"Rise of the Planet of the Apes was too heavy handed for me to completely enjoy. While I liked many individual aspects of it, as a whole it felt too preachy and tenacious in its message."
Science Fiction, Drama, Action & Adventure
Starring - James Franco/Will Rodman, Freida Pinto/Caroline Aranha, John Lithgow/Charles Rodman, Andy Serkis/Caesar, Brian Cox/John Landon and Tom Felton/Dodge Landon
Director - Rupert Wyatt
Writer(s) - Pierre Boulle, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
PG-13 – intense and frightening sequences of action and violence
1 hr., 45 min.
Let me begin this review by admitting that I have never been a fan of the original Planet of the Apes films. I do think the first film, 1968’s Planet of the Apes deserves to be recognized as an important science fiction film historically, but it is still not one of my personal favorites. For this reason, I did not even try watching Tim Burton’s “reimagining” of Planet of the Apes in 2001. I had little to no interest in seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes either, but the plethora of positives reviews from both critics and fans alike moved me to give it a try.
Will Rodman is a scientist working for the biotechnology Gen-Sys and is experimenting on chimpanzees with a viral-based cure for Alzheimer’s disease. One of the female chimps gets violent in front of Gen-Sys investors, so Will's boss orders the chimp handler Robert to euthanize the rest of the test chimpanzees and orders a stop to the project. Will takes the baby of the female test chimp home and continues to test the drug on the chimp at home.
Caesar is injured after escaping from Will’s home, so he takes him to the San Francisco Zoo where primatologist Caroline Aranha treats Caesar’s injury. On Caroline’s recommendation, they secretly begin taking Caesar on outings to the redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument.
We find out that the reason Will is obsessed with finding a cure for Alzheimer's is that Will's father Charles is suffering from the disease. As Caesar grows, it becomes apparent that the drug has worked and Will injects his father with it. It works, but gradually Charles’ immune system fights the viral-based cure and he becomes ill again. Caesar witnesses a confrontation between Charles and their neighbor Hunksiker and Caesar attacks Hunksiker to protect Charles. This causes the authorities to place Caesar in a primate shelter run by John Landon, where he is treated maliciously by the chief guard, Landon's son Dodge.
Will develops an even more powerful drug and sets up a new deal with Gen-Sys to begin testing it. Caesar escapes from the primate shelter and steals the drug to use on his fellow simian inmates, in order to facilitate a mass escape to freedom.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was too heavy handed for me to completely enjoy. While I liked many individual aspects of it, as a whole it felt too preachy and tenacious in its message. I genuinely disliked this film’s persistent portrayal of humans as either fearful (both chief guard Dodge and neighbor Hunksiker) or patronizing (both Will and chimp handler Robert). The film wants you to sympathize with Caesar’s plight so much that it never allows any of the humans in the film to act in any kind of positive fashion. I think the portrayal of Caesar (via motion control CGI) by Andy Serkis was strong enough that I could have sympathized with him without the heavy-handedness of the “man is bad – animals are good” message.
The skill of the CGI apes and the fantastic integration of them into the live action was some of the best I’ve yet seen. The realism of the various simians really helps to make you want to root for the apes; especially during the climatic sequence on the bridge. Unfortunately, much of the good work done by Weta Digital on the chimps is undone by the melodramatic script.
I did end up liking Rise of the Planet of the Apes almost despite myself. Still, it left me feeling disheartened about mankind in general and the scientific community in particular. Too often films posing as science fiction are actually anti-science (see just about any Michael Crichton film). Rise of the Apes falls too far into this category and I cannot recommend it as a science fiction film. However, it is still worthy of seeing if for no other reason than to admire the skill of both Andy Serkis and Weta Digital.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 8 Involvement – 8
TOTAL RATING - 81