Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Release date: August 5, 2011
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Novel by: Pierre Boulle
Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Tyler Labine, David Oyelowo
I can’t even begin to comprehend what just happened there. Count me in (and probably the whole YAM Magazine team) as those who were skeptical about a new Planet of the Apes movie. Who in their right mind wouldn’t think this would be another summer action blockbuster flick made for a quick money grab?
Well, color us all surprised because this might be the biggest surprise of the summer.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes starts with young bright scientist, Will Rodman (Franco), who is at the testing stages of a new “drug” to cure Alzheimer’s Disease. One of his many subjects — called Bright Eyes — is showing an increase in neural activity and the team is ready to move on to human testing.
As things in movies go, Bright Eyes goes on an angry rampage that shatters any of the hopes for the team to continue with their studies of this new cure. As the program gets shut down and the Ape Keeper, Robert (Labine), is told to put all the testing animals down, he and Will find out that Bright Eyes was only protecting her baby ape.
Unable to put the baby ape down, Will takes him to his father (Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer’s. They name him Caesar (Serkis), who has received the genetically mutated genes from his mom.
Though the film could be compared to Avatar in terms of “human beings bad” themes, and might be a little bit too subversive at times, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a little more complicated. For starters, we won’t see James Franco fighting for the apes any time soon, and we are required to sort of side with the apes even if they’re not big-,doe-eyed, blue big kitty cats with amazing bodies. Our relation to the apes, specifically Caesar, works because of Andy Serkis — he knows his stuff, he’s been perfecting his craft through CGI characters for over 10 years now, and he’s probably the most amazing in the film.
Caesar is complicated. He’s neither human nor an ape (at first), and he longs to fit in somewhere. However, as soon as society — Will, in particular — seems to have abandoned him, he makes a turn and becomes the catalyst to disaster.
Franco does well overall, especially with Lithgow, who is Will’s own selfish reason for all his actions. However, while Brian Cox and Tom Felton are typecast as the bad one in charge and the scowling baddie, Freida Pinto is the one thing dragging this down — playing veterinarian Caroline as a moralizing, non-developed love interest.
But I’m game. I can overlook the typecasting and the lack of development in the supporting characters for Caesar — and you can’t accuse me of rooting for the apes because I was actually rooting for the humans. After all, I’m human too.
Though Rise of the Planet of the Apes has its moments when it takes you out of the movie due to some fault in the photorealistic apes, which generally looked really good, and sometimes to some very deep suspense of disbelief — because who in their right minds wouldn’t put down an animal that’s attacked a human being — the film is engaging. It’s an easy movie to get into. We can relate to why Will would make the choices he did, we can see the world through Caesar’s eyes.
The summer didn’t end on such a bad note after all.