On Rise of the Planet of the Apes (part 2)

So I just finished Rise of the Planet of the Apes again, this time on glorious home video, and I have another couple thoughts to add to my original post on the film.

1. I got into a discussion about sovereignty and the control of the subject in the comments of the last post. This viewing really just solidified that for me. Not only is there the visual image of the fasces really important for the film, but also the short section before that where Caesar builds an army by providing “edible” food. He understands that the Sovereign needs subjects who invest their desires into it. In this case, the anger of slavery and the shame that comes with knowledge get invested in Caeser, who directs it into the revolution. There are even moments that show how that investment sometimes overflows any possible control–a number of apes visibly murder humans onscreen, despite the implicit and explicit intent that Caesar has to not kill humans. What I’m saying is that Caesar basically presents Revolution 101, and not the Ron Paul kind.

2. There are a couple points made about affect in the film that I find interesting. Franklin, the chimpanzee handler, objects to killing the test subject apes because they have relationships and connections. The apes’ ability to experience affective relationships between objects and subjects puts them into an ethical framework is essentially Franklin’s point, and I think that is something worth thinking through. The ability to experience affect and enter into complex assemblages with other beings and objects could be a place to start with ethics–I lean toward it, actually.

3. Continuing with ethical thinking in the film, I think there is a unique critique of Levinas to be had there. Caesar is set apart because of his eyes, and more than that, his CGI face; he resembles a human more than other apes, and that makes it possible for James Franco to treat him like a human (or, in other words, it makes James Franco actually think about the ethical implications of his actions on Caesar). This ultimately makes James Franco offer Caesar a space in the human world–a world that is based on fundamental exclusions of other beings (think of the “_____ is what makes us human” argument). Caesar enacts a politics that rejects his facial similarity, his resembling-human, in exchange for an absolute opacity. The humans cannot understand his language, his facial expressions become more strange, less emotive, less human. He embarks on a politics of animality that rejects any commonality of the face. The pull quote at the end of the film, “Caesar is home,” is all about an absolute divided domain, both of political activity and similarity.

4. My final point is that the turning point of the film, where Caesar says “No!”, is the ultimate ideal moment for animal advocates. The world could only be better if every being who wanted to say “no” could say it.

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