Ever wonder how it all started? As prequels are increasingly in cinematic fashion these last few years, come to one of the Magic Lantern’s screenings of “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to find out. Starring James Franco and Freida Pinto, this movie goes back to the start of “The Planet of the Apes” mythology.
During experiments on chimpanzees to find a cure against Alzheimer’s, one of the chimpanzees, Caesar, is injected with a substance that enhances his brain’s capacities. From that point on, the animal sets out to free his peers. Opening with a violent scene that would make any animal rights activist furious, the film goes on to show a brutal depiction of how humans treat the apes, which are nothing more than guinea pigs for the scientific experiments. As the tests go on, Will (Franco) decides to slow down, as he realizes he is heading down a very dangerous path. Taken off the project by his boss, who is only interested in making money fast, Will tries to stop Caesar, the chimp he adopted.
Beyond the futuristic tale of miracle cures, the film offers a reflection on our society, which is dictated by technological and scientific progress and money. Although the story shows no limit to the pharmaceutical progress, one thing stops Will: morality.
For centuries, religion and science have been opposed, and films have often played with that conflict. In this movie, there is no sign of religion. What is original in the script is how the screenwriter wants to show that even by excluding questions of religion, there is still a conflict between man and science. Progress is meant to lead the way to evolution, but it must happen slowly, at its own pace. If rushed, progress can be disastrous and fatal to man.
The story also questions mankind. The film shows cruel and almost sadistic behaviors at different levels. The wealthy boss only cares about making more money, so when his employee refuses to continue with the experiments, the CEO takes things into his own hands and heads straight for disaster. The other (and most sadistic) power relationship is between the head guard of the Primate Sanctuary and the apes. The young man (played by “Harry Potter’s” Tom Felton, a.k.a. Draco Malfoy) enjoys torturing the caged animals (typecast much?). But don’t worry — he soon gets a taste of his own medicine.
As the chimps evolve due to the “cure,” they also develop a range of human emotions, such as compassion, cooperation and betrayal. At the head of this revolution, Caesar leads the way to freedom. Not wanting to hurt humans, he tries his best to get his race to a secure place. In the final battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, he is faced with human hostility and witnesses one of his own sacrifice himself for his leader. This marks a turning point, as the apes have no choice but to inflict on humans what humans would inflict on them.
This prequel of the original 1968 film is meant to be a platform for future films in the series.
We can’t guess with certainty how the sequels will be developed, but one thing is sure: Having reached that point of no return, the two races, now enemies, will have to battle for dominance. And if you’ve seen the original films, or even Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, you know who is going to take control.