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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

What She said:

She

I just don’t know.  I really don’t.  Did I like this movie, or did I think it was pure silliness?  I never thought the original Charlton Heston movie was silly at all.  But this one…I don’t know why, just seems a bit goofy. 

Let me back up a bit and clue you in on the film. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the story of how apes took over the planet. The original Planet of the Apes starts well after this event, but this reboot chooses to start from the beginning. In case you were wondering its one dumb guy’s fault.  Or is he brilliant?  I guess a bit of both.  That man is Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist who is trying to create a potion that will cure Alzheimer’s disease, which his father (John Lithgow) is slowing losing his life to.  The drug that he’s created is currently being tested on apes, and Will is seeing some promising results.  Unfortunately, there’s a big fuss and Will’s program is halted.  He also secretly ends up with the newborn of one of his euthanized study subjects.  Will raises the baby chimpanzee and quickly realizes that his drug has helped to create a remarkably gifted and evolved subject.  But the chimp, Caesar, seems burdened by his intelligence and this whole scenario gets the ball rolling on the beginning of the end for mankind.  Oh, have I mentioned that Will also accidentally unleashed a virus that will wipe out mankind?

It sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t play out that way.  However, it does play out a bit dumb at times.  I mean, the whole company that Will works for seems to follow pretty lax protocols.  It’s like, whoops, you were accidentally exposed to a contagious virus, why don’t you go home and sleep it off, maybe pop in on your friends and family first so you can spread it around.  Seems like a bit of a stretch, or like we are just so idiotic that we deserve to lose our footing to the apes.

Visually the movie is pretty well done, and it’s funny to say, but I think the best performance in the film is actually from the CGI ape, Caesar.  They did a good job of portraying his emotions and having his almost realistic face show lots of expression.  There’s enough excitement to keep you entertained from start to finish, and Draco Malfoy (ok, I guess I should acknowledge that the actor is separate from his Harry Potter character, so Tom Felton) plays a pretty evil jerk (big stretch, I know).  You’ll be happy when he kicks it.  Whoops, a bit of a spoiler there.

I guess I’ll say I generally liked the movie.  At least it was fun.

Thumbs mostly up.

 

What he said:

He

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the story of a scientist (James Franco) who is on a mission to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the consequences methods used to achieve that goal. His father – played by John Lithgow – is suffering from the disease and is going downhill more drastically than he can handle; placing even more pressure on Will (Franco) to find a cure.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Will is working on some kind of super drug and testing it on chimpanzees. He notices that it dramatically increases their brain function. One day there’s an accident and he is forced to sneak out a baby chimp in order to save his life. The chimp is the offspring of one of the test subjects.

This animal is later named Caesar, by Will’s father Charles, and he is living with the two of them until Will can figure out what to do next. Like his mother, Caesar is extremely intelligent. I’m talking about smarter than human children of the same age kind of intelligence. As time goes on, he becomes even smarter and more self-sufficient. Will is able to communicate with him simply by speaking to him. He responds using sign language, but he actually understand English.

The older he gets, Caesar becomes more curious about the outside world. He likes to people watch from his bedroom window and is very eager to get out there and be amongst people (other than Will, his girlfriend, and Charles).  He also begins to realize that while Will regards him as extremely intelligent, he’s not quite treated like an equal.  He begins to question what he is and even asks Will if he’s a pet. Will, realizing Caesar’s intelligence is growing at a rapid rate, explains to him how he came to be. He tells him all about his mother, the experimentation at the lab, and how he’s different from every other ape on the planet. Caesar is bothered by this and starts to feel isolated.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Still, he cares for Will, Charles, and Caroline (Freida Pinto) and those feelings land him in some trouble. As a result of his disease, Charles is wandering outside of the house one day. Caesar comes to his aid, but everyone in the neighborhood discovers his existence, and a confrontation occurs. Having a chimpanzee in your home isn’t exactly legal, particularly when there is an incident involved, and Will is forced to surrender Caesar to an animal sanctuary as a result.

Will and his girlfriend Caroline (Frida Pinto) visit Caesar at the sanctuary, but notice changes in him. Caesar is used to being treated (mostly) like a human, so living amongst other apes frightens him. The animals know he is different and lash out at him. He looks like a human (wears clothing), smells like them, and even acts like him. As a result, he’s low man on the totem pole and is often bullied.

It also doesn’t help matters that sanctuary isn’t the nicest place in the world. Employee and son of the owner – Dodge – treats the animals with extreme cruelty. Caesar is no different and is even targeted more frequently when Dodge (played by Tom “Draco Malfoy” Felton) realizes he is different. Like the apes, Dodge also singles him out.  

As time goes on, Caesar begins to change. He becomes withdrawn and eventually very bitter. Fear turns to anger. He becomes very resentful towards human beings. When Will gets legal permission to take Caesar back to his home, Caesar rejects Will. That anger eventually turns to motivation. He uses his intelligence to take control of the apes and eventually….well I think you get the point. It’s called Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a reason.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

From the time I heard about this movie up until when I recently saw it, I think I went through just about every emotion you can imagine. Initially, I didn’t care at all. I still had a rather sour taste in my mouth from Tim Burton’s attempt at an Apes remake in 2001. I hadn’t heard anything about this latest attempt other than the fact it was being made. So I wasn’t down on it, I just had no feelingsin it either way. Then a few pictures started to pop up and that grabbed my attention. The effects looked crazy good. A trailer eventually came out and I was down on the movie again. I was not thrilled about the special effects used to portray the apes. They looked a little too cartoonish at times. I thought the pictures looked good, but the trailers were so-so. Then another trailer or two came out and portrayed a much more emotional story than I was expecting. The action took a back seat and the story came to the front of the line. That grabbed me. Then the reviews came in and people went ape shit for it (thank you, thank you, I’m here all week). That did it. I knew I was going to check it out.

It took a while for me to get my hands on it, but when I did I was very impressed. This movie was not action from start-to-finish and I appreciated. It would have been easy (and cliché) to have man and ape going at it for two hours. They didn’t do that here and it was a smart move. That’s a mistake too many movies make nowadays.  This movie carefully crafts and tells a story; and it’s a good one too.

The movie starts off with Caesar living a very happy life with Will and his father. But as the movie goes on it becomes pretty tragic as you watch Caesar grow into a very angry individual. It’s depressing enough to see the animals treated as poorly as they are in this movie, but when you watch Caesar go from living the easy life to being put in a cage and abused, it’s really quite sad. He doesn’t understand why these people – as well as the apes – are so cruel to him. He eventually blames the humans and decides to rally is fellow “inmates”.

Speaking of Caesar, Andy Serkis does a very good job portraying this special chimp. It was really heartbreaking watching him go from happy to frightened to bitter and eventually angry. He and Will care for one another a great deal and when Will is forced to give him up – and Caesar later turns his back on Will – it’s touching stuff.  Serkis also has some really touching moments with John Lithgow’s character. Because of his exposure to experimental drugs, and Charles disease, Caesar is much more intelligent and functional than Charles. Caesar looks out for and even takes care of Charles a few times throughout the movie. As a result, Charles really loves him too. The dynamic between these three characters is so natural and moving. Andy Serkis has truly perfected the art of motion capture. He brings so much emotion to these digital characters. I look forward to seeing the character’s evolution in the upcoming sequel.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Speaking of the sequel, there’s one smaller aspect of this movie that I cannot wait to see how it is handled going forward. One of Caesar’s top apes is a character named Koba. Besides the fact that he simply looks like one mean MFer, Koba seems to have a different approach to handling humans than Caesar. It makes you wonder if the character will continue to be subordinate to Caesar or challenge him down the line. I love how this is quietly going on in the background of this movie. It’s not a huge part of the story, but it’s definitely there. You can see they were thinking ahead with this character.
I really liked the ending of this movie too. I mentioned earlier that this movie is not two hours of man vs. ape action. The one and only big conflict comes during the climax of the movie. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I will only say it took a route that I did not expect. It was smart and not cliché or predictable at all.

The effects in this movie are fantastic. There are a few parts where it looks a little cartoony, but for the most part they are top-notch. They are a very realistic looking finished product.

I only saw this movie once, but I’m super excited for the sequel, so I went out and bought this one a few days ago. I watched it and liked it even more than I did the first time. This is an excellent science fiction movie. It makes you think about all the issues a good science fiction move should make you think about. It’s tense, dramatic, and an excellent cautionary tale. I always liked the original Planet of the Apes, but damn this might just be better. This movie has some real substance to it. Not that the original didn’t, but this one makes it the focal point, where the original only touches on it in parts. I really like this movie and was glad I bought a copy. It’s a great science fiction film and I am happy to have added it to my video library.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 1, 2012. It was updated on April 23, 2014.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

 

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