If I remember correctly, and believe me itís been an awful long time since Iíve seen one of those plethora of ĎPlanet of Apesí sequels released back in the seventies, but I believe the reason given for the ape takeover had something to do with dogs and cats dying off and humans deciding to domesticate simians, which eventually led to the sad state of affairs that Charleston Heston had to deal with in the original ĎPlanet of the Apesí. Thatís just plain nuts. Regardless, now we have a more palatable origin of the rise of the apes that involves man mucking with stuff that he had no business mucking with in ĎRise of the Planet of the Apesí, with the true mission of this movie being the daunting task of creating the first decent ĎPlanet of the Apesí movie in forty three years. Great News! Director Rupert Wyatt and his team have succeeded in this, but it still ainít no ĎPlanet of the Apesí though.
Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) works for Super Mega PharmaCorp desperately trying to find a cure for Alzheimerís disease which has debilitated his once vibrant father Charles (John Lithgow). Finally, he thinks he has perfected his serum with something called AZT112Ö I think thatís what they called itÖ and the test on the lab chimps have been most promising. So promising that PharmaCorp director Steven Jacobs, played by actor David Oyelowo who looks like heís around eighteen years old, has called a meeting of the board to get approval for human testing. Too bad the chimp they were about to present has gone, so to speak, apeshit and done wrecked the place. AZT112 will not be tested on humans anytime soon.
But the thing is that AZT112 didnít do anything to this chimp, she was just trying to protect her newborn baby. A baby whom Will was forced to take home and once his old man saw the baby chimp and once Will saw how his dad reacted to the chimp, christened Caesar by the old man, Will now has a little monkey baby of his own.
Apparently the mother chimp passed down the effects of the drug to Caesar, a drug which not only fixes brain synapses, but enhances them. Feeling bold, Will tests this drug on his father and damn if it doesnít work like a charm. So good is life for Will that he even starts dating the stunning veterinarian, Dr. Caroline (Freida Pinto), who
helped stitch up Caesar during a little mishap. Still, Caesar is a 200 pound super strong wild animal and he does some stuff that gets him locked away and this makes Will sad. Then Will notices that AZT112 has some flaws and needs to be refined, which will lead to AZT113. AZT113Ö great for monkeys, bad for you. That should be the advertising slogan. The list of bad side effects at the end of the AZT113 TV commercial would take about a half hour to run down. Not that any of this is going to stop our jerk of a PharmaCorp director from trying to mass produce this stuff.
In captivity, Caesar has learned that being locked up is some total b.s. and he wants out. But while Caesar is really smart, he realizes his simian colleagues are idiots and will be of little help in his quest for freedom. Caesar knows how to fix that. And now we have a perfect storm of unfortunate events, at least from our perspective, as a bunch of super smart, super strong simians are on the run causing a ruckus, and if even if we do put them down, we have our own pressing issues in the near future to deal with. And itís all Dr. Will Rodmanís fault. Thanks Dr. Rodman!
Man, if modern medicine could make the same kind of advances that Computer Generated Imagery makes on a seemingly daily basis, weíd all be immortal. The technology behind creating the CGI apes is simply phenomenal and even if this movie were terrible, it would be worth going to just to witness the motion capture technology used for Caesar, played by actor Andy Serkis, and his ape colleagues, not to mention the scope of how it was all implemented. The ape assault on the Golden State bridge is one of the best action sequences Iíve seen in recent memory, I mean Iíve witnessed every big summer action film this year and for the most part Iíve been bored by the action sequences, passing it off as me getting old, but then again maybe not because this was an action sequence to experience. The reason these action sequences worked better, at least in my opinion, is because it meant more. Thereís actually something behind it, and itís not as simple as the good guys versus the bad guys considering that the apes arenít necessarily the bad guys and the humans arenít the bad guys. You have a legion of super strong apes running through your city throwing spears at people and they have to be put down. Right?
As good and as compelling as all of that was, itís the human element of the film that keeps it from being great, which is disappointing considering the high level of acting talent involved in this movie. Since the focus on this movie centered on the rise of Caesar, James Francoís stoic, emotionless performance came off as more of an accessory to Caesar than an actual three dimensional character. Of course his character is critically necessary to this film because he needs to spearhead the eventual destruction of the human race, but Will Rodman seemed to be there because he had to be there. Freida Pintoís character of Dr. Caroline didnít even have to be there, and she didnít have much of anything to do in this movie except be pretty, but we can say she was great at it, and Daniel Oyelowo was saddled with thankless task of giving us a stock, by the numbers, irresponsible, asshole movie CEO. Thank goodness for John Lithgow who did add layers to his character and brought a lot humanity and genuine emotion to his character of Charles.
So while Iím of the opinion that ĎRise of the Planet of the Apesí wasnít a great movie in the same way that ĎPlanet of the Apesí was a great movie, it was still a damn good movie, even throwing out a few nods to the 1968 classic. Itís also one of the rare movies that has me anticipating what the next move will be, as far as the story arc goes, for the inevitable sequel.