Simply: Rise of the Planet of the Apes may end up being one of the most entertaining movies released this summer. This was a pleasant outcome for a movie I was really only paying to see to support Tom Felton in his life-after-potter ambitions (here’s to hoping that whole crew will start making films together or movie tickets will run me dry).
I can imagine that this movie must have been a challenge to put together. After all, if you’ve seen the original or even the shitty Marky-Mark remake, you know how this is going to turn out. Apes get smart, get tired of taking shit from humans, beat the shit out of humans…the end. I can’t be alone in finding that most attempts at origin films are pretty unfulfilling to watch since you know how they’re going to end – especially since the trip to the ending usually crashes and burns about half way through the movie.
However, Rise sure makes a go of it, with a story that not only makes sense, but progresses evenly until the inevitable epic ape-coup. James Franco plays a scientist working for a (evil) drug company. He’s researching a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in San Francisco, a disease from which Franco’s father, played by John Lithgow, also suffers. Franco develops a retrovirus that seems to be effective on test chimps, especially on “Bright Eyes” (holy original film reference, Batman!), a lovely chimpet whose antics land her and her test chimp friends in some hot water (also known as dead). However, before she bit the big one, Bright Eyes plopped out a little bundle of joy, Caesar. And now the plot takes off.
Caesar lives well with Daddy Franco, getting exponentially more intelligent and cute. He even gets to wear little clothes and lives in a badass attic bedroom.Unfortunately, Caesar attacks a neighbor (who really should have moved away from ape house as soon as it became ape house) and is sent to ape jail, where all the other primates resent him because of his pants and weirding ways. Naturally, Tom Felton is in charge of ape jail and spends the majority of the time giving all the monkeys a hard time. Unfortunately, ape jail gives Caesar the opportunity to 1) get to know his fellow apes through a mutual hatred of Tom Felton 2) time to plot and scheme while growing more intelligent and 3) write the monkey version of Mein Kampf.
You can imagine what happens next, just as you could have predicted most of the plot from seeing the trailer or even clips from the original film on Vh1. The movie triumphs because despite knowing the inevitable outcome, you’ll cringe every time one of the monkeys looks even a little pissed off. The bits with James Franco and his family were actually pretty good and were a nice break from the majority of the dialogue that was spoken in ape. This experience was similar to watching a Spanish soap opera, though the monkeys were much more expressive and better actors. This is probably not much of a complement since Caesar was played by none other than Andy Serkis (he was Gollum AND King Kong) who indeed plays apes like nobody’s business.
Probably the only snag in this well executed film was Freida Pinto’s character. Besides looking pretty (and she is SO SO pretty) Pinto is basically this movie’s Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park for you lames out there) as a voice for the “don’t fuck with nature” crowd. That’s nice and relevant I suppose, but I generally ignored her objections as much as Franco seemed to. At least she and Felton were barely on screen together, their combined good looks would have broken my circuits…Moving on.
The Ape Revolution was extremely well done with monkeys a-plenty running everywhere and general chaos. You’ll definitely be rooting for a primate victory- which in this movie was reaching the Red Wood Forrest. I’m not sure what they were planning to eat once they got there since bananas do not actually grow on those giant trees but sure, go apes!
This brings me to the plausibility factor of this movie, which seems to interest geeks like myself more than the general public. The question most poise in regards to this movie is why didn’t humans just nuke the hairy mother fuckers? Well, Rises gives you a plausible reason that I won’t spoil. Let’s just say humans were about to be busy with other things when Ape-Day went down. The one objection I had may be based off of my ignorance of the greater San Francisco area. I’m an East Coast gal so maybe the West suffers from a plaguing primate infestation that New York doesn’t. I mean, how many assholes in San Francisco are raising baby gorillas in their basements that there needs to be an ape jail? Plus, I’m pretty sure if you let all the primates out of the Bronx Zoo, there wouldn’t be as many as were running around the end of that movie. But again, I’ve never been to California, so what do I know? Either way, more monkeys with spears looks better than fewer monkeys with spears-so whatever. Also to look out for are various references to the original Charlton Heston version which aren’t so subtle but deserve a sqee or two when you catch them.
Rise is definitely a must see movie this summer so go check it out and share what you think. There’s definitely going to be a sequel and possibly a reboot of the whole series, which I wouldn’t object to, especially if the next one stars Rupert Grint and Mathew Lewis.