Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is another entry into the Planet of the Apes canon, a franchise which has spawned seven films, multiple comic books, and even two television series. Aside from the original film, most of it has been crap. This new film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is essentially an origin story outlining (presumably) how the world ends up being controlled by apes.
James Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist researching a cure for Alzheimer’s in order to cure his dementia-addled father (John Lithgow, or as everyone else knows him “that guy from Harry and the Hendersons”). After one of the chimpanzees Franco has been testing the so-called “cure” on goes ape in the laboratory (see what I did there?), the project gets shut down and Franco ends up with a baby ape named Caesar. Caesar is the son of the chimp who has been given the experimental treatment, and thus inherits his mothers hyper-intelligence. This intelligence eventually leads him to incite a monkey revolution.
I enjoyed this film quite a bit, though there were some questionable aspects. The CGI in the movie is a bit unsettling. It’s obvious that these are not real monkeys (not as obvious as the chimps in Jumanji, though!) yet it looks a hell of a lot better than people in prosthetic monkey makeup. There are also some things that flat out don’t make sense. How are there seemingly hundreds of monkeys in urban San Francisco, for one? How are a group of monkeys able to defeat a police force equipped with machine guns?
Despite these questions, I thought the film was very well done. Andy Serkis (who also played the title character in King Kong and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) gives an outstanding performance in the lead role as Caesar. It’s pretty amazing in that he 1) can’t speak 2) plays a character that goes from an infant, to a curious adolescent, to a brooding teen, to an adult, all in one performance. Serkis’ performance, for me anyway, really elevated the film. The action sequences, while a tad predictable, are entertaining and at least somewhat fresh. It’s not often that you get to see a gorilla leaping through the air to take out a helicopter.
I also think the film makes a prescient point about the dangers of scientists forging ahead with research out of some personal motivation. It also raises some ethical questions about the use of animals as intelligent as chimpanzees as testing subjects.
Final Analysis: One of the better movies of an admittedly weak summer. I don’t know that the world necessarily needed another Planet of the Apes movie, but this manages to be exciting without insulting its audiences’ intelligence, an increasingly rare feat for the modern blockbuster.
Final Grade: 8.5/10