Caesar is My Road Dog
I am, to borrow at term from Social Science scholarship, a complete and utter loser. I’m a loser not because I lose at every endeavour I attempt (I’ve held my own in Rock, Paper, Scissors for years) but rather, I identify more intensely with the downtrodden, the less fortunate*, the perpetual fuck-ups. In 29 years, my favourite sports teams have combined for six championships across four different leagues (all six coming from the Chicago Bulls in the early to mid 90s). Not only that, my most reviled teams have won 29 championships. That alone should show how allergic I am to success.
* I suppose this is why I keep sending money to that Haitian child whose vacant, evil eyes have me convinced he’s using the funds to buy after-market Russian assault rifles for him and his friends.
Identification with the less fortunate is encoded in our DNA, a glitch of evolution* that has helped our species survive this long. None of the preceding sentence would hold up if even the most inept anthropologist did a cursory Google search. But I will stand behind declaring most good people are compelled to help those who lag behind**, and to root for those that are only semi-pathetic instead of completely hopeless. Where this line is crossed, I don’t know but we will root for the New York Giants to beat the New England Patriots but would skip the damn game if New England was playing Kansas City or Carolina just like movies where we cheer for an ape uprising but would probably nap through a racoon rebellion.
*Or, for the religiously inclined, a genetic present the bearded white man in the clouds put in us when he created our entire species on a sunny afternoon 4,000 years ago
** Anyone who doesn’t is probably crazy or a politician or a CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation. LeBron James grew up in Akron yet cheered for the Yankees, the Cowboys and the Bulls. That is why, more than being coddled since pre-pubescence, the man has grown into a sociopath.
With that in mind, it came as no surprise to me that I rooted for Caesar, the highly intelligent ape who engineers the titular Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and his band of Marxist revolutionary primates to unleash Armageddon on the humans. What did surprise me, however, was that I was not the only person in the theatre salivating at the prospect of humanity’s gruesome end. The audience was so invested in Caesar’s journey that for the first time in cinematic history a diabetic black woman didn’t yell at the screen around a mouthful of popcorn during the climax. If the projectionist would have dropped a strobe light from the ceiling and piped in German trance music through the Dolby system, I swear to you the theater would have spilled into the aisles and erupted in frenzied dancing when Caesar spoke his first words.
I was once called misanthropic by a college professor and an anarchist by Stephen Harper but if a hundred people also reveled in watching humanity’s impending destruction at the paws of a primate, perhaps I am normal, and we are all, as humans, just sick of other people’s shit.
We’re kind of a dickish species, you have to admit. If the biosphere was a high school, humans would be the jocks strutting through the cafeteria swatting people’s lunch trays from their hands.
How many times must a septuagenarian in coke bottle glasses run over our foot as she comes barreling out of her driveway without looking, or have a bike messenger take the last peanut butter cookie from the 6th Avenue Tim Horton’s despite broadcasting telepathic signals that you would visit misery on everyone he loved if he so much as looked at it before you start thinking “Ya, I guess I wouldn’t complain if most of these people disappeared”?
But it’s hard for us to hate an animal that most of us have never had the misfortune of crossing when they weren’t sedated and caged at the Calgary Zoo. Oh yes, a chimp will mangle your face until it achieves the look and texture of foie gras run over by a New York Subway car. They will also bite off your nose and genitals if you don’t share a piece of cake with them. How selfish can you be not to share, man? That was a big cake. Yet, we not only welcomed them as our overlords, we cheered their ascension.
Our reasons for siding with the primates maybe far simpler, and less hopeless, than a secret wish to see humanity extinct. The actors in Rise of the Planet of the Apes really, really suck.
- James Franco sleep walks for 98 minutes as Will Rodman, a scientist (haha) who secretly cares for baby Caesar after Caesar’s mother – a test subject for the Alzheimers-busting retrovirus that makes apes hyperintelligent – is gunned down in a boardroom. Franco’s performance is so lifeless (his acting range languishes from constipated to stoned with a lot of empty space in between) I thought I had read the reviews wrong and it wasn’t the apes who were CGI creations but Franco himself, cobbled from bits of his Johnny Utah impression while hosting the Academy Awards.
- Frieda Pinto,who, if you needed any more evidence that film awards don’t mean shit, was nominated for a BAFTA for her six lines as a hot, earnest prostitute in Slumdog Millionaire, played Hot Chick that Says Stuff to Franco and Chimp. Who needs to write a three-dimensional female character when we can just look at her bewbs, dude? I’m being unfair, I suspect, as no character, male or female, was given much personality.
- John Lithgow, who I thought could do no wrong after killing it on the fourth season of Dexter, is truly embarrassing playing the most rote, one note caricature of an Alzheimer’s patient. What a coincidence that Franco’s working on a drug that can cure Alzheimer’s. “You’re too close to the case, McGarnagle!”
- Franco’s boss, played by David Oyelowo seems to be the only one who saw this production as the B movie it was but the dialogue was so evil corporatey spiel that I spent most the time thinking “He’s wearing a really nice suit” and “I have a feeling he’s the only black man in California with a real job.”
- I couldn’t help wondering if evil ape keeper Tom Felton was Lana Lang’s drunken ex-boyfriend Brad from Superman 3, with his face digitally altered to look younger like Kurt Russell in the excretal Tron: Legacy. I still say possibly.
It’s becoming well trod territory to say that Hollywoodis at its least creative and as hard as I have been trying to avoid such easy criticism, I can’t help myself. It’s simultaneously sad and funny (more sad…way more sad) that the best character in a Hollywood summer blockbuster was a CGI chimp. Andy Serkis, who also provided movements for Gollum and King Kong, might get an Oscar Nomination for his portrayal of Caesar. He won’t win. But he might get included anyway. I hope he does.
Sad state of creativity aside, the fact remains, Caesar stole the movie. Caesar is the only person in the film who shows any sort of emotion by – wait for it Franco – using facial cues and subtlety*. Look, James, when you lose an animal you’ve raised since birth to a fascist monkey prison, using the same vacant stare you have when your weed dealer tells you he’s charging you a bit extra for the pound is not going to cut it in a $100 million dollar movie.
**The look Lil’ Cease gave the zoo keeper’s frat boy buddy after he poked Cease one too many times was the best “I’m gonna fuck you up if you don’t stop” face since Kay told Michael Corleone about her abortion.
Caesar stealing the movie from his human counterparts is different from Heath Ledger stealing Dark Knight from Christian Bale or Bale stealing The Fighter from Mark Wahlberg. The difference is, I couldn’t wait for Joker and Dicky to come back onscreen not because I cared about them overly but because they were more entertaining than whatever surrounded them*. As strange as it seems, I cared about this chimp. I rooted for him. And for the first time since 1998, I backed the winning team.
*Yes, I think Dark Knight is criminally overrated. Come and get me fanboys.
PS. Franco, you suck. That is all.