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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


A digitally created ape named Caesar and actor James Franco are pictured in a scene from the movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
Monkey business turns serious—and rather deadly—in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox), the latest iteration of the successful screen franchise based on the science fiction of French novelist Pierre Boulle (1912-1994). In this go-round, directed by Rupert Wyatt, there's a genetic manipulation twist and yet another warning that it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Since this is a prequel set in modern-day San Francisco, instead of Charlton Heston in a loincloth, we have James Franco in a lab coat. He plays Will Rodman, a master geneticist who believes he has found the cure for Alzheimer's disease: Under his treatment, his primate test subjects show remarkable improvement in both health and intelligence.

Will's motivation is partly financial—his research is fueled by greedy corporate backers—and partly personal since his father, Charles (John Lithgow), is dying from the illness.

Alas, there's that one nasty side effect to Will's therapy—extreme aggression—and when the apes run amok, the project is canceled and the animals are euthanized. All but one, of course -- a baby chimp named Caesar. Will brings him home to continue his research on the sly. He also casts medical ethics aside and tests the drug on dear old Dad, who gets better...for a while.

The years pass, and Caesar grows into a brilliant teen ape who comes to resent the confines of his cage, yearning to be free. Before long he needs anger management classes, and the animal control agents are summoned. Imprisoned with his own kind, Caesar comes face to face with his destiny.

While this is primarily an action film intended to divert summer moviegoers, it's also a cautionary tale about the potentially disastrous results of attempting to achieve a good end through morally unmoored scientific means. Unfortunately, that's a theme with considerable real-world resonance, as viewers concerned about such life-destroying procedures as embryonic stem cell research will easily recognize.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" stands head and shoulders above its sister films in its depiction of the titular species. In lieu of Roddy McDowall in a monkey suit, we have the wonders of computer-generated imagery and performance capture—technologies especially effective in the case of Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Having honed his talents as Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and as King Kong himself, Serkis imparts an astonishing array of emotions, depth of personality, and even pathos to the chimp who is destined to rule over man.

In the end, hubristic humanity learns too late the wisdom expressed by comely veterinarian Caroline (Freida Pinto) when she tells Will, "Sometimes things aren't meant to be changed."

Score it Simians 1, Misguided Science 0.

The film contains intense and bloody action violence, including animal attacks, gunplay and moments of terror, and implied premarital sexual activity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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