Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a scientist who develops a cure to Alzheimer's disease. He tests his cure on chimps and the result is that it makes the chimps smarter. They don't become as smart as humans, but they become smart enough that they run amok.

What director Rupert Wyatt said in an interview is that the chimps, or at least one chimp, are the result of CGI and motion capture with the help of Andy Serkis. Throughout the movie, we see apes, gorillas and even an orangutan rendered this way. None of the animals here were real or costumed actors. Initially seeing them, they didn't look real. They looked and felt like CGI creations, but they were perhaps closer to feeling like reality than any creation thus far on the big screen and after a while, you get used to the look and accept it as such.

There are scenes where chimps are moving and swinging around and through things whether it's trees or buildings that are extremely well done. It's just a shame that the script doesn't do much more with its characters, be they the CGI chimps or the real-life humans.

The reason the script doesn't do much is because the filmmakers seem to have the intent of this movie being part one of a continuing story. The filmmakers may also have intended for this movie to be a prequel of sorts or reboot of the famous The Planet of the Apes (1968) where this one explains how the apes became the way they did, but just as that, just as an explanation. There are of course several references to the original Charlton Heston film, but, for the most part, this movie exists outside of Heston's movies. Any issues or implications of having these animals be dominant over humans are not explored.

In that, the audience can guess where this movie is going, but there is a problem that at the same time there really is no new ground for it to go. Basically, the story is a mashup of several other types of stories that we've seen. Because it deals with animals, we get a story about the inhumane treatment of them and the story of how instead of being in a shelter or zoo the animals should return to the wild where they can be free. Mixed in is this sci-fi story that posits the usual if not cliche that sci-fi creations often can't be contained or controlled, and if any attempt is made to do so, it will result in humans getting hurt.

The filmmakers do a good job of distinguishing the apes and giving certain ones very distinct personalities. It's impressive being that the apes never talk. Five apes successfully stand out as their own individual characters. One of which is named Caesar. Casesar is the chimp that Franco's character Will saves as a baby from the test lab. Will takes Caesar home and raises the chimp. Will's father who is an Alzheimer's patient names the chimp after Julius Caesar.

The obvious problems involved with having a chimp, especially one that's the result of genetic engineering in suburban San Francisco, arise. Eventually, Caesar is put in a chimp shelter around other apes. The movie then becomes like The Shawshank Redemption but only with all primates. It then evolves into a prison break film.

The last fifteen or twenty minutes then are this prison break and animals then running amok. The action in this is pretty thrilling, but the filmmakers make Caesar the leader of the army of apes and as leader he's not as brutal or as out for revenge as you might think or want. This puts limits on where the apes can go. Then, at the end, the filmmakers tack on this 12 Monkeys (1995) twist, which makes the prison break a moot point.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.


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