“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is the perfect reboot. It honors the original material while still taking an original approach to characters, origins and style. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt and rather than taking a Nuclear War approach or Time Travel in regards to how the apes became intelligent…he takes the route of an artificial virus that grants intelligence and regeneration of the brain. Without saying more here is the premise.
The Premise of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is Caesar becomes the orphan at a biotech company named Gen-Sys after his mother (Bright Eyes) is killed when she tries to defend him from the testing she went through that made her more intelligent. After the Chimps are ordered to be euthanized but Caesar is saved by the Chimp handler who gives him to the bio-tech scientist Will (played by James Franco) who takes him and raises him. From here the story unfolds.
Pros: Inspiration from the subject material – The movie clearly takes inspiration from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” with Will in the place of Armando…the one good human compared to all the abusive ones who Caesar comes in contact with. The slave camp is replaced by the Ape Sanctuary (tied to Gen-Sys who is doing testing on Apes) and Caesar’s break in this comes when he feels that Will and his wife Caroline are forced to leave by the owner of the Sanctuary. From here he chooses his people and rises to win them freedom and a home. The Simian Flu is in play as well with it’s beginnings here…but rather than targeting dogs and cats…it targets people. There is also news about the launch of the Space Flight that is the ship that crashes beginning the original “Planet of the Apes.”
The Writing – The writing is fantastic. The idea of strengthening the human mind through drugs and healing it…in order to prevent or heal Alzheimers is what we are trying to do now. In that way the writing is relevant to today as well as showing the cost of Alzheimers on the person going through it and their family (via Charles Rodman played by John Lithgow).
The Special Effects – The Apes look like Apes with Andy Serkis once again owning his role, this time as the main character Caesar. We see how he is like an ape but how different he is too (his standing tall) and his voice sounds like how a talking Chimp would probably sound like.
Caesar – Roddy McDowell was a great Caesar, but Serkis is better. The reasons behind this is the change between “Battle” and “Conquest” isn’t handled as well and neither is his getting the Apes to join him in a slave revolt. He just looks at them. Caesar learns from Maurice how to earn the respect of the Apes and what he needs to make them intelligent (the virus). Serkis’s Caesar’s arc makes much more sense…and his reason for not hurting people makes sense too given that he was raised by humans and we see that being raised by humans. In “Battle” he is already fully grown.
Will Rodman – Great work to James Franco. His character is complex – Ethics versus Job…and you can see how he grows to care for Caesar and is in the end the one who needs to let go because Caesar has chosen to lead his people. He is fantastic in this movie.
Charles Rodman – John Lithgow gives us a reason to motivate Will to find the cure to Alzhiemers and he does it masterfully. We see his powerlessness and the moments of hope when the virus is helping his brain become sharper…to when it is all lost.
Maurice – The Orangutan adviser is the one who teaches Caesar how to integrate and become a leader and is also the one shows Caesar that the apes as they are currently don’t have the wisdom to get out of anarchy, leading Caesar to get the virus and use it make the apes as intelligent as him.
Dodge Landon – Tom Felton plays a wonderfully cruel character. He is the character who says, “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape.” Showing how the words are used to oppress and how the apes are seen by most people. His death when he tries to kill Caesar is rewarding because of how despicable he is. Playing Malfoy taught him well.
Buck – The Gorilla who Caesar frees first and goes through the cycle of healing from his abuse. He is a great character who has a sad death. It is a fantastic death too though, he fracking punches a Helicopter out of the air!
Gen-Sys – We see a complex corporation! The Chimp handler stands up for the chimps even though he caves and Will even quits at some point. We see that it isn’t simply a bad company even though profit is it’s main drive…and not people…which leads to the spread of the Simian Flu, so there is that.
The Apes – We get to see the social dynamic between them as Caesar integrates and becomes their leader. There is complexity with Rocket as the Alpha before Caesar takes him out and makes him a leader underneath him. It is great since Rocket uses brute force but Caesar uses it with a mixture of knowledge and tact. He doesn’t want fear, he wants respect…unlike rocket who just wants fear.
Liberation – We see Caesar organize and teach them, build connections and free the other apes from Gen-Sys. It is great rising action leading to the climax of the battle as all apes in San Francisco become free.
The final fight – We see strategy as the Apes and Police fight on the Golden Gate bridge…from a bus being used to protect from gunfire, to a gorilla punching a helicopter out of the air…and apes using the upper and lower part of the bridge to reach their opponents. It is a great fight, far better than the one in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”
The Message – The message is one of cautiousness, that before new technologies are used they should be tested and that all life that we know to be intelligent should be respected. It was a good message.
Okay: The antagonists John Landon (Brian Cox) and Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) – John owns the Ape Sanctuary and doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything more than greed, same goes for Steven. They do this well but the roles aren’t memorable and could have been played by anyone. They don’t elevate the role the way Dodge was. Steven goes between being seen as super cautious and super reckless…he is what the script needs him to be basically.
Caroline (Frieda Pinto) – She’s generic love interest who I wish had been given more to do. She is their for Caesar and after their for Will and that is the most of her role is. Still, much more depth than Areanna and Nova.
Cons – Not enough time with the Apes – We’ll probably get this in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the upcoming sequel…but I wanted to see more of the relationship between the different types of Ape. We never really got that outside of Caesar’s relationships. That is the only con I can think of besides fleshing out the characters I listed as okay.
After re-watching this film after not seeing it for some time…it is one of my favorite films. It is better than the Original Planet of the Apes Series as far as execution of the story is concerned and even has a better Caesar…which is saying something since Roddy McDowell was quite amazing. I would highly recommend this film.
My final Score for this film is 9.75 / 10.
Only reason it doesn’t have a full score is because of the issues of the okay characters and the con of not giving us more of the complexity among the apes. I must admit that I am quite excited to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” after watching this and can’t wait to review it in a few days.