Movie Review: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’
I’m a frequent visitor of my local zoo, and our chimpanzee exhibit backs up to a wooded area, so I rarely saw the animals; they hid in the forest. One day I happened to be there when some disturbance occurred, and within seconds a dozen or so aggravated apes emerged from the woods and came charging down the hill, snarling and shrieking. It was one of the most frightening, surreal incidents I can recall. The fact that these creatures can revert so quickly to their primitive self after being so human-like is just chilling.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes perfectly melds the this dichotomy into a an entertaining, action packed cautionary tale. Never, ever mess with mother nature. James Franco stars as a scientist specializing in the field of neurogenesis, specifically trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. He has a vested interest in the field, because his father (an underutilized Jonathon Lithgow) is afflicted with the debilitating sickness. A promising serum is derailed after chimpanzees begin to exhibit bizarre and violent side effects. The experiment is curtailed, and the participants are destroyed. However, one chimp gave birth just prior, and Franco’s character takes pity on the newborn, bringing him home and raising him as a child, complete with requisite clothing and other human accouterments. He is dubbed “Caesar”.
A neighborhood altercation results in Caesar being banished to an ape sanctuary that is anything but. The animals are sadistically abused by a heartless bastard obviously harboring a napoleon complex (played by Tom Felton, of Harry Potter fame). It is here that Caesar (who reaped the benefits of the serum his mother was exposed to) becomes thoroughly unhinged. He instigates an uprising of his simian friends, and all hell breaks loose when the animals spring loose and descend upon the town of San Fransisco.
I’m not going to lie. I loved the hell out of this movie. It was truly one of the most unexpected pleasures of the summer. The third act is fantastically exciting and ridiculous, and I absolutely ate it up. I had a perma-grin affixed for the entire duration of the film, and when a giant gorilla jumped onto a hovering helicopter, I was downright giddy. Screw the transformers, the aliens, and the superheroes. This is how I like my action.
This is by no means defensible as a great film. It is as silly as it gets, but I loved every second of it. The apes looked fantastic. Caesar was a combination of CGI (when he is a baby), and motion capture by Andy Serkis. The results are amazing. Caesar is so sympathetic as a direct result of a human playing him. I was moved in a way I haven’t been in quite some time. That damn dirty ape broke my heart.
The film is not without flaws. Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) serves no purpose as Franco’s love interest, Lithgow is a caricature, and Brian Cox is disappointing as the owner of the sanctuary. But I guess that you don’t go to a film titled “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” for character development. It’s pure escapism, from start to finish.
There are a few nods to the film’s predecessors, but this is not a remake. It is a reboot, and it is a damn fine one at that. I find it interesting that the film comes out a few weeks after Project Nim (a film I just can’t bring myself to see). One serves as a fictional cautionary tale, the other is a documentary about the realities of anthropomorphizing animals. At any rate, they both serve to humble us when it comes to our treatment of other species.