Where to See It: DVD, BluRay, Zune, iTunes
I call it the Jurassic Park of ape movies. Packed with spectacular CGI and an interesting enough plot, The Rise of The Planet of The Apes attempts to reboot the storied franchise from the ground up, with an ‘origin’ story that will hopefully propel the franchise in new and interesting directions. I’ll be honest; I felt the film to be very good, although a bit anti-climatic, and left feeling a little cheated, like I had just seen a really long preview of what would be an epic movie. The ideas presented and the characters introduced all served the film well, but in the end I couldn’t help but want to instantly throw in the next DVD, so as not to be “left hanging” on what happens next. Even where a film like ‘Star Wars Episode IV” presented a beginning to the original trilogy, it still ended with a satisfying conclusion to its own story, the destruction of the first Death Star. In ‘Rise’, I just felt that the film simply ends right in the middle, and for me, that usually doesn’t work. Whether or not 20th Century Fox is planning on future sequels (which they are) doesn’t really matter, this film needed a bit more story arc to its first act, at least some form of beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t in my opinion. Does it make the film bad? No, not at all. Just incomplete…for now.
The Rise of The Planet of The Apes introduces us to biochemist Will Rodman (Franco), whose research and development into a cure for Alzheimer’s disease leads to an amazing breakthrough with the Chimpanzee test subjects. Designed to regenerate brain cells in human patients, thus reversing the effects of the disease, the drug has a much more fantastic impact on the apes, giving them increasingly human-level intelligence. Enraged that her young baby is in danger, one of the female chimps breaks free and runs wild throughout the facility, leading to her death at the hands of the security guards, thus ending her life and threatening the entire research program, as her outburst is seen as a serious side effect of the drug, even though her actions were simply the natural instincts of a mother trying to protect her young. Funding is soon pulled on the program and the remaining apes are all euthanized, except for the young chimp, whom Dr. Rodman takes home in an attempt to spare from being killed.
The young ape, named Caesar (Serkis), immediately shows extraordinary human-like qualities and intelligence, and even begins to take to wearing clothes and learning advanced sign language. It is also implied that Caesar can somewhat understand human language (English in this case), however cannot speak it, and must rely on sign language to respond. Dr. Rodman’s father, Charles (Lithgow), who himself is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, soon takes a liking to Caesar, and begins to recognize his human-like qualities. In a desperate attempt to help his father, Rodman steals some of the research drug from the lab and injects it into Charles. Almost overnight, Charles begins to exhibit a full return to normal brain function, and instantly realizes that he is fully functional again. Rodman, however, realizes that this ‘cure’ is only temporary, and any side effects on humans are not yet known, not to mention how long the restorative effects will even last.
As Caesar gets older and more intelligent, he soon longs to be more a part of the outside world, and after an incident with the neighbor, Rodman is forced to release Caesar to a primate refuge center, where he can live with other apes and not be a liability to Rodman. The refuge center, however, is not all it’s cracked up to be, and animal abuse occurs frequently. Caesar is slowly realizing that the human world and the ape world are very different things, and this leads him to begin constructing a plan to not only free himself from these confines, but to free the other apes around him, as well as to imbue his ‘evolution’ onto them.
This film is highly entertaining and ends with a fantastic set of action sequences. The emotion and inflection shown through Caesar’s characters are amazing, and is some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen. You sometimes forget they are not real. While not too grounded in reality, the film serves as a few hours of escapism, so don’t try and wrap your head around any apparent plot loopholes, but instead enjoy it for what it is. I had a great time with it, but like I said, I want more. The film ends at the wrong point, in my opinion, and while a sequel(s) is plainly implied, I cannot but gripe at the sense of unfinished business the story still leaves open.
4 out of 5