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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Beat Sheet

Poster for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Poster for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Thanks to Master Cat! Ben Frahm for breaking down the hit film:

Writers: Pierre Boulle, suggested by the novel La Planete des Singes. Written by: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Rupert Wyatt

Genre: See comments

1. Opening Image (1):
— Eyes. Not sure if they’re human or ape.
— Pulling back we’re in a serene forest. Watching apes as they play. Peacefully.
— And then danger. Fear. They’re being chased. We assume by poachers. Traps are set. And some of the apes are captured.

2. Theme Stated (5):
When Caroline learns that Caesar has been living with Will, she tells him that some things belong in nature and shouldn’t be manipulated.

3. Set-Up (1-10):
— In a genetic lab.
— We meet BRIGHT EYES, an ape that has been undergoing testing. She’s been receiving ALZ 112, a drug that is supposed to increase brain activity. And it works. Her testing shows improvement.
— Meet the scientist behind it all. WILL RODMAN (James Franco). He’s excited by these test results. He can’t wait to tell the Board of Directors.

Turn around, Bright Eyes.

Turn around, Bright Eyes.

— Board meeting: Will is telling investors that the drug ALZ 112 is working. The apes are showing increased intellectual capacity. This could be huge. This could lead to medical breakthroughs, like a cure for Alzheimer’s. The board director, JACOBS, a power-driven, money-hungry guy, is delighted.
— Meanwhile: there’s trouble in the lab. Bright Eyes is becoming aggressive with the scientists. She breaks free. Destroys some of the lab. And is ultimately shot by a Guard, as she’s considered dangerous.
— As a result, the ALZ 112 experiment is cancelled. It is thought that the drug caused this aggressive behavior. All of the apes are put to sleep. Except for a baby chimp. His name is CAESAR. We learn that Bright Eyes was pregnant and this is why she acted erratically. Before she died, the scientists were able to rescue her baby, Caesar. Caesar is the only ape that survives. And he doesn’t have a home. Who will take Caesar so he isn’t killed? The scientist looks to Will.

4. Catalyst (12):
— Caesar goes to live with Will.
— We meet Will’s father, Charles Rodman (John Lithgow). Charles is not well, he has Alzheimer’s, and we now know why Will is so driven to cure this debilitating illness.
— We learn that Caesar has some of the ALZ 112 inside of him, passed on from his mother. (This is dramatized by his “Bright” green eyes…)

5. Debate (12-25):
— Time passes. We see how advanced and bright Caesar is because of the ALZ 112.
— Will knows the drug works.
— So Will gives the drug to his father in hopes that it will cure his Alzheimer’s.
— The drug works. Will’s father’s health improves. It appears the Alzheimer’s has been reversed.
— Will takes Caesar to see a Veterinarian by the name of Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), who is astounded by his intellectual capabilities.
— Caroline and Will and Caesar spend time together.
— Will begins a romantic relationship with Caroline.
— And this brings us to the debate: will this drug continue to work? Is this drug healthy for Caesar? Can this drug really save Will’s father? At this point, everything looks encouraging.
— However, one day at the dinner table, Will’s father holds a fork incorrectly. Caesar corrects him. And we start to see that Will’s father’s Alzheimer’s is returning. The drug is flawed.

Two species, one cure.

Heartbroken at Break into Two.

6. Break into Two (25):
— Will’s father tries to drive a car. He slams into the neighbor’s car. The neighbor becomes angry. Caesar sees this and misinterprets the behavior as dangerous. Caesar overreacts and bites the neighbor’s finger off. We’ve never seen this kind of behavior from Caesar before and start to wonder if it’s a side effect of the ALZ 112.
— It’s no longer safe to have Caesar living at home.
— Mandated by court, Caesar has to go live in a contained sanctuary with other apes.
— At first glance, this place doesn’t seem that great.

7. B Story (30):
— Will knows he doesn’t have long to save his father.
— So Will returns to the lab and convinces the director, Jacobs, that the drug worked on his father; however, it still has problems and needs some work. Jacobs agrees to reopen testing on the drug ALZ 112.

8. Fun and Games (30-55):
— Caesar in his new home, the “ape sanctuary.”
— Caesar misses Will and Caroline.
— Will and Caroline come to visit Caesar.
— All the while, new apes are being tested at the lab. It appears the ALZ 112 is working. The IQ scores from the apes are astounding.
— Will is convinced he can save his father.
— However, things are getting worse at Caesar’s home. The other apes are aggressive towards him.
— The guards in the facility are mean towards Caesar because he’s not like the other apes.
— And meanwhile, back at the lab, even though the drug is testing positively… Will’s father’s health continues to deteriorate. It appears the Alzheimer’s has become resistant towards the ALZ 112.
— Things start turning for the worse…
— Will’s father’s health is rapidly deteriorating.

— So is the treatment of Caesar in his new home. Something has to change…

9. Midpoint (55):

— Will’s father passes away.
— The drug was not successful and Will blames himself.
— At the ape “sanctuary,” Caesar steals a knife from one of the guards. That night, Caesar escapes out of his cell.
— Caesar establishes his dominance over the other apes when he beats up the “Ape Bully.”
— Now Caesar is in charge and all of the other apes know it.
— Later, Caesar breaks out of the sanctuary and secretly steals some of the ALZ 112 from Will’s house.
— Caesar gives the ALZ 112 to the other apes.
— Caesar starts to plan a revolt.

10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75):
— Will goes to the lab to find that Jacobs has authorized more testing of the drug, even without waiting for the results from the apes. This could be dangerous. And Will knows it.
— However, when Will asks Jacobs to stop he says he will not.
— As a result, Will quits the lab. Things are getting out of hand and he no longer wants any part of it.
— Will also learns that a fellow scientist has died, because he was exposed to the ALZ 112. Will knows this needs to stop.
— Will goes to the ape sanctuary and tries to bribe the guard into letting him take back Caesar.
— However, when Will goes to Caesar’s cell and tries to convince him to come “home”… Caesar has an unexpected response…

11. All Is Lost (75):
— …Caesar doesn’t want to go with Will, “his father.” Caesar feels abandoned. And knows that Will is no longer his “home.” Caesar refuses to leave.
— The emotional core between Caesar and Will is lost. Will has raised Caesar. He is like a father to him. And this has become the strongest relationship in the movie… and, at this point… is the all is “lost” moment: the separation between our two characters that is devastating for the audience to see.

The apes are revolting!

The apes are revolting!

12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85):
— That night, Caesar coordinates the “revolt” with the other apes.
— The apes break out of the sanctuary.
— They wreak havoc on the town.
— They destroy the genetic lab and steal all of the ALZ 112.
— Trying to find their way back to the forest… the apes cross the…

13. Break into Three (85):
— …Golden Gate Bridge.  Literally, this is the physical and metaphorical barrier into the third act.

14. Finale (85-110):
— And now “Storming The Castle,” these apes start fighting their way to freedom… back to the forest…
— However, there’s a “High Tower Surprise”… the police stack cars, helicopters, and tanks to stop the apes.
— That is, until, Will shows up and helps Caesar and his fellow apes escape to freedom…
— This is Will’s final “test” to see if he’s learned anything from his journey. And he has. Will helps Caesar and the apes return to their natural habitat. He is no longer trying to manipulate and change “nature.” And we know if he had this decision earlier in the movie, he would have reacted differently. But now he’s changed… and his decision to let Caesar return to his natural habitat is proof of Will’s change…

15. Final Image (110):
— In the forest, Caesar and Will find closure in their relationship. Caesar tells Will that, “this is home… the forest!”
— And as the apes are finally liberated… and swing from the trees… we see that this is the exact opposite image of our opening credits… where the apes were being poached and captured.
— Will watches as Caesar disappears into the forest… finally free.

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  1. BJ says:

    Master Cats Ben Frahm, Al Rodriguez, and Jose Silerio have had an invigorating discussion about the genre of the film:

    Ben thought it was Buddy Love.

    Al’s first response: It’s tough. It’s the central paradox of FRANKENSTEIN – who is the protagonist, the scientist or the monster? There are so many competing elements. Look at it one way, it’s a classic SUPERHERO story in which Caesar is the chosen one whose unique abilities put him in a place of becoming the liberator of an oppressed class. There are certainly some OUT OF THE BOTTLE elements — messing with Mother Nature results in the elimination of the human race and the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. If we follow Blake’s suggestion that JURASSIC PARK is really a MONSTER IN THE HOUSE story, where science tampers with nature and creates a Thing Which Cannot Be Contained, isn’t that this, too?

    Therefore, if we return to the “who is the hero” question — and suggest it is a tragedy in which a good-hearted scientist inadvertently creates a “monster” he struggles to control and contain and ultimately fails — that could be either MONSTER IN THE HOUSE (Monster: sentient ape, Sin: Messing with Mother Nature; House: the lab, then the world).

    I’m inclined to list it as a hybrid — MONSTER IN THE HOUSE meets SUPERHERO, and use FRANKENSTEIN as my evidence. If I had to generalize, I’d say MONSTER IN THE HOUSE, but this is unique in that the MONSTER has a fairly strong storyline of its own — a SUPERHERO storyline — that’s why I go hybrid.

    Jose’s input: Al, Great thoughts on the genre and the comparison to Frankenstein. I also thought of a Superhero genre – if I were only considering Caesar’s storyline … plus a bit of Institutionalized. But this definitely isn’t just Caesar’s story. I also see where you’re coming from with the MITH, but here’s my counter-argument (a friendly one), with Jurassic Park – and all monsters really – the monster doesn’t change (or in the case of Domestic MITHs, the monster doesn’t learn anything). Right? They are what they are from start to finish, no reason needed as to why they are a monster, regardless of who created it/them (that’s really the sin part of a MITH). And it’s because of that, I don’t see Caesar as a monster (nor the story as a MITH) because Caesar clearly has his own transformative storyline.

    I do agree with you that this is a hybrid of genres, but I’m leaning towards Buddy Love as the “main genre.” It’s not a love story in the romantic sense, but I think both Caesar and Will (James Franco) are forced to change because of one another, even if Caesar’s change was brought about by hate and not love. Still, it’s their relationship that makes each of them “complete” by the Final Image – even if they go their separate ways.

    That’s my thought on it … so should we call this a Buddy Monster? 🙂

    Back to Al: I see your point about transformation, and clearly Caesar changes over the course of the story, but in terms of looking at it as Will’s story, it’s still a MONSTER IN THE HOUSE. Look at the elements — Will wants to cure his father’s Alzheimers and so conducts a reckless experiment, which is later compounded when the head of the company pushes profits over protocol. That’s classic SIN stuff — greed and hubris. That the “monster” begins life as a cute baby is really beside the point. I stick with Frankenstein — the core story is about the danger of reckless experimentation, of playing God — and unleashing a thing that can’t be controlled. I still say the hybrid is “SUPERMONSTER IN THE HOUSE,” because Caesar’s transformation follows a Chosen One/Superhero storyline. Look, too, at the importance of the “house” in the story. The first house is the lab in which Caesar was born — the place where men play God. Caesar is smuggled into Will’s house, where he is safe from prying eyes but still held captive. When Caesar goes to the animal control center with the other apes — he recreates his attic window in a chalk drawing on the wall — then later erases it after he is “betrayed” by Will and the humans. He destroys all the “houses” in the story — Will’s house, the lab, the animal control center, and finally San Francisco and the world… the terror created out of greed is loose. Classic MITH.

    Classifying the genre should illuminate the story problem for the prospective screenwriter, and while there are certainly dual or “buddy” elements in the movie, it more snugly fits into the MITH genre, with the “Moses/Superman” expansion of the “monster.”

    And Ben: I was inclined to buddy love BC I felt like ape and guy relationship was the strongest and all is lost was their break up. But can see all of these others as well. This was genre bending for sure.

    Readers….What do you think?

  2. Tom Reed says:

    Great thread, you guys. You raise really interesting questions regarding the genre of the story and the hero’s identity. First of all, let me say I loved the film. It was way better than I expected and delivered in a lot of surprising ways, which is the only reason why we’re all spending time thinking about it and talking about it. The story is definitely a “two-hander” where it’s not obvious (at least initially) who the protagonist is, which makes it harder to identify the genre than it otherwise would be if it were a standard, single-protagonist story. Looking at it from Dr. Will Rodman’s POV, there are certainly elements of MONSTER IN THE HOUSE (apes as monsters, lab as house, greed/profits as sin), INSTITUTIONALIZED (Big Pharma as insane system, Jacobs as “Company Man”) and OUT OF THE BOTTLE (ALZ 112 as “spell”, and perhaps even curing his Dad as “wish”). Looking at it from Caesar’s POV, there’s definitely an aspect of SUPERHERO at work (Hero with “special power”), and perhaps a touch of BUDDY LOVE given that the central emotional relationship is between Will and Caesar. All of this you guys discussed. But from this list, nothing announces itself to me as the predominant genre, or suggests what the story is really about. At this point I find it helpful to look at the main characters and see who changes the most, and examine the nature and scope of that change. To me, Will doesn’t change very much. I’m not sure if he’s even learned much of a lesson by the end, even the most obvious one (given the obvious “Frankenstein” parallels) that you screw with Mother Nature/Play God at your peril. His change at the end seems to be the change all parents experience when their kids go off to college: you have to let your kids grow up. Will has to let his child go.

    Caesar’s change, on the other hand, is monumental. He changes as much as it possible for a character to change. And because he starts as “sub-human”, he actually changes more than any human character is capable of changing. He goes from ape (albeit a gifted one, and therefore a “superhero ape” of sorts), to a boy, then adolescent, then man, then visionary, then to leader and founder of the newly minted Nation of Ape, all inside 105 tight little minutes. It’s really kind of astonishing, especially considering that I never once felt any crucial developmental stage was being skipped, or any aspect of his growth was forced or shortchanged. The rhythm and escalation of his evolution was pitch-perfect. For this reason, I would say this movie is essentially about Caesar, not Will. When you consider the movie’s title, and that it starts and ends with the bookends of 1) natural apes in the jungle with 2) the enhanced Nation of Ape back in the trees, but at a much higher level of organization and capacity, it supports the idea of Caesar being the Protagonist-Hero. Will is a crucial, but subordinate, character to that story. What makes it harder to determine at first is that the film starts with Will as the Hero, and he has his own goals that are driving him, predominantly concerning curing his Dad, and they all play out to resolution. But I would argue that the emphasis shifts once Caesar is incarcerated at the ape sanctuary. Will literally hands off the story to Caesar, and his story takes center stage.

    Now the genre seems clear, too. It’s first and foremost a RITE OF PASSAGE story. It’s the ROP story for the entire species of ape (again, look to the title), as personified through its first leader, and in fact the one ape instrumental in creating the nation (and by stealing the AZL 112 and exposing his tribe to its intelligence-enhancing effects, the ape who gives “rise” to the nation in a very literal way). But it’s also a GOLDEN FLEECE story where the prize that is sought is both “identity” and “freedom;” both self-actualization and self-determination. I think of the GOLDEN FLEECE genre as the domain of the Mythic Journey, and what could be more mythic than the founding of a new nation by a Hero of extraordinary vision, especially when that Hero is, at least at the outset, apparently sub-human?

    So to me, the Hero of the movie is Ceasar, and the genre is ROP/GOLDEN FLEECE.

    But any way you want to look at it, I still loved it. And I know I’m not alone.

    Andy Serkis rules. And this director, my God… what a home run. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

  3. Eric says:

    I saw the film and was just about to go home and analyze it myself but than I find this, thanks guys! I havent written my own thesis yet but I know I agree with Tom who says this film is about Ceasar. Altough the answer to “who needs this journey the most?” might be Will depending on how much you would care about opressed monkeys. Its a tough call and a great movie.

  4. Tom Reed says:

    Hey Eric. I think the degree to which we care about oppressed monkeys is dependent on how symathetic and relatable they are, and how much we root for their goals. Who knew how much we could care about a little trash can on wheels until R2-D2 first rolled onto the screen in the first STAR WARS film? Though you make a fair point vis-a-vis ROTPOFA, and one that I’m sure was debated endlessly between the filmmakers and the studio. Clearly James Franco was the movie star, not to mention simply being a human character, so I believe that’s why they quite purposefully started the story with him in the protagonist role. However, their choice to then bring Ceasar’s story center stage was incredibly bold for the very reason you point out — he’s not human. He’s not even real — he’s digital! Though brought to life with truly incredible subtlty and power by Andy Serkis, who is turning out to be a bonafide genius (I personally thought Gollum deserved an acting award in ROTK). Still, the filmmakers worked very hard to keep James Franco in the story, which is why Act II plays out like a “two hander.” But they weren’t just hedging their bets; I thought the two stories were woven together with a lot of finesse. But there’s one more comment I’d like to make about the question you pose regarding how much we care about “oppressed monkeys.” I think we’re likely to care a lot about oppressed groups of any kind. Oppressed groups are underdogs, and I think most audiences (and probably most people) automatically relate and root for the underdog. I think we’re likely to care more about oppressed simians than oppressed robots, simply because of how close they are to us genetically; they’re quasi-human, moreso than anything else in the animal kingdom. But since anything can be anthropormiphized, how much we care is entirely dependent on the storyteller’s art, and not the particular group per se. And I also think that this movie, being about an oppressed group that fights for its independence, benefits from the zeitgeist. In the post-2008 Recession (I mean, Depression), we’re all feeling pretty oppressed, particuarly those who can’t find a job, and countless others are facing hardship due to draconian cuts in benefits and/or salaries (fair warning: I’m going to get political for a second) that seem almost incomprehensible considering that the budget for the American War Machine continues to skyrocket. So the oppressed monkeys in Rise of the Apes is a metaphor for us all, and very much works on that level. Whether the audience is consciously aware of it or not, the metaphor resonates. And I think that is an aspect that contributes to its success, though I by no means intend to take anything away from the film’s storytelling artistry and technical bravura. But to me, its what’s happening under the surface on the level of metaphor and archetype that makes it not just a good movie, but a very, very, very good movie. And a very successful one. Oh, and who needs the journey more? James Franco’s character is sort of the stand-in for humanity, or at least human’s wielding science for profit, and that journey concerns the lesson of hubris: fuck with nature at your peril. That journey and lesson is at the center of much science fiction, if not most, ever since Mary Shelley first wrote FRANKENSTEIN. He also has the personal psychological need of learning to let his (surrogate) child grow up and leave home. It’s clear that he learns the latter by the end; far less clear that he’s learned the former, though the lesson is certainly delivered to the audience. Caesar, on the other hand, by virtue of being one of the oppressed, has a far greater need: freedom from slavery, and the right of self-determination. That’s a far weightier need on every level, which is why we’re totally rooting for his success. I would argue that they both need to fulfill their respective needs (Franco his lessons, Caeser his escape from bondage), it’s just that Caesar’s journey is more personally pressing, and his success far more spectacular, requiring, as it does, for him to mastermind a slave revolt and become the visonary leader of a new nation.

  5. John Krueger says:

    I think you are all right in some way. And that is a flaw in the movie. I felt it was trying to find its way as I watched it.
    First it is Franco’s story, then it is Caesar’s story. In the end, it is a coming of age for Franco AND Caesar.
    They both grow to learn the value of freedom. Dual protagonists on a collision course. I have a fonder recollection of the originals. Could someone beat those out?

  6. JD Scruggs says:

    This is all good stuff, however I am going to go out on a limb and cover my head. My choice, drum roll, Rite of passage!
    Blake once told me, simplicity, strip away all the filigree, take it down to the basics. Cg, ape, not real, these things do not matter. Look at the characters in their simplest form. As this is a sci-fi and an existing franchise there are many elements that will give it the “cool” factor, but untimely they are not the soul of the tale. Will’s problem; his fathers health and ultimate demise. His wrong way solution; as he is a scientist, so what other way does he know, create a cure, save his father. His acceptance; he cannot change nature and life will eventually end.
    Will has been in this endeavor before the movie starts, we see him, unknowingly, already far into his choice to change nature. When his choice is proven to be wrong, he must accept the inevitable, and fix what he has broken, including his abandonment of Cesar.
    The apes may choose to go on a road trip to obtain the drug, but they would have never known of it on their own before and would have never set out to try to achieve it. As this movie contains many “cool” elements, and bits and pieces of the different genres, it is the strongest change that drives the very spine of the tale. And remember this is huge budget and can get away with a lot of “cheats” that some of us may not be able to pull off. Primal always primal.

  7. Phuong Lam says:

    Oh, I love this. I am reading your “Save the cat” book and this help me to improve my skills. So could I translate it into Vietnamese just for sharing with my friends who are self-studying about sceenwriting too?