Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I finally got around to watching the latest incarnation of this venerable franchise, and my take is “good in a way”.

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I have long worshiped at the literary altar of Rod Serling, and that I see in his contributions to the original Planet of the Apes screenplay the keys to its longevity. His was a cold war theme, of course, and while religious extremism was the main evil confronting Taylor, it was cold war ideology that had wrought his hell on earth, and that led him to damn his fellow men “all to hell”.

This latest movie does one thing I like very much–it makes every major character act with virtue and character within his own little slice of the world–even the apes on rampage. No evil Dr. No here. No mad Dr Moreau. The trouble though, is that they pull it off too well.

Sure, the guys running the primate house are a tad petty, and the next door neighbor a bit of a jerk, and the head honcho at the lab a little too obsessed with making money and the researcher a little too worried about saving his dear old dad. In short, everyone is guilty of being human–appropriately enough given that they are about to be exterminated and replaced by apes who will have a little more of exactly the same defect.

So who’s the protagonist here? You watch this and find yourself rooting for the flight computer on the irrelevantly mentioned Mars shot. Perhaps it will come back, kill EVERYONE and make the world safe for visiting aliens—or perhaps the microbes who, duplicitous in the mayhem though they might be, are at least incapable of suffering over their own weaknesses.

So, it’s a good movie, well made and well written. And yet…
There is no one and nothing to root for. There is no real villain and no real protagonist. And sorry, that is not “highly evolved modern literature”, it’s cheap and shallow. Take a stand. Make the characters noble in their own eyes, but make someone right and someone wrong in MINE (even if it’s up to me to choose up sides), or their is no point in my attending the party.

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