Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I love film. Although I do not consider myself a “film junkie,” I do see a fair number of movies a year, ranging from classics to the latest new releases. There is something magical about seeing with my own eyes what someone else has imagined in their head.

I have also come to appreciate that seeing movies is a practical amusement. In times past, books were the major diversion for most people; but in a day and age where people are constantly on the run and busy with family, church, and school commitments, reading seems slow and laborious. A person can see in a couple of hours in a movie what might take them a month to read in a book.

Aside from the entertainment and escape that movies provide, they are also an excellent gauge of the culture in which we live. This may be what I love the most about film. In fact, it is almost impossible for me to see a movie anymore without critiquing it afterward or engaging someone in a discussion about it. This view of culture in the movies can be seen not only on the screen, but in the theater itself.

It should come as no surprise then that yesterday I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the Planet of the Apes series. The original 1968 film, Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, and James Whitmore, is still just as entertaining and provocative today as it was back then. And who does not remember Charlton Heston’s famous line in that movie? See the film if you do not know what I mean.

In many respects, this latest movie parallels the subtext of the original, highlighting the folly of man in pursuit of his own ambitions. Whereas the backdrop for the original was the Cold War and the danger of global nuclear war, the latest film uses corporate greed and biomedical technology as its basis. Of course, this is not the first film to use those ideas. A few years back, I Am Legend used a medical premise as the basis for its storyline, as did Steven King’s The Stand. And of course, the denunciation of greed, particularly corporate greed, is a longstanding theme in Hollywood, from Alien to Avatar.

The folly of man is not the only theme in Planet of the Apes. The 1968 movie is also a disturbing and unsettling look at what happens when the natural roles of man and animals are reversed and twisted. Seeing humans hunted, killed, and locked up by apes is enough to bother anyone, and every time I watch that movie I am relieved because I know that this is not the way the world is. And nobody feels sorry for the apes either; they are always viewed as the antagonist. This is because of an inescapable truth: man is made in God’s image, and no matter how foolish he is or how much he messes up the world, nothing can take him away from the rightful place that God gave him to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Ge 1:28).

This latest film portrays the apes quite differently. In fact, a good portion of it is dedicated to building sympathy and compassion for them, and even begins to blur the distinction between man and animal. All this takes place before the apes become the aggressors, prepping the audience to side with the animals against the humans. I noticed more than once during the movie that people in the theater reacted negatively whenever an ape was killed, even if it was killed to protect human life. And I am sure that at least once when the apes won a victory over their human aggressors I heard cheering in the crowd.

I say all this only as an observation, not as a criticism. This latest film has many positive elements in it and is both thought-provoking and entertaining. But one should not overlook the evolution that has taken place in our culture over the past 40 years since Planet of the Apes first hit the big screen.

So if you are looking for a fun movie to see this coming weekend, Rise of the Planet of the Apes may be for you. And if you have some extra time, check out the original movie as well. If nothing else, these films are sure to raise some interesting questions, the answers to which can be found in the pages of God’s Word.

And if you leave the movie disturbed, then take comfort in knowing that it is just a movie.


  1. Enjoyed the movie. Simple plot. Amazing action sequences. Perfect movie for someone like me who wants to unwind, rest my mind from complicated thoughts, and basically think like a chimpazee after a long day of work.
    Speaking of Charlton Heston classic re-makes, I wonder if they’ll ever do a re-make of Ben Hur.

    • Darren Gruett

      They probably will, eventually. Hollywood has been on a roll over the past several years remaking old movies and even old TV shows. Although, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Heston as Ben Hur.

    • Ben Hur and other old movies have a way of “capturing” the spirit of the Deity of Christ on film. I can never forget Jesus appearing before Ben Hur when he was thirsty, and Jesus gave him water without saying a word. That simple scene had a air of transcendence about it. Can we capture such magnificence in film today? So we have to settle for Transformers, Avatar, Batmobiles, and Pirates. But Aslan (with the dynamic voice of Liam Neeson) dying in Chronicles was quite good, I think.

    • Darren Gruett

      I love that scene in Ben Hur.

    • One other movie that evoked transcendence for me was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
      Can unconditional love really transform beasts into princes? Transcendence, indeed.
      I guess our wives will find out.

    • That’s my hope. And why Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie.

  2. Thank you for sharing Darren.  I have found it helpful to critique movies.  The demise of companies like Borders Bookstore demonstrates the need for moving into new media.  As long as we guard our hearts and minds from an escapist mentality, movies are a great source of inspiriation.  I’ve watched Tangled, Rango, Rio, A Few Good Men, Good, and Star Wars 2 lately.

    • Darren Gruett

      Although I do not think anything will ever replace books, there is no doubt that movies are a dominant media in our culture; and although there are plenty of bad movies made, there are also many good ones. In fact, some of the best movies I have seen were ones that I just happened to pick up based on who was in it or who directed it.

  3. Another new release that’s worth seeing is The Help. Sharon and I saw it this week and it was very thought-provoking.

    • Darren Gruett

      Thanks for sharing that, Joe. I was reading about that one as well and it looked like something I might be interested in seeing.

  4. Interesting observation. I once saw an informal discussion between Bill Donohue and the president of Pita over the recent Peta ads that feature scantaly clad women wearing hunks of meat or encaged. The ads were trying to make a point about animal cruelty.  But Bill Donohue argued that you cannot try focus a campaign towards the human treatment of animals on images that degrade the human females. 

    Of course, Peta dismissed the statement and claimed it was only using the women as eye candy for advertising effectiveness. But I think it said a lot about many liberal minded corporations that would seek to elevate animal rights even above human rights.  

    • I just read this morning that Peta plans to launch a porn website that will feature, well.. porn, along side explicit videos and images of animal cruelty. Apparently, they figure that people like porn, and that if they get these people to come to their website they can “inform” them about the plight of abused animals as well. 

      Just when I thought Peta couldnt sink any lower.. I am once again surprised.  

    • Darren Gruett

      I had not heard that, but as you pointed out, they have been using sex in their advertising for a long time, so this should not come as much of a surprise. It does say a lot about our culture’s misplaced values.

    • I guess they are not concerned with associating themselves with an industry that has caused so much damage to women and families. It is also worrisome that they are pairing porn with footage of slaughtered animals. They may be causing sexual conditioning to their animal footage. This plan is just wrong on so many levels.   

  5. Wow, nice article. Good observation. So far, the Deathly Hallows is the best movie I’ve seen this year not because I’m a fan of Harry Potter but because it ended up with a great conclusion which centers “LOVE and SACRIFICE”. It’s always been my favorite theme in any movie and even in any books. Just in case we’re forgetting, it’s one of Jesus’ favorite theme too.

  6. Darren Gruett

    Thanks, Noah, for the feedback. I also saw the Deathly Hallows, and it was definitely one of the better movies I saw this year.

  7. Darren,

    We need more articles like this for ubfriends!