August 17, 2011


For those of us decrepit enough to remember the original 1968* movie “Planet of the Apes” with Charlton Heston (human) and Roddy McDowell** (ape), (or the 1974 TV series with McDowell but not Heston), “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a high-tech, far cry from the DISCOUNT HALLOWEEN COSTUME STORE RUBBER-MASKED primate sci-fi drama. It’s about Big Pharma and Big Research and Big Greed and Tortured Lab Animals and Wouldn’t It Be Nice If We Would Just Hand Earth Over to the Animals Because They’re Generally Better People Than We Are.

Will Rodman (a mediocre James Franco—sorry!) is a scientist who dreams of curing Alzheimer’s. It’s also personal because his Dad (John Lithgow) suffers from the disease. Will works for a lab that dreams of making lots of money off Will’s experiments on apes. There is great promise in a serum injected in the animals, but things go off track and the whole experiment is shut down and the apes put down. Will adopts the infant (whom his Dad names “Caesar”—played by Andy Serkis) of one of the euthanized chimps and raises him at home. It turns out Caesar was positively enhanced by the serum injected in his mother, so Will injects it into his Dad. When Caesar attacks someone in the neighborhood (defending Will’s Dad) he is court-ordered to a primate refuge, much to the chagrin of Will and Caesar.

Caroline (Freida Pinto, “Slumdog Millionaire,” good actress!) is a veterinarian who becomes Will’s love interest, but doesn’t influence the story much at all.

The end of “Rise” is a long chase/escape/battle of the apes breaking free from imprisonment and humans trying to stop them.

“Rise” is a bit cloying in its use of the ape’s facial expressions and human-like qualities. But, of course, we have to be invested in Caesar who is a non-human main character. However, even though these are fictional, enhanced, higher-intelligence apes, people today are a bit confused about the actual place in Creation of animals in relationship to humans. There are statements in the film like: “They’re not people, you know,” and you get the feeling that we, the audience, are supposed to be saying under our breath: “Oh, yes they are!”

There is not much of a take-away here. No memorable dialogue or lessons to be learned. Sheer entertainment.

I think the impulse and insight (of the nature/animal lover) that nature/animals are good and innocent should be affirmed. But too often, humans are seen as bad and corrupt, and therefore nature/animals are necessarily better/higher. (When you think about it, this is a Protestant view of humans!) I totally get this because that’s where I was at before I met God.

Those who LOVE nature/animals inordinately (or over-against humans) and those who ABUSE nature/animals are actually cut from the same cloth. NEITHER see humans as PART of nature, but standing outside it. For the nature/animal lovers, humans are aliens who do not belong here and have no right to the Earth which belongs rightly to nature/animals. For the nature/animals abusers, they see humans as above nature/animals which are simply things to be utilized with impunity.

Only God gives the proper context for and perspective on nature/animals. All Creation, including humans, belong to God. Humans/nature/animals are all God’s. God has entrusted humans to care for HIS Creation—the way that He Himself would/does. We should do so with love and gratitude and humility and reverence and awe and mercy and justice and kindness.

*OK—I just want to make it clear that I saw RERUNS of the 1968 movie on television in the 70’s. Hopefully this lessens my decrepitude quotient.

**We DID love Roddy, didn’t we? His warmth came right through his mask. There’s even a nod to him in “Rise.” We see the NICE ape cage attendant, “Rodney,” watching Roddy on TV.


--I wonder if “Rise” means sequels. The parting shot of the film is open to that….

--Some physics-defying CGI movement in the beginning when Caesar is little and swinging around Will’s house.

--A lot of movies today about wonder drugs. Drugs that make you really smart.

--The tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden was really about deciding for OURSELVES what is good and evil, right and wrong.

--It’s amazing what we can’t see when we can’t see.

--Can monkeys really use sign language to communicate with each other?

--Without God, we become control freaks. Of necessity. It's hard enough not to be one WITH God.

--Without a God-context, there’s really nothing to stop us from doing whatever we want for whatever personal reasons we want. We could choose to follow nature’s good plans, or we could choose reasonableness because we have good will and we’re nice people, but good may appear to us as evil and evil as good, and…I hate to say this but, without God, we can all be our own little Nazis (whether we realize it or not).

--Andy Serkis also played Gollum in LOTR!

--Brian Cox is a great actor. Would love to see more of him.

--Quite a few story unbelievability “REALLY??” moments.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Anonymous1:53 PM

    The makeup effects in the original Planet of the Apes were state of the art and still hold up today. John Chambers, the designer of the effects, won an honorary Academy Award for his work in 1969. (The Academy didn't institute a makeup-award category until 1981.)

  2. Wow. I guess I was being unfair comparing CGI to actual make-up. Thanks for this info!