Rise of the Planet of the Apes is supposed to be a prequel to the Planet of the Apes franchise. It explains the origins of a super intelligent breed of apes who revolt against oppression borne from Man’s arrogance in trying to change the natural order of things. It is a compelling Sci-Fi drama, with political and animal rights underpinings that compels the audiences to think about its moral obligations and limitations to the other species that live on Earth. The movie doesn’t fit in however, with earlier Ape movies because it is reportedly going to be a part of a new series of Planet of the Apes movies which will be filmed later.
ROPOTA is the story of Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist who is committed to finding a cure for Alzheimers Disease, which his own father suffers from. For five years, he works on a virus that that can repair the damaged cells in the human brain which will hopefully work on patients with the disease. He and his team conduct controlled tests on apes, one of which respond exceedingly well to the program. Just as they are about to embark on human testing, their subject — Bright Eyes — goes berserk and causes the program to shut down. The apes are terminated but it was learned that Bright Eyes (the subject) gave birth to a son before she went amok. Dr. Rodman is forced to take the baby home to care for it. He grows increasingly attached to the primate when it shows signs of heightened intelligence and human like characteristics. He raises the ape like his own son and names him Ceasar.
The film is like a series of good intentions gone awry. Every action Will took was born out of his love for his father (John Lithgow) and his desperation to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Unlike other scientists, it was clear that he was not after the fame. He truly cared about his project as well as the subjects under his care. His relationship with Ceasar (played by Andy Serkis, who incidentally did excellent CGI work as Gollum in Lord of the Rings) reaches out to the audience, making it seem like they are part of their family. Franco is a very convincing actor, and he has proven this time and again with the wide range of roles he has taken in the past, but he was especially exceptional in his performance in this movie as he is able to communicate his love for his father, his sensitivity to the apes and transcend the 3D barrier between him and Ceasar providing a convincing dynamic with every other character in the film. Andy Serkis was amazing as Ceasar. It is one thing to turn up an excellent performance as a human and it is another level of great if one is able to give life to character done in 3D. The emotions that Ceasar was able to convey because of Serkis is among the reasons why this film was so strong. It just sets and grabs you. The supporting actors also deserve to be commended for their great portrayals. Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) takes on the role of another a*sw*pe in this movie and has proven that his years as a villain in Harry Potter paid off in honing his skills as a bad guy.
The animators deserve high praise for their work on the apes. The CGI was so flawless that I mistook Bright Eyes (while doing the puzzle) to be an actual trained Primate. The actors who manned the suits and did the stunts were awesome in their mimicry of the apes’ movements and the execution of the stunts. It was done so flawlessly that one can’t help but feel arrested by the image they present on the big screen. Both humans and Apes shone in the movie. The story found a great balance to encourage the audience’s sympathy for either side. The apes (especially Ceasar) mostly upstaged the humans and drew the viewers’ sympathy but you can’t entirely hate the humans if they were represented by an idealistic and upstanding guy such as the character played by Franco.
I must say I liked this better than the Mark Wahlberg Planet of the Apes. This film provides a solid foundation on which a new series could stem from and accomplished its mission of getting a new generation interested in the Ape franchise. I just wish they could have shortened the title somewhat — Rise of the Plant of the Apes is a mouthful.
But what a great year for movies this is turning out to be 🙂 I’m happy.