Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hail, Caesar

For purposes of this blog post, which contains many spoilers, I don't demand that everyone agree with my positive assessment of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the blockbuster film that charts the proximate causes behind the beginning stages of the rise of the planet of the apes, but some criticisms are more wrong than others, and a blogger has certain responsibilities to respond to the wrongness he/she finds on the internets.

To wit: the surprising agreement among the Pop Culture Happy Hour spokesmodels that the film's climactic ape riot made little sense. They share bafflement that (a) the apes were not engaging in a mass killing spree on their way out of town, but killed and maimed rather sparingly by the standards of cinematic animal rampages; and (b) that the apes were heading to, of all places, the Muir Woods National Monument located not far from San Francisco, the city where the apes had been detained either as zoo exhibits or medical dummies prior to their liberation and pharmaceutical-fueled cognition boost.

The credibility of (a), the fact that the apes showed restraint in the use of lethal violence against people, is a matter on which reasonable primates can disagree. To me, it simply indicates that the apes' cognitive upgrade came with a more developed ability to weigh the foreseeable consequences of actions, so (as I read it) they were wise enough to reason that excessive violence would bring ruinous reprisal from humans, who still vastly outnumbered and out-armed them.

The credibility of (b), destination Muir Woods, strikes me as not only plausible but among the stronger points of the film. Caesar led them to that spot because it was the one wild, ape-friendly setting he knew based on his positive experiences with his human "father," portrayed by James Franco. He knew what it was like there -- a serene place with tall trees and few people -- and he knew how to get there (cross the very prominent bridge). He did not, as a lesser movie would have him do, suddenly develop a detailed knowledge of and longing for a lost African savannah or forest; nor did he sprout a sudden determination to lead the apes to Rule the Galaxy and/or enslave humankind and/or liberate every captive creature and/or right every wrong on earth. His ambitions were bounded and modest -- gather every ape he knows and lead them to the Muir Woods, which were as far from the depredations of captivity and the injustices of people as it was possible, or necessary, to get -- things feel right there in a way that no other setting in his experience can match. That's entirely believable within the terms of this cinematic world, or so I say.   

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