I love the way pop culture has a tendency to coincide with the times in ways so coincidental nobody could possibly foresee.
Take this week. We have the world economy going into meltdown with a Depression looming, but they're calling it a double-dip recession because they don't want to admit it's a Depression and causing panic in the global markets. Basically, everyone who's not a multimillionaire with shares in blue chip stocks and gold is screwed. Everyone is the underclass now, including the right-wing nutters who held the US debt ceiling negotiations hostage for so long that it set off the global financial panic.
So it's entirely fitting that RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES should open this past weekend, in time for the global economic crisis. RISE, despite the trailers that pretty much showed you everything you can expect in the movie, has turned out to be the best movie this summer, well-written, nuanced, and exceptionally well-directed, with the CG effects in service of the story. And the story is good, it tells the story of the chimp hero's dawning revolutionary consciousness before he unites his fellow apes in an uprising against cruel, callous Man.
In RISE, Caesar, the simian Che Guavara, comes to realise his outsider status amongst humans after being raised virtually like a human, and sees the downtrodden lot of his fellow apes when he's imprisoned with them to be abused and exploited for the amusement of the animal keepers. Rather than escape to rejoin his human caretaker, he elects to free his fellow apes and lead them to a promised land. I'm not spoiling anything here. Anyone going in would know that's the arc of the story. The pleasure is in seeing how this arc is told, and unlike the 1970s movie, it is told with a lot of nuance, grace and through visuals rather than relying on wall-to-wall dialogue like the original movie and most 1970s movies were. The result is an extremely well-planned dynamic of visual storytelling that's almost a textbook lesson in how you write this sort of thing. I suspect this movie will be taught in screenwriting classes in years to come.
It's not hard to read a deliberate and subversive allegory in RISE, its call to revolt translating to one for everyone against the banks, corporations and governments that has put the world in a mess of debt and increasing poverty. It can also be read as an insurrectionist message for any abused and downtrodden group in the world. It reminds me of the countercultural strain of movies from the Sixties, especially Spaghetti Westerns where a Leftie anti-authoritarian message was the norm. The V FOR VENDETTA movie became a rallying cry for Anonymous and anti-authoritarian hacker groups. I wonder if RISE will turn smart, angry apes into the new symbol for politicised anger.
And they should just give Andy Serkis the Oscar already.
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