Rise of the Planet of the Apes – What’s The Point?


FOX decided to make a prequel to the Planet of the Apes, because Tim Burton’s remake was considered a disappointment.  The studio owned the property and had to do something with it.  So, they made a prequel.

Prequels are sometimes a hard sell, because the origin story can be tragic, like Star Wars or the upcoming Prometheus. Nobody wants to see utter destruction and despair.  Even 2012 ended with hope, and that’s supposed to be the end of the world!  With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, educated audiences know that even if humans survive the initial attack, they will still face the inevitable enslavement, knowledge provided by the original Planet of the Apes.  That doesn’t sound too happy.  In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine fall apart, but the movie ends with the hope that they will try to stay together with minds erased.  There was no preexisting movie that shows them broken up, which would have invalidated the film.

What about movies where the protagonist dies?  There are successful movies that do this, but there needs to be surprise.  In Night of the Living Dead, the audience follows Ben as he struggles to survive and save others around him.  He is shockingly murdered at the end to make a statement on race.  If the main characters die in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it will feel forced because they have to in the context of the story.  There will be no shock, which will leave no impact.

The best movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes can be is 28 Days Later.  They have similar structure: man experiments on apes; man frees apes; apes cause apocalypse.  Once again, what makes 28 Days Later better is hope and the sense of mystery.  Their struggle against the military men is not in vain, because the audience has learned the zombies can starve and that England is quarantined.  They’re not leaving one situation to be inevitably murdered in another.  Despite the human resistance in Apes, there is no point.  They are just one step closer to doom.

Ultimately, the movie can still be entertaining, as the trailer shows.  However, that will require a suspension of logic and expectations that align more with Star Wars: Episode III than with Planet of the Apes.

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