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August 10, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A Prequel. Not a Remake

by Jonn Holland

In my review of Rise of the Planet of The Apes on Examiner.com I state that the film is “a prequel to the original Planet of the Apes (1968) and tells the story of how the apes became intelligent.” In other words, it is not a remake. Instead, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a coming of age story for Caesar. Before I get ahead of myself, allow me to explain my statement with a bit of film history. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead for readers who have not seen the original five films.

Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowell in Planet of the Apes (1968)

The original Planet of the Apes (1968) that starred Charlton Heston only mentions Caesar as being an ancient leader of the apes who lead them to enlightenment. Little is said about how that happens. We don’t see anything of Caesar until Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) where Cornelius and Zira end up on twentieth century Earth after escaping the destruction of the planet at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Trapped in a time when humans are still the dominant species, Cornelius and Zira attempt to integrate and Zira gives birth to a male chimpanzee who they name Caesar. Sadly, their son is orphaned after the parents are killed.

Caesar’s story is told in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Conquest depicts Earth twenty years after Escape from the Planet of the Apes; taking place in 1991. In this alternate time line, Apes are kept as either pets or slaves. This troubles Caesar, because he believes their intelligence makes them equal to humans. He eventually leads the apes in a revolt. The ape revolution leads to a war between those who believe apes should be free, and those that believe—like Caesar—that humans and apes can coexist. The story of that war is told in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Zira with the baby Caesar in Escape From Planet of the Apes

While some might say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It is a fallacy to think so. The Caesar in Conquest is the son of Cornelius and Zira, who are intelligent apes descended from the original Caesar mentioned in Planet of the Apes. In Rise, Caesar inherits his intelligence from a drug developed by Dr. Rodman meant to be a cure for Alzheimer’s allowing the brain to repair itself. The drug had been given to Caesar’s mother whose intelligence increased due to the drug and passed the drug through her DNA to Caesar who surpasses his mother in heightened intelligence. Thus, the difference in origin is what sets the two Caesars apart. Therefore, the Caesar in Rise could only be the original Caesar mentioned in Planet of the Apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an incredible movie both visually and in scope. The premise alludes to the idea that the oppressed will always rise against the oppressors. The cast is superb and Andy Serkis gives the performance of his life as Caesar. James Franco stars as Dr. Will Rodman and John Lithgow stars as Rodman’s father Charles. Also check out the original five movies which are available on DVD and Blu Ray.

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