Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Duane L. Martin

Will Rodman’s (James Franco) father suffers from alzheimer’s disease, and he’s getting progressively worse. This has been Will’s driving force as a medical researcher to find a cure for the disease. His research leads him to create a serum that uses a custom designed virus as a transport medium. The pharmaceutical company he works for has a selection of chimps that are used as test subjects for the experiments with the serum, and now they’re about to test incarnation 12 of the serum. When the chimp it’s tested on suddenly shows signs of vastly increased intelligence, Will convinces the head of the company, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) that they should talk to the investors about moving ahead with human trials. Unfortunately, the chimp that the serum had been so effective on, escapes from its confinement and goes on a rampage through the lab, eventually breaking in on the investor meeting where it’s shot by security. Needless to say the project was shut down and Jacobs ordered the handler to destroy all the test chimps. When it’s discovered by the handler that the chimp only went berzerk because it was pregnant, and presented Will with the chimp’s baby, that he didn’t have the heart to kill, Will, somewhat unwillingly, became its new surrogate father, took it home with him, and after a random comment by his father quoting Shakespere, names the baby Caesar. This particular baby was special though. The serum would cause green flecks to appear in the eyes, and this baby had inherited that from its mother. Will, fascinated by the development, not only raises the chimp on his own, but steals some of the test serum and uses it on his father, with great success.

Years passed without incident, and Will’s father kept doing well, but then things started falling apart. Will’s father’s body started fighting the carrier virus, and his alzheimer’s returned with a vengeance. Caesar had kept getting smarter and smarter, but after an incident with a neighbor in which Caesar attacked the man to protect Will’s father, Caesar was taken away to an ape sanctuary, where he was suddenly exposed to a large number of his fellow apes, who he eventually becomes the leader of, and after escaping and stealing the new 13th incarnation of the serum from Will’s house and delivering it to the apes in the sanctuary, the apes use their increased intelligence to escape and tear through the city of San Fransisco, fighting the police in an attempt to get across the Golden Gate Bridge to a forest where Will had taken him for the past several years, where they could live in freedom.

There’s a lot more to this story than what I said above here, but that’s the main bit anyway. Besides, if I went through every detail here, there wouldn’t be much point in watching the movie now would there?

Now I never watched the Planet of the Apes re-make because I refuse to watch any film with Mark Wahlberg in it for various reasons. I have heard that it pretty much sucked though. I’m happy to say however, that this particular film most assuredly did not suck in the least. It was very well written, had a great plot, a great cast, and a CGI main character that you really come to feel something for.

The cast in this film was great all around, but there are a few notes I’d like to make about a few of them. First, I’d like to give special mention to Will’s father, played by John Lithgoe. The way he represented alzheimer’s disease in this story was so spot on it’s scary. It’s so realistic in fact, that I think it would be hard to watch for anyone whose lives and loved ones have been affected by the disease. Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series) played the son of the guy who ran the ape sanctuary. He was basically the same type of character he was in the Harry Potter films in that he was an unpleasant individual who was cruel to the apes. The character was good, but he was trying to speak with an American accent, and you could still hear traces of his British accent at times in the various inflections of his words. David Hewlett of Stargate Atlantis fame played Will’s perpetually irritable neighbor. I was pleasantly surprised to see him in this film, and once again, he was playing his typical "irritable jerk" character that he plays so well. David Oyelowo, who played Steven Jacobs, was perfect as the corporate executive who only cared about money and the bottom line. He was evil, but not overtly so. Mostly he’s just greedy and desperate to avoid scandal and bad PR, and as such, he doesn’t care about the chimps or anything else aside from profitable results. Finally, I’d like to mention Freida Pinto as the zoo primatologist that Will ends up falling in love with after taking Caesar to her to have his leg stitched up. While the character is nice, and she plays it very well, it gets annoying when she starts going off about how some things weren’t meant to be messed with, like fixing alzheimer’s. Basically saying that he shouldn’t be playing God. I get so unbelievably irritated by people like this that it sort of ruined any good feelings toward her character when she started saying stuff like that to Will. Still, she did help Will out a lot, especially at the end, so that sort of mitigated my bad feelings to some degree.

The CGI in this film was extremely good, though there was always a bit of a CGI look to it. It was sufficiently good however to make the apes very believable and to even humanize them, most especially Caesar, in very unexpected ways. Caesar’s eyes were particularly striking, as were all the apes’ eyes. The way they were done in such a way as to give you a feeling that there was a genuine soul behind them. That really evokes a feeling from the viewer for the apes in this film and the struggles they have to go through. I don’t think Charlton Heston would be all that swayed by them, but that’s another story…literally.

All in all, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an enjoyable film experience for me, and one that I’m very happy to be able to recommend. The story was engaging and believable, the characters were well played, and the ability to evoke emotion for a CGI chimp is just something special. I know the Mark Wahlberg version of Planet of the Apes got bad reviews, but this isn’t that film. This one stands on it’s own, is genuinely good and totally worth your time.

This review was done for the blu-ray copy of the film. The image quality is excellent, as is the sound. It also contains the following special features:

  • 11 Deleted Scenes
  • The Genius of Andy Serkis
  • Scene Breakdown
  • A New Generation of Apes
  • Breaking Motion Capture Boundries
  • The Great Apes
  • Mythology of the Apes
  • Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle
  • Audio Commentary by the Director and Writers
  • Character Concept Art Gallery

The blu-ray comes with a DVD+Digital Copy disc as well.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of this film for yourself you can get it from Amazon here (blu-ray / DVD), or from any of the usual retail or online outlets.