come. This explains the extremely poor standards of the drug company (which resulted in the release of a deadly virus), the extremely poor standards of the primate shelter, and the poor police response to the ape escape. But it does not explain everything, like how the apes are so great that they battle police with no training.
Other discrepancies can be explained. For example, when Franklin becomes seriously sick and starts coughing up blood, he knows it is because he was exposed to the newly-invented virus at the lab. Instead of notifying the lab, going to the hospital, or otherwise alerting the authorities to a very serious matter, after two days being out with sickness, he goes calling on Will to tell him about his illness and meets up with the angry next door neighbor Hunsiker, sneezing blood on him. Franklin then says, “Sorry, I am very sorry,” to Hunsiker, meaning he knows he passed the disease on, and then he goes back to his house and dies. Since Hunsiker is a pilot, he should know that if somebody sneezes blood on him, he has probably caught a serious disease and should not get onto a plane. Maybe he went for a check up at the hospital, but they could not detect anything since it is a new disease. But when Hunsiker went to the airport for his flight, blood started running out of his nose, which should have alerted him that something is up. Instead, he ignores it and gets onto the plane, spreading the disease across the world and dooming humanity.
Why did the two individuals behave this way, especially Franklin, whose response was incredibly stupid? The reason is that the disease they were infected with was a fatal and rapid brain disease, which meant it destroyed their thinking and judgment before killing them. Before dying, Franklin’s brain function must have been so impaired he could not do anything except knock on people’s doors saying, “Help, I am infected with a new disease that could pose a serious threat to humanity.” Still, when Franklin’s mask came off when an ape smashed a machine causing the virus to be released into the air, the authorities should have quarantined Franklin. A new virus with huge potential has been invented after all. How can post-Obama America be this dumb?
Ah, well, I thought things would be better with the sequel. But that hope was dashed to the ground as well. When I read about the basic premise of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and learned it took place 15 years after Rise, took place in a world where almost all humans were dead from the virus, and was about Caesar’s empire going to war with what humans remained, I was shocked.
Basically, the entire film series is supposed to be about the few apes on Earth rising up against humanity to create a planet of apes, yet there really is no story about this. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is about a few hundred apes escaping from captivity into a forest. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes starts with a post-apocalyptic world in which apes rule. What! The first film is about the ape rebellion in its very infancy, the second film is about apes, who are already in power, embarking on an attempt to subjugate the pitiful remnants of humanity. In fact, Dawn is probably going to be about a human rebellion against apes! How could this movie come right after a movie about an ape rebellion just starting? There has to be a movie in between the two, showing how the apes rise to power. This should have been so because the ending of Rise, showing Caesar and a few hundred apes escaping into Muir Woods, indicates the struggle is only just beginning.
Apes are adapted to living in tropical rainforests, which the Californian wilderness is far from. The nearest habitats in which Caesar’s troop can live wild are Yucatan and Florida, which are very far away. Muir Woods and other forests in California are filled with the tallest trees on Earth, so they can provide sufficient shelter against humans out to get them, but there is absolutely no food in Muir Woods which can support a population of great apes. There are just acorns and squirrels. There are very few bugs, and therefore birds, in Muir Woods because of the high amount of lignin in the trees. There is something ironically called the banana slug, but apes cannot just eat this, no matter how enticing it looks. The leaves of Muir Woods are very inedible, even for gorillas. That means that after escaping into Muir Woods, Caesar and his group will have to constantly leave the forest to either raid human settlements for food or go into agricultural fields and raid crops. They could possibly pose a serious danger to people while they do so. This will give human beings both the ability and the motive to kill or capture the apes. Also, they can leave out poisoned or tainted food for the apes, resulting in Caesar’s group either staying in the forest and starving or getting out of the forest and getting killed.
Caesar and the apes cannot be helped at all by the epidemic that resulted from the virus, beneficial to apes but fatal to humans, leaking out from the lab. First of all, it is implied that the center of the epidemic will be New York or Paris, far away from California. Secondly, the virus cannot at all spread fast enough to cause enough damage in California so that humans are too distracted to pay attention to the apes (unless it’s a rabies-like zombie virus which makes its victims bite each other, like in the films I Am Legend or World War Z, which it is not). The apes after all will likely starve or get killed in a few days. Thirdly, even if the viral apocalypse is underway, it does not mean humans will leave the apes alone. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and emergency personnel had to save hundreds of thousands of people, police were still focusing on looters who were stealing things like packs of biscuits. Therefore, if the Gen-Sys disease spreads so much that California is placed under emergency status, the police will still try to hunt down the very dangerous animals (orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas) which are running about stealing food from people.
Therefore, Caesar and his apes will have to undergo a severe and epic struggle for survival. The ending of Rise gives the false impression that they have found a new life and that their travail has ended after they got past the Golden Gate Bridge, but in fact, not only is there not enough wild food in California for them, but there are not enough forests either. California has been extensively deforested and Muir Woods is very small in area. There are extensive forests in the northern part of California, but it will take quite a lot of effort for the apes to know they are there (unless Caesar already knows it from his vacations), to get there (there is flat land between Muir and the northern forests, where the apes would be vulnerable). In addition, the storyline is supposed to be about a planet of the apes forming, but the few hundred apes that Caesar freed cannot multiply any time soon into a number large enough to form a society colonizing California. Apes have very slow birth rates. Orangutans can only have one child every eight years. But if there are so many apes in San Francisco alone in the movie, there would be probably large amounts of captive apes in the rest of California and surrounding regions as well. Caesar would learn where they are and plan their freedom, expanding his group. Also, the epidemic would result in huge amounts of apes being taken into laboratories for desperate research into a way to cure or stop the disease. Given that the disease was invented in San Francisco and that San Diego is in real life the center of biological engineering, the captive apes would likely be mostly within reach of Caesar. Therefore, his ape army would embark on further expeditions to free apes. This is the only way to explain how the apes could be numerous enough to overthrow humans. I read in the summary for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that the population of Caesar’s group is two thousand, but that cannot be enough to colonize California and fight with humans, given that the latter are apparently still very numerous. So, the battle for survival and for rising to power has not even begun for Caesar and the apes, when they got past the Golden Gate Bridge, and I fully expected that the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes would show this. Instead, it skipped their formative struggle and shows apes oppressing humans.
The film series could have scientifically showcased the dynamics of the rise of the apes and the capabilities of the animals, instead of mindlessly showing them kicking ass without doing anything real.
For example, apes, being much stronger than humans, can throw bigger things. Throwing things is more effective than guns and other projectile missiles because the bullets just go straight and cannot work when a barrier is separating apes and humans. But if apes throw heavy things over the barrier, these things would go up and then fall down on the humans. Take the example of the bus the gorillas push across the bridge in the climax to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and apply the idea to it. All the apes are behind the bus, so the police try shooting at the bus or around it, but it does not work at all. Then, it is the apes’ turn. They collect a lot of motorcycles, motorcycle parts, dismantled street lights, car tires, things they took from vehicles (such as furniture, bags, etc), dismantled car engines, and other car parts, and they all throw it over the bus so that it rains down on the police. When conflict between apes and humans escalate in the sequels, it may seem this will not matter anymore because humans will start throwing grenades and bombs. But apes are much better at scampering than humans.
The movie could have explained the science behind what is happening more.
Let me think. One thing making humans smarter than apes is that humans as babies undergo an intense transformation in which the brain cells connect to each other faster than in apes. Therefore, the ALZ-112 drug was created to make the brain cells of both apes and humans with Alzheimer’s connect with each other. This was a retrovirus that formed a symbiotic relationship with neurons, feeding off their electrical energy while helping the cells expand. The virus was improved until it filled a cranium’s capacity to the brim with neurons, making apes very smart. The virus was not contagious as it fused directly with the nervous system, as well as the female utero. An ape in development benefited more from the drug; therefore, Caesar was smarter than his mother was.
The ALZ-113 was very different and was not an improvised version of its predecessor. The whole ALZ series consisted of unrelated genetic engineering attempts to cure brain degeneration. Another factor in limiting an ape’s intelligence is the fact that the regions of its brain responsible for intellect and other human-like capabilities were smaller than a human’s. Therefore, the new virus created after Will Rodman restarted the ALZ project was made to modify the ape’s brain and the size of its different region. The regions of the ape’s brain which were the same as the naturally enlarged regions in a human’s brain were made to be enlarged as well. In addition, the 113 virus, which was modified from the 112 virus, also contained the 112’s ability to connect brain cells with each other. This gave apes the maximum intelligence possible in a brain three times smaller than a human’s. The final result was that apes had half the intelligence of humans. The great physical capabilities of apes more than compensated for this difference, so that apes are now able to take over the world.
Now, this part obviously cannot be explained in Rise, but I wish Dawn would do it, which I am sure they won’t. As for the 113’s effects on humans, human beings already have their targeted regions be of a large size. Therefore, the virus makes them too large, killing humans. In effect, internal brain swelling occurs. This causes hemorrhage, resulting in the person’s blood running out. When the person dies, the virus, no longer having living tissue to be in symbiosis with, eats up the entire nervous system, the brain and all the nerves in the body. At the same time, individual viruses with no food float out of the body and into the air. So an infected dead body emits massive amounts of ALZ-113 into the air from its mouth, nose, eyes, and ears over a long period of time. This means very bad news for humans. A city filled with dead bodies will have its air saturated with the virus as much as Los Angeles is saturated with fog. A person standing one mile from a dead body can catch the virus. Hence, the epidemic which was started by Franklin and Hunsiker will spread rapidly and widely. Humanity may ultimately be driven to extinction.
These are just a few of the potential ideas that should have been in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There are many more I have thought of, but I will save them for later. But they show that there really should have been put more thought into the Planet of the Apes series that is being produced. I have separately written my own plot synopsis for the series. One is the storyline for what I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes should have been; the other involves leaving Rise as it is and is the storyline for what happens after the events of Rise, which is what we shall focus on. The damage of Rise is already done, and I have the hope that it is not too late for Dawn.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has already been mostly produced and will come out soon, but my ideas will likely make much more money. So, maybe I can persuade Matt Reeves to scrap the whole project and start it over again. Who knows?