EDITORIALS

Rupert Wyatt's 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': A Genuine Touchstone

by
August 3, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Every once in a while there comes a film that is yours and yours alone. It was made for you. Almost as if the writers, director, and the rest of the cast and crew peeked inside your head, pulled out those memories and experiences and regrets and ideas that you might not have ever shared or spoken out loud and placed them with delicate fingertips amid a chronology of a film that, surprisingly, others, too, are able to see. Lots of others, all over the world. And so a film that, once, might have only existed in shades of shadow, intangible, only watchable via daydream or nightmare, is being projected in front of you. And then you're watching a story that, to you, is damned personal. Is raw and secret. Is yours.

But it isn't. They don't know me anymore than I know them—less, even. But that experience, the feeling of recognition of one's self via any artistic medium, is the reason I watch movies. I'm looking for a piece of myself. I found a whole lot of myself in Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So much of what I care about is there in the script and up there on screen. So much, in fact, that it's an impossibility for me to talk about the film outside of the sphere that is me. Sure, every review or experience with a movie is subjective. But mine with this one... it goes beyond subjective. It's instinctive.

So this isn't a review, really. It's a platform for me to talk a bit about those films that mean the most to us: Touchstones. And why they're touchstones at all. It just so happens that the most recent of these is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So it's through that film that this will be focused. Every film I've felt this strongly about has shared key components. They all have in them one or more of the defining moments of my own life. They are all able to elucidate a memory—though differently—more vividly than I even remember it myself. As only movies can do, of course. And, finally, every one of my touchstones has, in one way or another, utilized my own nostalgia.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes centers around a story of one man doing all he can to cure his father's suffering due to Alzheimer's. The reason I write, the reason I am who I am, the cause I'm most passionate about is Alzheimer's disease. I watched my grandfather suffer and deteriorate much the same way James Franco's Will Rodman watches John Lithgow's Charles Rodman suffer. Watching my father watch his father changed me. Witnessing my grandfather forget him, my dad, then remember a glimpse, then become angry at himself, then project that anger and impotence and lack of control onto my dad... not quite understanding why my grandpa didn't know me anymore... knowing him, loving him, having these memories and being unable to share them anymore. That sort of biological theft is unimaginable and I saw it happen right in front of me and I was powerless. I was weak.

And then there were all of those complicated emotions and themes up there in this movie. There was my grandfather. My father. Me. And it was so fully realized. So true. And Will Rodman was doing these things that I simply can't do, couldn't do. I'm no scientist. But I wanted to be. And now I can be. Through him. And he is doing them for all of the same reasons why I do what I can do to cope.

It's exciting to see one's self up there in lights. And even in a film that was my most anticipated of this year, it was a surprise. That connection layered atop my already intense love for the first film series my father showed me. Those apes. I loved them! I did not expect such a strong wave of nostalgia from this contemporary reboot of the franchise. I did not expect the amount of fan service and continuity and faithfulness to a canon I care far too much about. But it's there. In the same way the Star Wars prequels answers questions in a way that we didn't really need or care to know, Rise of the Planet of the Apes does the same and the opposite. It answers the question: Why? And it nails it. It's great. If I could tell six-year-old me the answer this movie told me in the theatre, six-year-old me would high-five me with a smile ear to ear.

I don't expect this from every film. Really, I don't expect this from any film, but there's a lot of mediocrity this summer. There's a lot of hate out there. And who's to say that some positivity, some passion, some un-ironic sincerity can't travel just as far? Shouldn't it travel farther?

...I've typed this in a flurry. And I, to be perfectly honest, don't even know what my point is. I don't have a grand conclusion beyond wanting you to see this movie. Hoping that you might feel a bit of what I felt. But, mostly, I just want to encourage this passion and connection to movies in general. There's a lot of cynicism out there. Hell, there's a lot of cynicism in me. But this is entertainment at its base. They're movies. They're escape. Sometimes, they're art. But every so often, most of the time when you least expect it, one can be your touchstone. Your own. I just hope you'll be open to it when that first frame flickers on in front of you. And you'll be brave enough to embrace it as it will embrace you.

So what are your touchstones and why? And how do you even attempt to explain to others that just can't feel what you feel? Do you even care to? Me, well, I obviously do. And I hope, maybe, I did.

Brandon Lee Tenney is a screenwriter and regular contributor. Follow him @Brotodeau

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  • Anonymous
    Wall-E gave me the same feeling you have, and i couldn't stop thinking about the movie, the story and it's characters and how it hit me for weeks. Now i'm definitely hyped for this one.
  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.blase Martin Blase
    I'm sorry, was there a review in there somewhere?
    • http://www.brandonleetenney.com Brotodeau
      Nope, there wasn't. As I said above, this isn't a review, really. It's just a bit about my experience with this film in particular, what it meant to me and why, and the power that movies have over me and—I hope—over those of us who love them!
      • JL
        Hey, besides, how many reviews are truly objective.  I think that this was great, and it may have done the movie a better service, in my opinion, than a review ever could.  If this movie was able to connect with you on that level, then they must have done something right.  If it was true performances from the actors, I say that alone could get me to watch it.  At least for John Lithgow, who is very good.  I think you've touched on something.  The movies that have made the deepest impressions on me have had an emotional impact.  To answer your question in your article, mine is "Forest Gump".  Specifically, his love story with Jenny.  It's not exactly the same.  I've been crazy about this girl since I was 14.  That was 9 years ago.  I never stepped up and said anything about it, so I don't know whether she would have rejected me or what, and she's taken now, so I've lamented this so many days of my life since then.  I never got to have my "Jenny" so watching that on screen is both a pain and a comfort.  In the story, it took him a long time to get his girl, but he was persistent.  I was not.  I was cowardly, and repressed.  But perhaps it isn't over, and that's what that movie means to me.  I think I understand just what you meant to say.  It's nice to see that kind of journalism.
        • http://www.brandonleetenney.com Brotodeau
          Thanks so much for this, JL. Truly.
          • JL
            I just noticed how every comment on this article was on subject and few went off on a tangent.  You've done a good job of pulling on people's thoughts and getting us to participate in and focus on a discussion.  Great job.
        • Anonymous
          This may mean nothing to you, as you don't know me and I don't know you, but take that leap of faith. Just tell her how you feel, would it be so bad to get rejected? You don't have her as it is, so what do you have to lose? Just watch a good indie romantic film, don't you wish you could be that guy for a change? Have that story? Who knows. And if things don't work out, who cares anyway, go to sleep and wake up on another day and go on with your life. At least you would have that answer you obviously need. Think about yourself and forget everything else for a change.
          • Anonymous
            May I recommend you "Take me home tonight"?
          • JL
            I agree with your thoughts.  I've pondered the idea that a rejection would put me out of my misery, and I could move on.  However, I feel the subject would be inappropriate to bring up to her now, as she is married.  I will just move on without the answer, unless something happens between now and whenever to make her single again.  But I won't be waiting on or counting on that.  I thank you for your input.
          • Anonymous
            Sorry to hear that man... ;)
      • Furious911
        I actually didn't have a great desire to see this movie, but I think you changed my mind, I will check this out this weekend.
    • http://twitter.com/cluostari Chris Luostari
      Really?  This guy pours his heart out about how he watched his grandfather battling Alzheimer disease and how it connected him to the people in the movie.  How the movie went beyond just being entertaining and actually reflected him and his life.  How this movie was truly something special to him. And you have the nerve to complain it not being a proper review?  Kindly go fuck yourself.   Every review wishes it could be this personal and great.  Thank you, Brandon.  
      • BinaryBob101
        Ummm, what the hell are you banging on about?
        • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
          He's just responding to that Martin Blase guy above and telling him to "kindly go fuck yourself."
        • Furious911
          I'd have said unkindly...
  • Bean_luc13
    Toy Story 3 is mine. The first movie came out when I was 3. The second when I was 7. And the third when I was 17. When Andy said goodbye to the toys all my friends and I cried, it just always hits me so hard each time I watch it. Having to say goodbye to my childhood.
  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.porcelli Michael Porcelli
    I met the Wachowski Brothers at Comic-Con, some years back.  I told them, "You made The Matrix just for me.  When I saw it I was into industrial music, I wore lots of black, I was a computer programmer, I was a philosophy minor, I loved anime, and Ghost in the Shell was my favorite, I was into drugs at the time I saw it, I loved John Woo Hong-Kong action movies, I loved martial arts movies, I was into video games, Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorite books growing up, and I was raised Christian.  It's like you reached inside my head and took all this stuff and mashed it together and made a movie out of it!"  They said, "Yup, we made that movie just for you!"
    • Anonymous
      lol, that was great ;)
  • Elycia
    What a beautifully written, heartfelt piece. This is the reason I love movies. And I can not wait to see this one.
  • Barbara
    Eloquently written. A true gift with words. Can't wait to see the movie.
  • Barbara
    I also was very touched by Toy Story 3. But from the perspective of a mother's view; saying goodbye to my first born, knowing I'll have to say goodbye to my second, packing up the joyous memories of my children's childhood. Facing the reality of a life without them "under my protective wing" A cartoon which brought me to tear! Another emotionally capturing movie for me was THE NOTEBOOK. It was a beautiful love story, magnificent scenery, & how the power of love connects us always.
  • Nathan
    I saw the Secondhand Lions in theaters, right after my Dad tried to kill himself. At the time I was just old enough to understand what was going on but young enough to take it in all the wrong ways. The whole point of that movie, living life to the fullest and all that is pretty basic and I'd heard it before that and I've heard it after but I don't think you'll ever see a 13 year old boy cry as hard in a theatre as I did then.
  • Anon
    for me it was Batman my parents were murdered in front of me when i was a kid i inherited billions of dollars but i wanted to fight crime i roamed around the world learning all the different martial arts techniques i became a ninja i returned to my home city and started fighting crime i banged a lot of hot chicks its as if they reached into my head mixed it all up and made a whole series of comicbooks and movies.
    • http://www.brandonleetenney.com Brotodeau
      You're a hero, and we thank you.
    • Furious911
       seriously f'n classic
  • ate
    I'm not sure I have one but this year I rated a movie higher than I thought I would for hitting some of what you described- the already forgotten Take Me Home Tonight. It's not perfect by a longshot but what would otherwise have been personally brushed aside remains for just a few choice lines. If I could get to see a movie that does what this did for you in my lifetime, I'll be ecstatic.
    • Anonymous
      What a coincidence, I was about to post something about "Take me Home Tonight" too! I watched it last night. It was a movie I had such low expectations and i just watched because I had nothing better to do and it was late at night, I thought "Why not". I wasn't even sure I would push myself to see the entire movie, but a couple of minutes in and it clicked. Such a great movie. The soundtrack is pure gold and the movie delievers its message in such an humble and light hearted way that it hits you. Everyone remembers the girl they wanted to have but did nothing about it, no one knows if they're making the right choices in life. Hell, most of the times we don't want to choose at all. Like you said, it's not the best movie ever and they know that, but it's sweet and funny and honest, something that's not so common in this type of movies.
  • http://superliminal.wordpress.com/ Nat
    Really simple and beautifully written. Thank you. I also have the same special film-connection you described with Tim Burton's Big Fish which is a basically a copy of how my dad used to be, before he passed away. Never knowing what he said was truth or not, or just mere entertainment I fit into the son's part pretty well. In a way quite therapeutic to watch I suppose...
  • Dan W
    Minority Report would have to be mine. I just watched it at a perfect time in my life as a kid and it blew me away. It was one of those movies that stuck with me weeks after watching it. And is it fair to say A New Hope? Cause that's one as well
    • Anonymous
      These comments are starting to freak me out! I love Minority Report. I also watched it as a kid and never forgot the impact it had on me. Till this day it is one of my favourite movies. It's an hunting vision of another world. It was probably my first real interaction with "science fiction", that helped. It blew me away. It was the first time i said to my friends, "My favourite movie is Minority Report", I didn't have one at the time, so that's pretty huge. After that I read other work by Philip K. Dick and discovered things I had never thought about.
  • http://twitter.com/QuanahTweets Quanah
    Great article Brandon. One of the best I've read on here. You also started a great topic. For me, About Schmidt was my touchstone. It wasn't because that's who I was, but more-so that is what I didn't want to become. The last 4 minutes of that film haunt me today. I think of the lines often, "I suppose one can hope for is to make some kind of a difference. But, what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?" Seeing a man at the end of his days knowing he may have lived an unsatisfactory life without even scratching an inch of betterment for anyone or anything woke me to reality. Made me do something about the blinders I wore on my head. It was as if the film was saying, "See...here you are...years from now. Do something." 
    • http://www.brandonleetenney.com Brotodeau
      Thank you. That's awesome and powerful that you were able to see your future self and alter your course. What a treasure.
  • harm
    For me it would have to be The Cider House Rules. I saw it at a time when I was struggling to ascertain who I was & what I was destined for. It touched on the feelings of a son not certain of his place in his fathers shadow and morality. Of loves that burned and caged your heart in all the ways you don't want. Of friendship stronger than life but aching in mortal separation. The movie means a lot to me and I sometimes am afraid to go back and revisit it for fear time will numb its personal significance for me. Thanks for sharing your feelings on Rise. I wasn't sure I'd watch it before I read this. Now I will give it a chance.
  • Legion
    That's just great. But the film is about the start of the ape rebellion. 
  • http://twitter.com/Dr_Interesting Snev De la Fontaine
    I was weary to read this, because there was an element of obvious fandom in previous posts of this film, but I'm glad I did. For me, it's more of a rational touchstone - The Dark Knight. In a sense it is almost Christopher Nolan in general. Watching his films, but particularly Batman (because of the subject material) I have a sense of clarity. It is as if I understand the why of every line of dialogue, every intention or highlight to a bigger idea. And this counts both in form and content. It is hard to expect (and sometimes understand) why everyone else is so drawn by it as well. Exactly because it feels so right for me personally.
  • http://twitter.com/rltuva Robert L. Tuva
    The first film that feels as it was made just for me is The Duellists (1977) for the relationship between the two main protagonists and Harvey Keitel's obsession with settling the score with the other. Like a low, ignoble shadow that you aren't able to shake off. Then Big Wednesday (1978) for many things (this obviously holds for all titles stated), for the feelings of freedom and being cool for example. A Perfect World (1993) for the relationship between Kevin Costner and the kid he kidnaps. Contact (1997) for the scientific, adventurous and agnostic spheres in me. Sur mes lèvres (2001) for the amorous relationship between a man and a woman (also played by actors I find most interesting). The Life Aquatic (2004) for a glimpse of what life can be like. :-) Rocket Science (2007) for an honest and touching high-school comedy dealing with subjects also that were and still are in some measure close to me and rarely depicted elsewhere. The blog calls them touchstones, I'd call these movies Erlebnis in German maybe, some kind of a profound experience, something I experience and becomes a part of me and feels like I actually went through that even though I really didn't have to experience it in real life, the one off the flickering screen. I think I can differentiate the nature of my experiences, don't you worry. Just a thought about the power of films.
    • Anonymous
      Thank you for reminding me about Rocket Science, I have to see that!
  • Söhnlein(a german)
    dude, calm down. so you like it huh? (^_^) but seriously...i "feel" you. this happens so rarely in ones life. i am happy for every individual that hase the chance to encounter a movie like that. mine would be "the tree of life". not for "universal" but for "personal" reasons... and then again i say: simply enjoying a movie for its entertaining benefits can be absolutely fine too...
  • Craig
    That's a beautifully written review.
  • http://twitter.com/darktaxidermist Davide Coppola
    I have a feeling Twixt may fall under that category for me. For now Lost In Translation.
  • BinaryBob101
    I had faith in Rupert Wyatt that this would be a great film.  If you haven't seen his previous film, The Escapist, then go rent it from anywhere you can today.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      I agree, I LOVE The Escapist. That's how I first found out about Rupert and have been following him ever since. And like you, I had faith in him because of that, and he has pulled it off!
  • Anonymous
    if this one can capture the experience i had when i 1st saw the original PofA (when i was 11); then, i'll be thrilled!
  • http://senzafineonline.net/ Yahzee
    Beautiful article, and I'm actually starting to have a little hope for this film, and no better way to promote it than what you have done. As for a personal touchstone, if I had to chose only one it would it'll be Batman Returns. The whole duality theme, the not knowing who you are, to be perceived as a monster or a freak just because you're different, the musical score, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Christmas setting, the lonely Bruce Wayne... that movie had a lot of things that worked right through me.
  • Kamish
    Legends of the Fall, then end with the father & sons, get me every time...also Braveheart, and the passion for freedom & redemption...
  • peloquin
    Taken convinced me to fight for custody of my daughter and though I might not have the physical prowess of Liam Neeson, I could feel his pain and determination like it was my own.
    • Vkatnite
      Finally!! Yes, Taken....was definitely that film that got to your core...I too have a 4yr old daughter who at the time had just started to walk and talk,and after seeing that film, I was more determined to keep both eyes on  her at all times....
  • VictorWard
    Thankyou for a great piece of writing! For me more recently I would say 'Up In The Air' as I travel a fair bit with my work and embracing that loneliness on those planes is so perfectly put together in this movie (along with all the other parts) its very subtle in that way and I enjoyed it. Some say the ending is so depressing but I take a positive out it. Lost in Translation replaces the planes with hotels and meeting strangers and again I feel a great connection with that moive also. On another scale is Inception - a way of what dreams can be or what they are blew my mind and I couldn't help but sit there with my jaw opened. Theres a few good examples!
  • Crom
    Nice to see a thought provoking article and not the usual "transformers awesomeness" dross that graces this site too frequently...well done.
  • Mr Tibbs
    Mine was Bloodsport. It was a tough time in my life with an inner struggle to break the bottom brick.
  • USCkit
    This is the best review I have ever read. I actually teared up reading your review, which leads me to believe I will need to bring tissues to the theater! Many times I do watch movies to escape ( mostly comedies for that), but the best movies I can remember seeing are the ones I felt a connection to. Movies involving animals and family tend to draw the biggest reactions from me, so I am even more so looking forward to this movie after your review than I was before.
  • Vkatnite
    Tombstone.... Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday... If any movie could give you back your balls to fight back, everytime, that was it..
  • Mikerns2
    Children of Men for me. It's one that I couldn't understand how others didn't feel as passionately for. The film as a whole brilliantly capture how the world might react if innocence and hope vanished from society. The scene where the soldiers hear the baby crying nearly brought tears to my eyes.
  • Anonymous
    For me it was Saw, but I don't want to get into that here...joking :P This is probably one of the best articles I've read here [and by here i mean the internet, not just firstshowing :) ]. You spoke from the heart, I can tell, and that allways strikes a chord on others. Isn't this why we all go to the movies? Expecting to see that one movie that will stay with us for the rest of our lives? Expecting to be blown away like this? Personally, I'm like a sponge, everytime I see a good movie (this also works with books, etc) it stays with me for a moment. I leave the cinema feeling like I'm on top of the world, like I can do everything, be anyone, achieve anything. I'm not a jedi, or a super-hero, but for a couple of hours i felt like one, and that's all i can ask from movies. Considering a specific type of films, those indie romantic movies allways get me, I'm a fool for those. I get what the protagonist is feeling, i feel that connection and I want to have his love story. I don't know if I ever felt the way you did with this movie, at least I'm not remembering a special occasion (though it may come to me in the future). What I can tell you is that I think the tv show "Scrubs" did for me what this movie did for you. I loved that show, it clicked right away. Forget all the goofy stuff, that show and its characters had a lot of heart in them and I felt connected with them and their struggles and achievements. And I'm a med student, so there's that. When it was over it was like a friend of mine went away, I never felt that way before about something. Congratulations on the amazing article and on having seen that one movie ;) I don't know how's the situation with your grandfather, but I wish you all the best. We need more articles and discussions like this, keep them coming!
  • Pricetag92
    I second everything. I had forgotten how huge of a fan I was of the originals until seeing this movie. All of a sudden hunting through Blockbuster to find a copy of the next installment came rushing back to me.  The greatest thing about this movie is that it proves that a movie doesn't have to be oscar-worthy to be a great film. Movies like Wedding Crashers proved R comedies can be good movies. Pixar showed animation isn't just for kids. The Dark Knight validated superhero movies and The Notebook, I'll even admit, was a good example of well made romance movies. All the same, Rise of the Planet of the Apes proves that the summer blockbuster can be a great movie. This has been the only movie this summer that I have felt was truly worth every cent I spent on the ticket (and my girlfriend's ticket (double parentheses. she enjoyed it a lot too!)) Closing comments. This film pays homage tot he old films in a great way, but has treats for fans old and new. I hope that the change from the original title (Rise of the Apes) to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is because they plan on a sequel _____ Planet of the Apes. Perhaps they'll do a remake of the original, which frankly, as a fan of the original, I'm not opposed to. So long as they go at it with this level of intelligence and creativity. Because this one isn't in competition with the old one, but is so clearly inspired by it. There are too few franchises where new has to be better than old because they screwed up the first time. Or new ends up being worse than old. It is too rare that both are viewed as good, related, and yet separate entities, and I hope to see that happen here (for this reason I'm going to raise my kids to know both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger as The Joker). So that being said I think there is a good trilogy in there. If it won't be good, this is a good stand alone. If they do make more, they have certainly set the bar. And they need to continue to show respect for the elders (the old films).
  • Barbara
    Martin B.-As he said, "This isn't a review." Ditto to Alex! Every movie, book, (yes, some of us read) picture, song,--is an expression of imagination. How that piece of art effects us indivudually is personal. It was nice to hear how this movie effected Brandon. Hopefully any loss, worse of all, tragic loss, helps us appreciate the ones we love & what is truly important. Just a movie? Apparently not. Reach in & feel.
  • Barbara
    This is like the BEST place to go for the movies I've got to see!!!

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