Rise of the Prequel

I took my 10-year-old grandson to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” yesterday. He enjoyed it, although he had two problems with the title. “Why do all the new movies start with ‘Rise of’” he asked me? An astute question and one I had no answer for. He also took issue with two “of the’s” in the same title. “It sounds stupid,” he said, and I couldn’t argue the point.

While he liked the movie primarily for the action scenes and the cool special effects, I got a kick out of the subtle (and not so subtle) tributes to the original 1968 classic that launched the entire series (for good and for bad).

Here are a few of the most obvious ones:

About a third of the way in, we see newscast footage of the first manned space ship to Mars, led by astronaut George Taylor. That was the name of Charleston Heston’s character in the first movie. Later, we learn that the ship has vanished without a trace. Of course, we old-timers know what that means.

The name of the orangutan who befriends leading chimp Caesar is “Maurice.” The orangutan in the original film was played by actor Maurice Evans.

We see ape-phobic handler Dodge watching a movie on TV starring Heston. I think it’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” but I’m not sure.

In one of the pivotal scenes, after the apes break out of prison, Dodge screams at Caesar, “Take your stinkin’ paw off me you damned dirty ape.” About half the audience (those over 50) cheered.

Before Caesar comes to the rescue of John Lithgow’s character, we see him building a model of the Statue of Liberty.

I’m sure there are plenty more homage scenes, but I’d have to watch the film again with the sole purpose of documenting them. (Sort of like repeated viewings of “The Sixth Sense” to discover if M. Night slipped up anywhere.) The movie is lots of fun on its own, although a little soft in the middle. But for aficionados of the original, it takes on a larger meaning. And in this one, we root for the apes.