|The actor:||Andy Serkis|
|The film:||Rise of the Planet of the Apes|
|The quote:||“Ape alone weak. Ape together strong.”|
I very nearly had two quotes from this movie on this list, because try as I might I couldn’t justify Caesar yelling “NO” that first time. It’s a stupendous moment, expected because we all know what’s coming but completely unexpected because we’ve not yet seen it for ourselves in this movie. In that moment, Caesar ceases to be a subaltern. His speech makes him powerful and unprecedented, and that his first spoken word is an outright rejection rather than some response of kindness or love is one tragedy among the many in this picture. Despite how moving I think his “NO” is, I went a different direction.
For this one, which I think is having a longer cultural life than “NO” ever had, Caesar is back to sign language, which is what he learned to speak first before he knew how to create any English. (I don’t think it’s coincidental, by the way, that this has remained popular and memorable. Anything that’s naturally subtitled for the audience is going to stick a little bit more from the fact of reading it.) Maybe Caesar hasn’t doing any research in his spare time on the history of unions and organization, but he certainly seems to understand the idea of “solidarity” better than ersatz human beings Aaron Sorkin and Todd Phillips do.
One of the foundational ideas throughout this new Planet of the Apes trilogy, which never gets better than it does in this movie, is that the apes become powerful because of their commitment to togetherness. It’s the humans, hewn apart by their differences, who are weak in their solitude. Their actions are predictable because of how predictable their self-interests are. Venality, cruelty, and vitriol rule the day. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a movie with a real number of male villains. There’s Jacobs, a Big Pharma exemplar Bernie Sanders could have run half a dozen campaign ads off of. There are the Landons, who run the primate shelter with a mixture of ruthlessness and pure meanness. Orphaned once by murder and twice by necessity, Caesar is dropped into an environment which he is completely ill-equipped to manage. He fits uncomfortably within the margins of the recognizably human and the recognizably animal alike, which is why he learns this lesson about the weakness of the individual before any of the other apes. His own weakness plays a part; he cannot, by himself, fight off Dodge or Rocket. But with the help of others, he can not only resist Rocket but supplant him. With the help of others, he can break himself and the others free despite Dodge’s efforts to keep them in captivity. “Apes together strong” works as a heroic motto for an ape with an appropriately grandiose name.
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