Thursday, March 15, 2012


"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


  1. I reviewed this not long ago on my blog, Melissa's Imaginarium. I thought it was too heavy handed myself. I said that I waiting for JOhnny Cash to appear and lead the apes in a rendition of Folsum Prison Blues. LOL Terrific review and site.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Melissa.

    I read your review on Melissa's Imaginarium and agree that the degrees of the human characters do tend to fall into two characters. You also mentioned that you liked the “heartbreaking” performance of John Lithgow and it made me realize that I didn’t even mention his performance in my review. While I thought he did a decent job of conveying an Alzheimer’s victim, I thought a little too much time was spent on his character; as the only real purpose that his character served was to demonstrate Will’s intense motivation to create a cure for the disease. I also agree that the “romance” between James Franco’s Will Rodman and Freida Pinto’s Caroline Aranha felt forced and contrived. Honestly, neither of these two actors gave particularly convincing performances – although the script could be at least partially to fault.

    Glad you liked the review, Melissa, as I’m still working at writing negative reviews – something I avoided prior to this year in my blog. I find it much easier to write reviews of things I really enjoy.

  3. Doc. I thought you offered a unique handle on this film which was almost universally praised.

    Unlike you, I really do love the 1968 original, but have not seen its many sequels in some time.

    But the things you mention as problematic here do come across in the trailer. The CGI looks good overall, but there's something about this film that has this way on the back burner for me.

    Still it was good to see another take on it.

  4. I’m surprise that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is on your “back burner”, Sci-Fi Fanatic! You seem to appreciate the more serious and dramatic science fiction films than do I.

    I honestly tried to look at Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a film completely separated from any of its progenitors, but I still ended up feeling about it what I felt about all the other Apes pictures – disinterest bordering on dislike.

    I’m glad you saw my mostly-negative take on the film for what it was: just my opinion and not meant to disparage anyone else’s enjoyment of it.

    Take care, Sci-Fi Fanatic!