The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is promoted as an ‘origin story’. It shows how genetic manipulation lets apes become the dominant species on Earth. The movie begins in present-day San Francisco, where genetic scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) has developed an experimental virus, ALZ-112. The virus is designed to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Will’s desperate to find a cure because his father Charles (John Lithgow) has the disease. At GenSys genetics laboratories, Will has been administering ALZ-112 to a female chimpanzee. The experiment has had positive results until the chimp attacks her handlers and is shot by security guards. Afterwards, Will finds a newborn male chimp in the dead mother’s cage. He takes the baby home, thinking it will only be for a little while.
Three years later, the baby chimp – now named Caesar (Andy Serkis) – is functioning at the level of an eight-year-old human, having apparently inherited his mother’s modified genes. Disaster strikes when Caesar is placed in an primate animal shelter run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his cruel son Dodge (Tom Felton). After being tormented and mistreated in the shelter, Caesar turns his back on humanity, communicates with other apes and begins to plan his escape.
Caesar escapes and steals several canisters of the new and improved ALZ-113. He releases it at the primate shelter while the other apes are sleeping. They wake in the morning with heightened consciousness and intelligence, ready to take on their human handlers and the rest of humanity.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Genetic engineering; animal experimentation and testing; cruelty to animals
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes contains sequences of battle violence, intense action violence and destruction. There’s also some violence against animals. For example:
- In a lab, a chimpanzee seizes and nearly breaks the arm of an animal handler. The chimp goes on a rampage, smashing windows, overturning tables and scaring people. Eventually, a security guard shoots the chimp several times.
- Will’s father gets into a heated argument with a neighbour. The neighbour shouts at Will’s father and pokes him in the chest with his finger. Caesar is watching the argument from an upstairs room and believes Will’s father is in danger. Caesar attacks the neighbour, hitting him with his fists and kicking him over a banister rail. Caesar jumps on the man, pins him down and bites his finger. The man ends up with a bloody hand, and Caesar has some blood on his mouth.
- At the primate shelter, an ape attacks Caesar, biting him on the arm. A guard shoots both apes with a tranquilizer gun, and they fall unconscious.
- A man lies on a bed, dead from a viral infection. He is face down, and blood has pooled on the side of his head and drips from his hand.
- Caesar punches an animal handler in the face. He knocks the man unconscious then drags him along the floor and puts him in one of the cages.
- When the apes rebel and take over the animal shelter, one ape drags a man over a fence and then hits the man with his fists until Caesar intervenes. In the same scene, an animal handler threatens the apes with an electric baton. Caesar blasts the man with a jet of high pressure water from a fire hose. This causes the baton to short-circuit and electrocute the man.
- There’s an extended and chaotic battle scene in which the apes rise up and rebel against the humans. Spear-wielding, rampaging apes cause mass destruction throughout the city.
- Police use their batons to beat apes over the head. An ape uses his fists to hit a policeman, but Caesar stops the ape from killing the man. Caesar also stops other apes from killing more men in the battle. A large group of apes overpowers a large group of policemen. The apes disarm the policemen without harming them.
- A policeman shoots and kills an ape. Another ape kills the policeman by hurling him from the Golden Gate Bridge.
- A man in a helicopter uses a machinegun to shoot and kill many apes before an ape hurls itself at the helicopter. The helicopter crashes into the Golden Gate Bridge.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:
- Native hunters herd a large group of frightened chimpanzees into traps and then cage them.
- Caesar is tied up with a wire noose on a pole around his neck.
- When Caesar is forcefully taken to a shelter for primates and placed in a cage, he gets extremely upset. He charges at the door of his cage and beats on the door with his hands. After this, all the apes in the shelter get aggressive, banging on their cage doors and screeching loudly.
- A handler at the primate shelter tortures Caesar by blasting him with a powerful stream of high-pressure water. Afterwards, Caesar lies in the foetal position on the floor of his cage. In another incident, the same handler repeatedly shocks Caesar with an electric baton.
- In a lab, an ape is strapped to an operating table with a mask placed over its face. When the gas is turned on, the ape starts to convulse violently on the table.
- One scene shows a quick but gruesome image of a burned and bloody dead man, lying on a floor after being electrocuted.
- During an extended battle scene, Caesar holds an injured and dying ape in his arms as it dies. There are several gunshot wounds on the ape’s chest.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
None of concern
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie contains some substance use. For example:
- Will injects his father with the ALZ-112 virus.
- An ape is forcefully gassed.
- In one scene, a young man brings a small group of adults into the animal shelter to show them the apes. One member of the group is holding a six-pack of beer and hands out bottles to the others members of the group. The scene doesn’t actually show them drinking the beer.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie doesn’t have any nudity, but does contain a brief scene depicting sexual activity. This is when Will and a woman lie on the ground in each other’s arms, kissing passionately.
None of concern
This movie contains infrequent coarse language, name-calling and put-downs.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a science fiction action thriller, targeting an older adolescent and adult audience. It blends scientific fact and fiction to tell a cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic manipulation and experimentation. The realistic apes, produced with performance capture techniques, are the real stars of the movie.
The main message from this movie is that genetic experimentation can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable and might have catastrophic consequences.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include respect for all life. For example, you could talk about how Caesar is very protective of those he loves, and is willing to defend them physically. Several times, Caesar shows respect for life, and also compassion, when he stops other apes from killing humans.