2011-08-05

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Even Little Sins Have Big Consequences

by Yo Snyder

It’s always difficult to tell a story when people already know the
ending. The challenge is to make that story interesting and to keep
audiences engaged with the journey despite the fact that they know where
it will end up. Not everyone can pull this off (and yes, I’m referring
to George Lucas and his telling of how Anakin became Darth Vader). While
Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t always do a great job
tackling this task, it does do a pretty good job. Despite the fact that I
knew how things were going to end, I enjoyed watching how it all got to
that final, inevitable point.

The film hinges on just how
believable the CGI apes are, and fortunately with the help of WETA
Studios (the special effects house of Lord of the Rings and King Kong
fame) and Andy Serkis (the guy who played Gollum), they’re the most
compelling parts of the movie; as they should be. Once again, Serkis
astounds with just how much of a performance he can deliver despite
being immersed in technology. All the motion capture and CGI doesn’t
obscure any of the nuance of Ceasar’s development from accidental lab
chimp to leader of an ape revolt. While it’s hard to express motivation
for what these apes hope to accomplish (and a clearer understanding of
what their ultimate objective is would’ve helped add resonance to the
movie), Serkis is able to create a character that viewers can connect
with and even sympathize with. The mere fact that he’s one of the best
parts of the film is a testament to his brilliant performance and the
technology that helps bring it to life. Unfortunately, it’s also the
result of rather weak human characters.

While the apes and the
unfolding of their story is fascinating to watch, the people populating
this world are little better than contrivances, caricatures, and
convenient plot points to help move things forward. It’s such a shame
because if these characters had been better developed and allowed to add
some depth to the proceedings, this could have been a really great
movie. If James Franco’s character alone had taken some time to reflect
on all that was happening and his role in it, the movie could have had
some added emotional punch and some intellectual depth. Indeed, what
makes the original Planet of the Apes such a classic is its
ability to get you to ponder issues beyond the interesting fact that
apes now rule the world. Great sci-fi often entails some philosophical
musings, but that is sadly lacking here and often threatens to sink an
otherwise good movie. That being the case, I guess I’ll just have to
interject some musings of my own. 

You know, when we want
something badly enough, it’s easy to justify our doing anything possible
to make it happen. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude can also blind
us to the potential consequences of our sin. We may think a little white
lie will prove to be harmless, but is it? A little sin here and there
isn’t so bad as long as no one’s really getting hurt, right? As long as
we don’t break the big ten, bending a few rules here and there isn’t so
bad, is it? You know, this movie hinges on one character’s decision to
do something that may have seemed like the right thing to do at the
time, but ultimately leads to the downfall of the world. Sure it wasn’t
that big of deal, and it was for the good of others, but the
consequences of that one little wrong act was truly epic. So it is with
all sin. In the Bible, it sometimes seems God is pretty harsh and severe
when it comes to sin, but that’s only because sin is a serious problem
with some serious consequences. Even the “little ones” have devastating
effects. It’s not because God is angry with us that he’s so severe about
sin, but rather because he loves us so much that he doesn’t mess around
with this issue in our lives. His son Jesus died on cross to help free
us from sin, because the consequences of it are just too much to escape
on our own; no matter how small sin may seem in our lives. A fateful
decision in a lab forever changed the world in this movie. A fateful
decision in a garden forever changed our world, and then God stepped in
and changed it again with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s an interesting story, and one that’s definitely worth
investigating.

As for the ape’s story in Rise of the Planet of the Apes,
well that’s interesting too. There are some fun little inserts for fans
of the original spread throughout the movie, and the climax lived up to
my every expectation. As I said, a little more exposition and
development here and there would have gone a long way to really giving
this movie much more resonance, but as it is, it tidily tells the story
that we’ve all come to see; how the apes come to a point where they
revolt against humans. At the very least, it’s an improvement over the
disappointing Tim Burton remake, and for many, that may be more than
enough reason to rise up and see this movie.