PG-13, 2 hr. Directed By: Rupert Wyatt. Release Date: Aug 5, 2011. DVD Release Date: Dec 13, 2011.
Good science fiction has a basis in good science. How many times have I written those words? I’m fair to middling sure I’ve, um, appropriated them from another source, but damned if I know what the source is now. Whether or not the words are mine, the spirit is. It’s something that I fully believe: any good science fiction will base its technology in existing science, or find a way to explain why known science no longer applies. Heisenberg compensators anyone?
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is generally based on good science. I have a few complaints, primarily, I’m not sure even the great apes have the larynx and other related organs for speech. Do I think they’re smart enough to understand speech? Sure, even without monkey super soldier serum. I have concerns about how quickly the various species of “ape” banded together, since all great apes, to include Homo sapiens have very definite mental (and cultural) lines that form “us” and “them.” It’s a hard line to cross.
There are some really good reminders here: chimpanzees are already known to make use of tools in the wild. The adaptation to spears is an easy one, given the suspension of disbelief required for the serum that makes them better than human smart. Your average chimpanzee has a hand strength in the neighborhood of 50x greater than their human counterparts. Orangutans and gorillas would be stronger still. If push comes to shove in physical combat, humans are dust.
The CGI in this movie is phenomenal, and gives the already expressive faces of great apes even more humanity. I was prepared for this, and this is one place where the movie met its own hype.
But there were other places where I was less convinced. One of my concerns is that this couldn’t explain an Earth dominated by an intelligent apes… so it makes any future movies along the same rebooted thread less. I say this because of two little words: genetic bottleneck. Unless the monkeys we see in other variants of The Planet of the Apes world are like the Hatfields and the McCoys (and there’s no sign of that) surely what we see couldn’t spawn a massive genetically feasible society. Maybe they do recruiting drives of something in the interim?
I did like this, but ultimately think it had too many flaws in the construction of its story for me not to pick at. It’s not like I’m all that forgiving, but I am bummed that I didn’t see this on the big screen. I suddenly wish I knew of one of those theaters that didn’t show new releases, but randomly played other movies, because I’d keep my eyes peeled for this one. I'd also say, hesitantly, that this was one of the best pro... well, pro-monkey movie since Gorillas in the Mist. There's a message about how we treat the other creatures that share this world with us, and provided us with consequences for that arrogance. I do love a good moral to a story.