Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes*.

Proposition me with a trip to the movies to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and, ordinarily, I wouldn’t be interested. Sci-fi, James Franco… not a fan of either.

But show me the trailer, with a heavy focus on the humanity of apes and how they’re  “just like us!” and hella yeah, I’m down to see it.

The film begins with James Franco as a scientist, who has been working on an anti-Alzheimer’s drug by injecting it into apes to see if their brains can repair themselves. Not only does the drug A-1-12 do this, it also creates new pathways in the brain, which means the recipient knows and can do things they couldn’t before.

Bright Eyes, the ape who produced such results, goes ape-shit, so to speak, and is put down. What was thought to be the drug’s fault is attributed to Bright Eyes’ unknown pregnancy and birth, and “she was just being protective” of the baby ape hidden in her enclosure.

The experiment is shut down and Franco’s character, Will Rodman, sees no option but to take the baby ape home to the San Francisco house he shares with his Alzheimer’s-inflicted father, Charles, played by John Lithgow.

Fast forward three years and Caesar, whom they’ve named the now-super ape, has had the A-1-12 transferred to him at birth, it is discovered. He has his own play area in the attic, and he gazes down at the human world below him, aching to experience life outside the confines of the Rodman home.

During this time, Will steals some vials of the A-1-12 drug and secretly gives them to the ailing Charles. The results are overnight and miraculous. With the introduction of Freida Pinto’s veterinarian Caroline, who barely has five lines in the movie and is literally the only female character, bar Bright Eyes who is killed off in the first five minutes to further the story for the male characters, it’s all one big happy family.

Five years later, Will is struggling to care for his dad, whose body has developed immunity to A-1-12, and to wrangle the increasingly smart, inquisitive, lonely and strong Caesar, who attacks a neighbour for roughing up Charles when he tries to drive away in his luxury car in a dementia-induced stupor.

Will is forced to send Caesar away, to a primate enclosure in the city. Unbeknownst to Will, Caesar and the other apes are treated like crap by the attendants, who are the first victims when the apes stage a revolution.

Each time Will and Caroline come to visit Caesar, he gradually wants nothing to do with them. He begrudges Will for abandoning him and allowing him to be treated “like an animal”.

This notion is really at the crux of the film. We treat animals like beings less than ourselves, even though we know more than ever about their thinking and feeling capacities, and we will live to suffer the consequences.

There are consequences when we treat them too much like humans, too. (Paging Paris Hilton.) We can see that when Caesar leads the motley crew of apes freed from “sanctuaries”, like the one Caesar and the other apes escape from, laboratories and the zoo, and when he tells (yes, apes can speak now. The miracle of A-1-12.) Will he’s “home” with his own species.

This is after the climactic Golden Gate Bridge fight scene, where man versus ape in an overwhelming victory for the latter. This scene perfectly illustrates the “pack mentality” we accuse sports stars of, and is illustrated by the London riots and the gang-rape of Lara Logan.

Other subtle and not-so-subtle metaphors in the film include the dichotomy of war, racism, prison, how we treat refugees, how we treat those we don’t understand, testing on animals (which, in this film, is null and void: Franklin, a lab technician who dies towards the end of the film after being exposed to the virus strain of A-1-12, A-1-13, proving it may work on apes, but it certainly doesn’t on humans) and, of course, the aforementioned way we treat animals.

I’m a sucker for an animal movie, and cried pretty much through the whole thing! And these “animals” weren’t even real! But, in retrospect, the flawless special effects and underlying meaning weren’t enough to save the dismal character development and non-ape related storyline. Pretty much all the characters were interchangeable.

I’m not a big fan of James Franco, and in this movie he didn’t annoy me with his James Franco-ness but, having said that, I would rather that than a repeat of his Oscars coast-through, which his performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a mirror image of.

In terms of Pinto being the only woman in the movie, perhaps her no-character Caroline could have been spared in favour of one other female character with a bit of substance, a backstory, and a driving force in the storyline: mother Charlotte instead of father Charles.

But really, this reasoning is clutching at straws, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes is really all about the… erm… apes. Humans are merely transposable caricatures.

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

 

 

 

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Time’s “What Animals Think” August 16, 2010 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Asylum Seekers: Have a Little Compassion.

Image via IMDb.

 

Guest Post: Leaving on a Jet Plane.

My first memory of the airport is fragmented: seeing my cousin off to Berlin a couple of years after the fall of the wall, all I remember is a green glow emanating from Tullamarine airport (which is more than likely a figment of my imagination), playing with a plastic toy set of some kind bought for me by my grandparents at the gift shop, and the smell of The Body Shop’s cocoa butter moisturiser.

Almost fifteen years later I made my return to the terminal, my first ever flight being en route to San Francisco via Sydney as part of a US exchange program. It was scary, and a lonely trip overall, but it instilled in me the travel bug.

Twenty plane rides later, I’m hoping my next trip will be to New York for my 25th birthday in 2012. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve travelled anywhere interesting, unless you count the two hour train journey from Melbourne to my country Victorian hometown, which I don’t!

Personally, my favourite thing about travelling is the interrupted reading time; up to 20 hours on some flights! The atmosphere of the airport, with all its luxury stores, newsagents and overpriced food bars, comes in a close second, so after reading Chris Guillebeau’s “For the Love of Airports” piece on The Art of Non-Conformity, I solicited my high-school best friend, Natalie, who I remember being obsessed with aerospace travel, to write a post on her love of airports.

Airports have always been a favourite place of mine; having grown up travelling overseas every couple of years since I was an infant I have fond and happy memories of the terminals. Although it’s so large, there is somehow an atmosphere of warmth amongst the hustle and bustle at the airport. I love that you can be there any time of the day—morning, noon or night—and see so many people heading in all directions to catch flights. Just watching them, wondering where are they off to…

My favourite memory of going to an airport was probably the most disastrous start to a family holiday. It was the day before Christmas Eve and my family and I were headed to New Zealand for the holidays. We had many delays and ended up getting a free overnight stay at Tullamarine’s Travelodge Hotel in the interim. Although it was stressful and annoying for my parents, I really enjoyed all the excitement of having to shuttle our way to the hotel and knowing we would be returning to the vibrancy of the airport the next morning; anything to prolong my time there!

To me, airports symbolise many things. Often the happiness of reunions between families and friends, the enjoyment of embarking on a holiday, and the sadness of seeing someone off [Early Bird note: I will be seeing my good friend April off indefinitely to Canada in a couple of weeks. I will be packing tissues]. At times, airports can be stressful, scary and unpredictable but they’re also mesmerising and intriguing to me. I could sit in a cosy departure lounge all day with my face pressed against the warm glass, marvelling at just how those big airbuses get off the ground. Sometimes the airport is more thrilling than the journey, because there’s always so much to look forward to: café food, duty free shopping and my favourite of all, the smell of aeroplane fuel! Strange, I know, but it always sends those airport memories flooding back…

[The Art of Non-Conformity] For the Love of Airports.

Images via Dib-Network, Avril Bandaids, Blue Bird Logistics.

Event: Armistead Maupin in Conversation with Noni Hazlehurst.

“It Gets Better”. “We R Who We R”. Proposition 8. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell*.

It’s hard to believe it’s 2011 and we are still having these arguments about sexual orientation and whether it’s a choice.

Armistead Maupin, writer of the Tales of the City series, spoke about these things last night at the Athenaeum Theatre on Collins Street to promote his latest installment, Mary Ann in Autumn, which brought a man in the same row as me to tears.

For those of you not familiar with Maupin (and so many people seem to be unfamiliar with the works of my favourite authors. Dominick Dunne, anyone?), here’s a quick refresher, much of which Maupin went into detail on the night:

Tales of the City was spawned from a newspaper column he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in the late 1970s, when homosexuality was still illegal and regarded as a mental illness; but not to worry, Maupin was in the closet at that point.

The Tales deal with a bunch of much loved characters who are dealing with life, love and sex interspersed with murder mysteries, AIDS and adoptions in 1970s San Fran. Some are gay, some are straight, one is transgendered, which was quite a feat for that time, especially for something that was to be published in a newspaper.

Maupin laughed about his far-right, homophobic editor at the Chronicle, who insisted his characters be categorized into columns: heterosexual and homosexual. Aren’t we glad we don’t do that anymore (insert sarcasm here)?

Hazlehurst marvelled at the fact that we still have so many “dumb people” in this day and age, and mentioned Sarah Palin by name, which drew a cheer from the audience. Maupin revealed that he was a Republican back in the day, and that Republican ideals often go hand in hand with being closeted: “If I was right winged and gay, my father might love me,” was his rationale at that time.

On that, Maupin spoke of his coming out to his best girlfriend, Jan, who told him, “big fucking deal,” a quote which Tales of the City fans will recognise throughout the books. Maupin said that was a turning point in his life and love of San Francisco, as he realised that people in that city “really didn’t care”. (Jan also called Maupin “Babycakes”, which is a term of endearment between the two main characters, Mary Ann Singleton and Michael Tolliver, and the title of the fourth book in the series.)

Hazlehurst took issue with Maupin being called a “gay writer”, because really, he “writes about human beings” with both good and bad qualities. “Whole people”, if you will. Maupin said he inserts parts of his own personality into his characters: Michael Tolliver is who he wants to be, and Mary Ann encompasses his “less acceptable” qualities.

He signed off with an anecdote from his sister’s mother-in-law which, much to his sister’s chagrin, made it into Maybe the Moon: One of the characters visits the gynaecologist with a bag over her head, to—ahem—lessen her embarrassment. When Maupin did a reading of the book in his hometown, his sister came along to the event… with her mother-in-law, who remarked, “See? Other people do it too!” Oh, the ignorance! Or as Maupin likes to call it, radio station K-FUCKED. You know, the voice in your head constantly tearing you down, only to build you back up again.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Review: Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

Images via Big Fib, Tesco, Gabrielle Luthy.

*Updated 04/03/11.

On the (Rest of the Net).

 

If you’re into music, especially the live Melbourne scene, make sure you check out my friend Linzie Meager’s newly launched blog, What Are You Listening To? 

Lena Chen says “fuck feminism”. I have to say I agree with most of her statements, and sometimes I get sick of talking about gender politics. Her argument is that feminism doesn’t represent all females equally, especially women of colour and those who belong to the LGBT community. 

If only we could all look this chic and quirky at the airport. Gala Darling pairs combat boots with an electric blue knit by Betsey Johnson “En Route to San Francisco”

 

Who’s sick of Lady Gaga? Not me, but apparently Gawker is. I do agree that Gaga needs to lay off the reinvention shtick, however. The article also argues that she needs to churn out some new music ASAP. 

Still with Gawker, they assert that “Starlets Need to Stop Dressing Up Like Other Starlets for Photo Shoots”, with an impressive roll call that includes Lindsay Lohan as everyone, everyone as Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Aniston as Barbra Streisand on the most recent cover of US Harper’s Bazaar.

I think the burqa debate is an interesting one; one I don’t necessarily agree with. I don’t think that Islamic women should be forced to wear them, but it is certainly not the government of the Western world’s place to ban them. MamaMia brings light to the subject, asking if the “Burqa is as ‘Confronting’ as Leggings Worn as Pants”? Certainly not! Nor is it more confronting than (Prime Minister come tomorrow night?) Tony Abbott in budgie smugglers!

Meanjin’s blog Spike features a post “On Writing and Running”… or blogging and jogging, as I like to call it. Guess I’m on the right track, then. (Geddit?!)

“Like, OMG, you guys!” Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a product of my generation (or the generation below me, perhaps?). But Jezebel reasons that those who favour “like”, “you know” and “whatever” picked up such fetching colloquialisms from ’90s teen angst drama, My So-Called Life. If you haven’t heard of it, you should so, like, research it, you know? If not, whatever.

Here with more Daria goodness, The Paris Review asks “Are We Afraid of Daria?”

All the single ladies men, take note: there’s a difference between “nice guys” and “total creeps”. (Double standards?) For example, nice guys will pay you “a normal compliment” like, “You look great today”. Creeps will say “things like, ‘You look imaginary’… Did he mean to say something else? Does he know what ‘imaginary’ means?” Gold!

Continuing on from the Facebook versus women issue, Psychology Today ran a great article entitled “Cutting Off Your Vagina to Spite Your Face(book)”. Aside from the genius title, it deals with the deletion of a sexual education Facebook page about female genital mutilation.