Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

George Lucas and Star Wars Redux

April 22, 2015

140624-george-lucas-1851_7cc45fd8bc75d2b49b61dea85fc143b6

There has been a good deal of talk recently about the JJ Abrams reboot of the Star Wars franchise. This prompted a friend of mine to comment on Facebook: “I haven’t had the chance to get all excited about the new Star Wars trailer, what with me being an adult and all.” Judging from some of the comments on her thread, it appears that some people weren’t pleased with her comment. Yet I think there is an arrested development aspect to this whole Star Wars phenomenon. Most of us first encountered these movies when we were young and our tastes were still largely unformed. Since then, we insist on believing that there is something magical about these films, even though they’re actually not that good. I think we have all had the experience of going back to a favorite book or movie or TV show from our childhood and being dismayed to find that it’s not nearly as good as we remember it being. Our continuing obsession with Star Wars, and our desire for more Star Wars films seem to be an attempt to deny this experience.

What bothers me about the Star Wars films is that they invite us not to think. Because when you think about them, you begin to realize that there are all sorts of things in them that don’t really make sense. (Science fiction purists hate these movies because they make a mockery of the notion that sci-fi is about “ideas”. By the way, the recent film, Ex Machina shows that science fiction really can be thought-provoking.) So, better not to think and to just be awed by the spectacle of it all. As someone who has always valued films that challenge me to think, I can’t help but see Star Wars as a denial of what I most value about cinema.

Lucas has occasionally been compared to Wagner, which is not always meant as a compliment. For example, Lucas is, like Wagner, obsessed with prequels. (Wagner had originally set out to write just an opera about Siegfried, but he felt he had to explain everything that happened before, which resulted in the Ring cycle.) But the comparison isn’t just about size. Critics have accused Wagner of cheapening the myths upon which his operas are based. Likewise, the afore-mentioned science fiction purists have accused Lucas of cheapening the genre. They object to the way these films wallow in all the hackneyed conventions of comic books and Hollywood B-movies.

Perhaps the single best comment I’ve heard about these films came from my father. He was an engineer, and he went to see the first Star Wars film when it first came out. I asked him what he thought about it, and his only comment was: “The spaceships banked when they turned. Why? They’re in a vacuum. Why would they bank?”

He should have been a film critic.

Advertisements

Dr. Mabuse

November 11, 2012

Fritz Lang made three films about the super villain, Dr. Mabuse. This character was clearly inspired by Conan Doyle’s Dr. Moriarty, as well as by Allain and Souvestre’s Fantômas. Like these two, Mabuse heads a criminal gang that carries out daring and elaborately planned crimes. (And, like Moriarty, Mabuse is a scientist.) Like Dr. Caligari, he is an expert hypnotist. Mabuse, however, has the added twist that he has the ability to perform telepathic hypnosis, making people do things against their will, sometimes simply by looking at them, even when they have their back turned on him. The character of Mabuse was created by the novelist, Nobert Jaques, but he is best remembered for the Fritz Lang films in which he appears.

The four-hour Dr. Mabuse the Gambler was released in 1922 in two parts. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) uses his hypnotic abilities to swindle wealthy men at card games. With the riches he makes, Mabuse plans to make himself the most powerful man in the world. His activities arouse the suspicions of the courageous, but not overly bright, State Prosecutor Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke). The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they eventually catch up with Mabuse. At the end of the film he goes mad, and the police take him away to an asylum.

In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), the good doctor has been treated at the asylum by Prof. Baum (Oscar Beregi, Sr.). Through a special form of hypnosis, Mabuse begins to control Baum’s mind. Baum then forms his own criminal gang. He identifies himself to his henchmen, who are not allowed to see him, as “Dr. Mabuse”. After Mabuse dies, he seems to completely takeover Baum. Whereas, in the first film, Mabuse’s aims were pecuniary, Baum/Mabuse shows no interest in making money. His crimes are committed merely for their own sake. This time he is opposed by Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke), who is a little sharper than State Prosecutor Wenk. Lohmann foils Baum/Mabuse’s plan to release a cloud of poison gas over Berlin. At the end of the film, Baum/Mabuse voluntarily commits himself to his own asylum.

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was the last film that Lang made, before he retired due to failing eyesight. At the beginning, we are told that Mabuse died in 1932, yet a criminal named Mabuse is now operating in Berlin with a new gang. It seems that the spirit of Mabuse lives on and has occupied another body. (I won’t say the name of the actor who plays him, since part of the suspense of the film is that it is unclear which character is actually Mabuse, although the cover of the DVD that I have effectively gives it away.) Mabuse controls the Luxor Hotel in Berlin. There are cameras installed in every room, which he uses to acquire information he can use for crimes. He has set an elaborate trap for Henry Travers (Peter van Eyck), an American industrialist. His aim is to take over Travers’s company so he can build a stockpile of nuclear weapons with which to take over the world. (Yes, that’s right, the hero of this film, Travers, is a nuclear arms manufacturer. That was the Cold War for you.)

It has often been argued that Dr.Mabuse the Gambler anticipates Hitler. At times, Mabuse does express a megalomania that is strikingly similar to Hitler’s. It seems to me that a more plausible explanation is that Mabuse represents a type of cynicism that was common in Europe (and particularly in Germany) following the horrors of the First World War. Hitler’s Weltanschauung happened to be an extreme form of this cynicism.

Mabuse can also be viewed as a Nietzschean, particularly in his attitude towards women. At one point he cruelly tells his lover that there is no such thing as love, only desire. Lang’s biographer, Patrick McGilligan, claims that this was Lang’s own view, even though the screenplay was actually written by Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou. This raises serious questions in my mind about the reliability of McGilligan’s biography.

In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Baum/Mabuse speaks of creating an “empire of crime”. This reportedly prompted Goebbels to ban the film, because he feared that people would see it as a criticism of the Nazis. (It didn’t have its German premiere until 1961.) This makes me wonder: did Hitler, Goebbels, and other Nazis see themselves as creating an “empire of crime”? If so, what does this tell us about the historical conditions that created the Nazis?

In hindsight, there is something eerie about the fact that Mabuse tries to use poison gas as a weapon of mass murder. This is no doubt a coincidence, but one can’t help noting it.

In The 1000 Eyes of Mabuse, made after the Second World War, Lang makes an explicit connection between Mabuse and the Nazis. We are told that the Luxor Hotel was used by the Gestapo, and Mabuse employs secret rooms and cameras that they used. No doubt this idea came to Lang in response to the enormity of what had happened. It makes this film an unsettling diminuendo to what is perhaps the greatest film trilogy ever made.

Alphaville

August 14, 2012

Jean Luc Godard’s 1965 film, Alphaville, is a mixture of film noir, science fiction, and surrealist fantasy. At some time in the future, Lemmie Caution (Eddie Constantine) is sent as a secret agent to a city called Alphaville. Although Alphaville is located on another planet, Caution is able to drive there in his Ford Mustang (identified as a “Galaxie” in the film). Caution’s mission is to find a man named Leonard Nosferatu (Howard Vernon) and bring him back to Caution’s home planet. This task turns out to be harder than Caution anticipated, for it turns out that Nosferatu, who has changed his name to Prof. Von Braun, has taken over Alphaville, which he runs using a super computer called Alph 60. Von Braun has outlawed emotions such as love, as well as art and poetry. The government is continually eliminating words from the language, so it has to continually issue new dictionaries without the proscribed words. Von Braun believes that he is making the people of Alphaville into a “superior race”, who will be able to conquer the universe. Caution meets, and falls in love with, Von Braun’s daughter, Natacha (Anna Karina). She ends up risking her life to help him.

Alphaville is Godard’s protest against what he sees as the coldness and cultural vacuity of modern life. It is also an attack on totalitarianism. (These three things are apparently interrelated in Godards’s view.) The talk of a “superior race” is clearly meant to remind us of Hitler. The outlawing of words is meant to remind us of Stalin. (It’s also similar to Orwell’s notion of “newspeak”.) Von Braun is obviously named after Wernher Von Braun, the engineer who designed rockets first for the Nazis and then for the United States. He was seen by many people as the epitome of the amoral technocrat. For Godard, such a person acts an enabler for the political and social forces that are destroying our world.

My one criticism of this film is a lack of continuity in the character of Caution. In some scenes, he behaves like a cold-blooded killer, as well as a bit of a misogynist. Yet in other scenes, he talks about the power of love and of poetry. This inconsistency may due to the fact that the film was largely improvised.

Alphaville is prescient in some ways. Randianism, which calls for a world of self-interest without human connections, is becoming the unofficial philosophy of the U.S. ruling class. Welcome to Alphaville.

Prometheus

June 18, 2012

Ridley Scott’s latest film is a prequel to Alien. After the Star Wars fiasco, one would think that directors would be leery of prequels. Scott is apparently a gutsy man.

Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are archaeologists who have discovered evidence that early humans had contact with extraterrestrials, whom they call “Engineers”. They have also discovered a star map that they believe shows where these beings came from. They then persuade Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, to fund an expedition to find the Engineers. Weyland is impressed by their evidence (although I wasn’t). He spends a trillion dollars to send Shaw and Holloway and fifteen others to a moon orbiting a far distant planet. The trip takes over two years, and they spend most of the time in stasis. An android, David (Michael Fassbender) runs the ship in the meantime. When they reach their destination, Shaw and Holloway explain to the others what the trip is about. (These people agreed to a two-year trip billions of miles into space without knowing what it’s about? I find that hard to believe.) They come across a large mound that appears to be artificially constructed. The mission director, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) tells Shaw and Holloway not to try to make contact with the Engineers without her permission. This is our first intimation that they are being used for ulterior motives.

The H.R. Giger sets and slimy monster are fun to look at. Prometheus, however, ultimately leaves one feeling vaguely dissatisfied. The similarities between this film and Alien (a malevolent android, people meeting unpleasant ends at the mercy of alien creatures) make it feel a bit familiar at times. Also, there too many things in this film that either are not adequately explained or simply don’t make sense. For example, no one seems to notice when David goes off exploring by himself. And the character of Vickers makes no sense. Her only motive seems to be jealousy of David, who is Weyland’s confidant. Late in the film it is revealed that she is Weyland’s daughter, though it’s not clear why this has been kept a secret. And why would she go on a dangerous expedition with uncertain prospects when she could be managing her ailing father’s corporate empire back on Earth? As for David, he displays an extreme vindictiveness that is never really accounted for. Is it really just because he feels unappreciated by the other characters, or is there something more going on with him? Or maybe they just haven’t gotten all the bugs out of the android design yet? (Fassbender delivers his lines in a quiet voice that is clearly meant to remind us of HAL the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

As with many science fiction films nowadays, the events in this film are driven by a corrupt capitalist. Yet it turns out that Weyland’s real motives are not profit, but his belief that the Engineers can prolong his life. (And why should he assume this?) And the ending is implausible. After everyone else is killed off, Shaw decides that, instead of returning to Earth, she will find out why the Engineers want to kill humans. Could this be the set-up for a sequel?

At one point in Prometheus, Shaw is impregnated with an alien creature. At a time when Republicans are ramming through anti-abortion legislation in many states, it’s nice to see a Hollywood film that makes a good argument for abortion rights.

Sound of My Voice

June 13, 2012

Sound of My Voice is the second film I’ve seen in the past year that portrays a Manson-type cult. (The other was Martha Marcy May Marlene.) I don’t know whether this is a coincidence or whether it says something about our current political and economic climate. Perhaps with the erosion of our civil liberties people are beginning to feel as though they are trapped in a cult. (At least I feel that way sometimes.)

Sound of My Voice was co-written and directed by Zal Batmanglij. It was co-written by, and stars, Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and starred in Another Earth. Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are aspiring film makers working on a documentary about cults. Peter supports them by working as a schoolteacher. They infiltrate a cult, whose leader, Maggie (Brit Marling) claims to be from the future. (2054 to be exact.) The members of the cult meet in the basement of a house in the San Fernando Valley. Peter and Lorna don’t know its exact location because they are always blind-folded when they are driven there. Maggie speaks vaguely about a coming civil war, and she tells her followers they must prepare themselves for it. She makes them undergo a series of increasingly humiliating rituals. Peter’s behavior during one of these meetings causes Lorna to suspect that he is starting to buy into Maggie’s claims. Maggie has a private meeting with Peter, in which she asks him to bring one of his students, Abigail (Avery Pohl) to her. When he asks her why, she says that Abigail is her mother. When Peter suggests to Lorna that they actually do this, she walks out on him.

Shortly after that, Lorna meets Carol Briggs (Davenia McFadden), who tells her she is with the Department of Justice. She says she knows Maggie’s true identity and that Maggie is wanted for armed robbery and for arson. (Presumably, the government has been spying on Peter and Lorna, since Briggs knows all about them.) Briggs persuades Lorna to help her. At Briggs’s suggestion, Lorna devises a plan with Peter (who doesn’t know that Lorna is now working for the government) to bring Abigail on a field trip to a museum, where she will meet Maggie. Briggs plans to have Maggie arrested there. The twist to this whole thing is that just before Maggie is arrested, something happens that suggests she may really be from the future.

Sound of My Voice leaves so many questions unanswered, that at the end one feels as though one has only watched the first half of the movie. Is Maggie really from the future? If so, why does she try to start a cult, and what does she intend to do with it? Did Maggie really commit armed robbery and arson, or are the police mistaken? Or does the government have an ulterior motive in arresting her? There are moments in the film that suggest that more is going on than what the characters are telling us, though nothing ever comes from this. I suppose some will say that this ambiguity is the point, but what is the good of raising questions that have no answers? It’s all too easy to use ambiguity to make a film seem more clever or more profound than it actually is. (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, for example, sometimes does this.)

Brit Marling is believable as Maggie, and the cult scenes create a deep sense of unease, but I wish the story had more meat on its bones.

Ray Bradbury and ‘Fahrenheit 451’

June 10, 2012

When I was in junior high school I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It made a very strong impression on me. I immediately began reading everything I could find by Bradbury. I was surprised to discover that most of his writings were neither science fiction nor fantasy, even though his books were always located in the science fiction section in bookstores. (This was back when bookstores were a fairly common sight, before Barnes & Noble and Amazon pretty much killed off the book retail business.) I dutifully read each one, however, hoping to find something that would affect me the way The Martian Chronicles did, but that never happened. What’s more, it seemed to me that his writings became increasingly sentimental as he got older, so I eventually stopped reading them.

Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury’s most famous book, even though it is not his best, and it is even atypical of his work, since it is his only dystopian fantasy. It is set in a future in which the government burns books and most people spend their free time watching gigantic television screens. When I heard about Bradbury’s recent death at the age of 91, I decided to watch Truffaut’s 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Truffaut’s film is not as bleak as Bradbury’s novel (the latter ends with society being destroyed by nuclear war), but it suffers from the same basic problem that the book does: it is a political story without any politics in it.

Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) works as a “fireman”, which is actually a policeman who finds and destroys books. The government has passed a law outlawing all books, regardless of their content. Montag is married to Linda (Julie Christie), his stay-at-home wife who spends most of her time watching vapid TV shows. Montag’s captain (Cyril Cusack) thinks highly of him and recommends him for a promotion. One day, while taking the monorail home from work, he meets Clarice (also played by Julie Christie), whose free-spirited and inquisitive personality he finds oddly appealing. She seems to plant some seeds of doubt in his personality, for at a book burning he snatches a copy of David Copperfield and brings it home to read it. He begins bringing other books home and reading them as well. This causes tensions between him and Linda, who disapproves of reading. At a book burning at an old woman’s house, the woman (Bee Duffell) sets herself on fire along with her books. This incident leaves Montag feeling profoundly disturbed, which leads to a confrontation with Linds. She informs on him. Montag is forced to flee.

Clarice has told him about a group of people living outside the city known as the “book people”. Montag goes to them. They are people determined to preserve the world’s books by memorizing them. Each person is required to memorize one book word for word and then destroy it. Why destroy the books? Because, we are told, so the police can’t destroy them. I have a serious problem with this. What real difference is there between them destroying the books or the firemen destroying them? And having people memorize books is an obviously impractical way of preserving them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to record the books on microfilm, or some other medium that can easily be hidden?

For that matter, why does the government burn books? The captain tells Montag that it’s because books make people “anti-social” and “unhappy”, which isn’t really true, so what’s the real reason? We’re never told. In fact, we’re told almost nothing about the government itself. It’s clearly a police state, but we’re told nothing about its ideology. Some would argue that is the point: people are so busy watching TV that no one cares what the government is doing. And yet there are some people who still read books. The firemen seem very busy in this film. So why does the government regard these people as a threat, even if they read books that are not political at all?

The book burnings in Fahrenheit 451 are clearly meant to remind us of the book burnings in Nazi Germany. The Nazis, however, burned only certain books, and they did so for reasons that were explicitly political.

The lack of politics in the story is a serious weakness. George Orwell”s 1984 is compelling because of its political ideas, even though these ideas are flawed. By comparison, Fahrenheit 451 seems flat.

Fahrenheit 451 is thought of as an anti-censorship novel, but it is actually an anti-television novel. Bradbury himself said as much. (Bradbury sometimes wrote for television, so his feelings about the medium were apparently mixed.) It depicts a world that has declared war on the printed word. Interestingly, Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the early 1950’s, when many of the pulp magazines he wrote for in his youth were going out of business, largely because they couldn’t compete with the still relatively new medium of television. One suspects that there was an element of resentment fueling this novel. Six years after he wrote Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury wrote Dandelion Wine, a sentimental fictionalized account of his childhood in 1920’s Illinois. (A book that owes a lot to Thomas Wolfe, though it has none of Wolfe’s sharp social commentary in it.) It perhaps shouldn’t be surprising then that Bradbury became a political reactionary in his later years, expressing admiration for Ronald Reagan and for George W. Bush. Considering this, it’s perhaps just as well then that there are no politics in Fahrenheit 451.

Despite the weaknesses of its story, Truffaut’s film is nonetheless entertaining to watch. Truffaut greatly admired Hitchcock, and this film has a Hitchcockian look and feel to it: claustrophobic rooms and hallways, with a subtle and mounting feeling of dread. The book burning scenes are disturbing to watch, as they should be.

John Carter

April 9, 2012

When I was a kid, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom (Mars) novels. The first few, anyway. I don’t remember much about them, except that the characters struck me as a bit slow. It would take them a long time to figure out things that were immediately obvious to me. So I stopped reading them. However, I’m told that some people have fond memories of these books. One of these is the director, Andrew Stanton, who in John Carter, based on the first novel of the series, A Princess of Mars, has recreated in loving detail Burroughs’s fantasy vision of Mars. I’m starting to think that perhaps I was too hard on the books, for I found this film entertaining, a pleasant way to pass two hours. No one does anything really dumb, except for John Carter, who throws away a medallion that enables him to travel between Earth and Mars. (This turns out to be a big mistake.) One thing that did bother me is that there are a lot of sword fights in this film. I’ve never understood why they have sword fights in science fantasy movies. Why would people who have the technology to make guns use swords? (This is one of the problems I’ve always had with the Star Wars films.)

John Carter cost an enormous amount of money to make, and it is widely believed that it will end up losing money. I think that is a shame, for – dare I say it? – this is actually a better film than Martin Scorceses’s Hugo or Stephen Speilberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. The action scenes all advance the story, and the characters are believable (within the logic of their fantasy world, that is). And there are none of those annoying slow-motion shots that mar Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.

John Carter is played by an actor with the perhaps unfortunate name of Taylor Kitsch. I must say he acquits himself reasonably well in the role. His love interest, Princess Dejah Thoris, is played by Lynn Collins, who is extremely good (think of a sort of an American version of Noomi Rapace).

In perhaps the ultimate nerd touch, we are told that this film is dedicated to Steve Jobs, who, we are told, “inspired us all”. Really? By making overpriced gadgets and exploiting cheap labor in China? Would John Carter have approved of that?

The Hunger Games

March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future in which a group of teenagers are forced to fight to the death on live television. One of the interesting things about this film is its implied criticism of so-called “reality” TV shows. Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novel on which this film is based, has said that she got the idea for it when she switched from a reality TV show to coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. She said the two “began to blur in this very unsettling way”. Indeed, the Iraq invasion was covered somewhat like a reality show. The military and the media colluded, for example, in concocting a fake “dramatic” story about a female army private being held prisoner by the Iraqis. This took place in a context in which innocent civilians were killed. The Hunger Games presents a future in which state-sanctioned murder has become a form of entertainment.

This is a well-made film that is superior to your usual Hollywood blockbuster. It features complex characters and strong performances. I must say, though, that I found some of the fight scenes hard to follow. Also, I would have liked to learn more about the politics of this future world. How does the regime justify itself ideologically? There are extremes of wealth and poverty. Clearly there is exploitation here, but how is it carried out? Perhaps we will learn more about this is the promised sequels.

Early on in The Hunger Games, we see a government propaganda film that starts out by decrying the horrors of war, which then leads into a justification of the blood-letting in the games. This is an interesting portrayal of how, in politics, idealistic language is often used to justify monstrous behavior.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

September 16, 2011

I initially did not intend to see the latest Planet of the Apes movie. I saw the original series when I was a kid, and I don’t remember much about it, except for that famous iconic scene in which Charlton Heston screams “God damn you all to Hell” at the Statue of Liberty. (Nowadays he would be investigated by Homeland Security for doing that.) I figure the movies probably weren’t that good if that’s all I remember. (I didn’t see Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. I have always been somewhat ambivalent about Burton, and the thought of him doing a remake sent me into ambivalence overdrive.) However I heard a lot of good things about this new Planet of the Apes movie. A friend of mine told me he thought it was a better film than X-Men: First Class. So I knew then I should check it out.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working for Gen-Sys, a pharmaceutical company. (The film grounds itself in reality by portraying a pharmaceutical company as a cynical and corrupt place.) Rodman is trying to develop a viral cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. After an experiment involving chimpanzees goes seriously awry, the company’s CEO, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders Rodman to have the chimps killed. However, Rodman’s assistant, Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) persuades him to spare the life of a baby chimp. Rodman takes the chimp home and his father, an admirer of Shakespeare, names him “Caesar”. Right away, Caesar exhibits signs of extraordinary intelligence. Rodman realizes that Caesar has in his blood the viral agent that his mother was given. However, when Caesar attacks a neighbor who threatens Rodman’s father, he is taken away by the authorities and placed in a primate shelter.

I won’t say much more about the story except to say that Machiavelli would have admired the way that Caesar makes himself into the leader of the other apes at the shelter. And there is something deliriously entertaining about the sight of apes running amok through the streets of San Francisco. (Not many people get hurt, except for some who deserve it.) Oh, and there is an evil capitalist (the aforementioned Jacobs) in it. It always improves a film immeasurably when you add an evil capitalist to it. (Back in the 1990’s, it seemed as though every movie had a serial killer in it. Boring. Evil capitalists are a lot more fun.)

I’m told that this film has all sorts of references in it to the earlier Planet of the Apes films, but I didn’t pick up on any of them. This is just as well, since I hate these sorts of inside jokes in movies. (Nobody screams “God damn you all to Hell” at the Statue of Liberty. I suppose this would have been hard to fit in, since the movie takes place in San Francisco.)

By the way, when I was a kid, I read the Pierre Boulle novel on which the original Planet of the Apes movie was based. The ending is different from the movie’s. Instead of the hero finding that he has been on Earth all along, he returns to Earth and finds that apes have taken it over while he was on the other planet. It’s always something, isn’t it?

I have been told that a sequel is planned. I find this ominous, since sequels are (almost) never as good as the first film. This movie would be pretty hard to top. However, I did not think that this is a better movie than X-Men: First Class; the latter has more interesting characters and a more complex story. Still, Rise of the Planet of the Apes meets and exceeds all other expectations.