Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
When I first heard about the reboot/remake Ape film, I was mixed about it. I didn't really see a point to it as I feel nothing new can be done with it. Maybe it was the sour taste in my mouth after watching the horrendous Tim Burton Ape's film years ago. Surprisingly, I was completely wrong about this film and Apes may just be the best film of the summer. The plot is nothing really new as the Apes are tired of being held as pets and rebel to find their freedom in the wild, where they rightfully belong. That being said, the film's success largely hinges on the performance given by Andy Serkis as Caesar, the leader of the apes. James Franco is the more well known actor due to the other blockbuster films he has been in, however anyone could have played his role. Hopefully after this movie, Serkis will get the attention that he deserves even though in every film of his he has mostly been motion captured for a CGI-heavy role. Serkis has also played Gollum from the Lord of the Rings series, and King Kong.
The story of the film begins with Franco's character, Will Rodman, as a scientist in San Francisco where he is trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's disease. He goes about it by testing his cure that is still in the development stages on chimpanzees that our taken from the homes in the wild. The cure when given to the chimps, gave them intelligence on par with humans. Will and his boss, Steven Jacobs, are close to selling the cure called ALZ-112 until one of the test subjects escapes and is killed in front of the board members. Will and his co-worker Franklin find out that the test subject acted out because she gave birth and must have felt that her baby was in danger, so it naturally acted aggressively. Jacobs orders Will and Franklin to put down all remaining test subjects, but the baby was kept secret and Franklin urges Will to take it home. He is reluctant at first but quickly warms to the idea as he forms a bond with the chimp. His father Charles, played by John Lithgow, suffers from Alzheimer's and instantly falls in love with the chimp as well and it does with them.
Charles names the chimp, Caesar after Julius Caesar the book he is seen reading. Will also notices that Caesar carries the trademark sign of a enhanced intelligence in his eyes as they have green specks throughout. This shows that his mother passed on the cure to him. Will and Charles raise him and give him his own room in the attic where he has plenty of room to play. He also can see the outside world through a window near his bed. Will teaches Caesar how to sign, and learns very quickly. Will also takes Caesar to a doctor to get looked at occasionally who is played by Freida Pinto, to which Will starts dating within minutes.
The film continues to show Caesar as a chimp that is continuously growing in size, but also curiosity even more so he has an innocence that of a small child. It is quite endearing to see, in large part to the performance given by Serkis. Eventually Caesar sees the next door neighbor acting violently towards Charles and as it is the first act of violence Caesar has seen he acts out to protect Charles. This ends up getting him thrown into a primate facility run by John Landon. It is also quickly revealed that Landon's son mistreats the apes in quite the violent manner. Caesar is quickly bullied by both the staff and his fellow apes in the facility for being different.
Will is also struggling as he begins to lose the two that he loves dearest. His father's Alzheimer's is getting increasingly worse, and knows that he is powerless to help both his father and Caesar. He does what he can, and buries himself in his work to try to perfect the cure. Caesar begins to plan an escape starting with freeing the biggest of all apes in the facility. Doing so, the other apes began to respect him and began to follow him. Before he breaks out with his fellow apes, he breaks into Will's house. Before he does anything he stands at the edge of Will's bed as he stares at Will and Caroline asleep in their bed. At first, the scene can seem menacing due to the change that we've seen in Caesar. He managed to grow from an innocent chimp to an ape that had no intention of being a slave and would go to great extremes to keep it from happening to others of his kind. Instead of the scene being menacing, it is more of Caesar coming to the realization that he doesn't need Will anymore and Will doesn't need him. He also realizes that it is most likely they last time he will be able to see Will and Caroline who are for all intensive purposes his adopted parents. As Caesar begins to leave Will's home, he steals some remaining bottles of the cure. One of the best scenes in the film comes from when Caesar does manage to escape. He has a standoff with Landon's son in which a famous line from the original film appears followed by a huge surprise. I won't say what happens as it would take away from the viewing experience of the incredible scene.
The film from here on out becomes much more of an action film as Caesar and his apes push through San Francisco to reach the other side of the Golden Gate bridge to live in freedom in the Muir Woods National Monument forest. The Golden Gate sequence is handled very well and is obviously the biggest action sequence throughout the entire film. The apes make it to the other side and eventually make it to Muir Woods where Will meets Caesar. Will sees how Caesar is now at peace as he is free in his natural habitat and is happy for him. The movie also ends on a cliffhanger that sets up a possible sequel. It is also a very intriguing cliffhanger at that.
Rupert Wyatt directed this film, and seeing how it is only his second film, the guy will have a great career in the business. He masterfully handled the special effects and paced the film very well. It moved a bit too fast at moments as it could have done better with some more character development, but overall Wyatt did a fantastic job. Andy Serkis, as I stated before, will hopefully become more recognized from the public for his work due to this film and his others. The one drawback of the film may have just been James Franco's performance, or lack thereof. I continue to believe that he is one of the most overrated actors in Hollywood today.