August 5, 2011
Pierre Boulle, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
James Franco as: Will Rodman
Frieda Pinto as: Caroline Aranha
John Lithgow as: Charles Rodman
Brian Cox as: John Landon
Tom Felton as: Dodge Landon
Andy Serkis as: Cesar
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is technically a prequel to Planet of the Apes (1968). It’s among the first live action films to use the breakthrough special effects technology invented for Avatar in conveying a story from the point of view of an intelligent and emotional animal (otherwise known as an ape) destined to lead a revolution against the human race. That animal, Cesar, is portrayed by Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, upcoming The Hobbit) in a strong performance enhanced by visual effects and motion-capture techniques in such a way that it puts to shame the onscreen Apes of the past, including those in 2001’s remake Planet of the Apes. The theme itself remains to true to the franchise, intimating that the evolution and technological advances of mankind will lead eventually to the point of no return – our demise.
Enter San Francisco’s foremost genetic scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) who finds a possible cure for Alzheimer’s, and just in time as his father’s affliction with it is progressing. The drug is tested on chimpanzees that as a result become incredibly smart and agile. A little too agile, in fact, when a protective chimp mom goes into a rage to protect her son Cesar, demolishing much of the lab. So the drug testing is shut down, and Will finds himself with a few extra vials of the drug for his father and a new addition to the family, baby Cesar.
Delightful at first, Cesar eventually grows into a rebellious teen and because of his monkey shines is transferred to a detention facility. Will’s girlfriend says with compassion, “I love chimpanzees. I’m also afraid of them. It’s appropriate to be afraid of them.” And she ain’t seen nothin’ yet…
Will and the other apes are mistreated by the staff at the facility – in particular by the owner’s son, Dodge. We have a feeling Dodge will eventually get what’s coming to him but the abuse is unnerving, even if they are actors in monkey suits.
Meanwhile, back at the lab, in effort to combat his father’s rapidly returning Alzheimer’s, Will has discovered a new and better drug, and his money-hungry boss welcomes in more chimps to test it on. Now we have a laboratory full of extremely sharp don’t-mess-with-me apes, a detention facility with a group them growing angrier by the day, and a handful of them scattered around San Francisco zoos. What do we get? It’s like the title says…
The final Cable Car and Golden Gate Bridge escapades in Rise of the Planet of the Apes are not easily forgotten with the help of breakthrough technology in performance capture work on locations. And we’re rooting for the apes by the way. I’m not sure what that says about human nature, or maybe the power of the medium of film. Regardless, my advice is run, don’t walk to the theater to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.