Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which has a horribly wordy title, is a surprisingly good summer movie. It does everything right, including taking some heavy risks by making us sympathetic to the ape cause. Granted, the alternative was cheering for big business and American consumerism. Few movies push leading characters who aren’t human – especially ones who spend over half the movie without a human counterpart sitting around to remind us that we’re supposed to like them. This was awesome.
One of the major problems I had with this film, though, was how ape intelligence had to be portrayed in human terms. The signing, the writing, and the puzzle solving aren’t necessarily so bad – it’s the speaking. Only four words were spoken by an ape through the entire film, but that was more than enough. Speaking English does not mean a creature is intelligent. You’ve all met people who speak fluent English whom you cannot believe have more rights than monkeys. But the audience is led to believe that the apes have finally transcended because one learns how to speak.
Question for people who know a bit more about animal physiology than I do: Do chimps have the same vocal structure as we do? Would it physically be possible for them to speak English?
Aside from that, Apes was a really good film that makes up for Tim Burton’s failure from a decade ago. The ending was brilliant as well. It’s not so much that the apes grew intelligent and overthrew the humans. It’s that the humans simultaneously developed a deadly (to them) airborne virus along with a virus that advances brain development in apes. We’re led to believe at the end of the film that the contagion has gone worldwide. The apes didn’t so much overthrow their rulers as they did simply inherit the Earth.
Go see this movie. One especially amazing thing is that the named apes in the film are provided more solid characterization and development than most movies starring humans these days. That’s a feat that should be rewarded.