Friday, September 2, 2011

Review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes

When I first heard of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, I was indifferent to it. I’m had seen the original “Planet of the Apes” and while it was a good movie, I won’t call myself a fan of the franchise.

This Planet of the Apes movie has changed that!

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, this ambitious film is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, an origin story for a new series and a remake of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”, the fourth film of the original series. Amazingly, it worked on all corners!

The film has James Franco starring as Will Rodman, a scientist based in San Francisco who is trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer. Testing on chimpanzees, he developed a virus that mutated the chimpanzees, giving them a level of intelligence.

After a failed presentation of his work, Will was ordered by his boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) to put down all the chimps. Will and his subordinate Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) did but they couldn’t bring themselves to kill a baby chimp that was just born before the failed presentation. Will decided to bring the baby home and gave it to his father, Charles Rodman (John Lithgow), as a pet. Charles named the baby chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis).

Caesar showed a higher intelligence and learning ability from the start and 3 years after bringing him home, Will secretly gave a sample of his cure to his father who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It worked and the father and son duo lived happily with Caesar.

The happiness would not last as a few years later, Charles’ Alzheimer came back with a vengeance. After tests, Will discovered that his father’s immune system was fighting off the virus and he would need to create a more powerful form of the virus to further treat his father.

However in his dementia, Charles damaged his neighbor's car and the neighbor threatened Charles. Caesar saw this and attacked the neighbour to protect Charles. Caesar is then ordered to be held in a primate facility pending the court hearing of whether he is a dangerous animal. Run by John Landon (Brian Cox), the apes at the facility were treated cruelly and for the first time in his life, Caesar saw how humans truly treat apes.

Using his intelligence, Caesar escaped from the primate facility, stole more of the virus made by Will, then went back to the facility and released the virus on the other apes. Will turned to his boss Jacobs in desperation for funds to create a strong virus. Seeing Will’s results, Jacobs agreed and new tests on chimpanzees begin.

The main test subject is a chimp named Koba (Christopher Gordon) and the new virus works. However Franklin is exposed to the new virus and begins to feel unwell. Delighted with the success of the chimp experiments, Jacobs decided to speed up research and testing of the new virus. Will warn Jacobs not to do so as he believed Jacob was going too fast. Jacobs ignored Will’s warnings and Will quits his job in protest.

Meanwhile, Caesar led the other apes in escaping from the primate facility and revealed that he is intelligent enough to talk in the human language. The apes escaped into the city, raiding Will's former place of work and the San Francisco Zoo. The apes then beat a police blockade on the Golden Gate Bridge and escape into the Muir Woods for their freedom.

Let me make this clear; of all the summer movies this year, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is without question the best of the lot.

It is not even close. Director Rupert Wyatt showed a steady hand here as he somehow managed to make a kick-ass movie remake, paid homage to the previous films and then at the same time make his movie an intelligent one to boot.

Of course, he is helped by some impressive special effects and good performances from his actors. The performance by Andy Serkis was especially good. The motion-capture technology may have totally covered him but his actions, his movement was beautifully captured. Although we don’t get to see him personally, Serkis was almost like a Kabuki actor, using his actions and movements to portray the character that is Caesar.

I also like how the movie paid homage to the previous films without making too big of a deal out of it. Various names and one famous line were incorporated into the movie and for the most part they worked well.

The movie also has a great post-credit scene where it is hinted that the rise of the apes was not the only reason for the decline of humans. Unlike other post-credit scene where things came out of left-field (Kungfu Panda 2) or were just plain stupid (Green Lantern), the scene was intelligent, it made sense and was great. Although clearly a drop for a further movie, the scene was nevertheless one of the best scenes in the movie.

Of course not everything was great. Although he was the lead, I thought James Franco could have done better as Will Rodman. I just couldn’t buy Will as a genius researcher and I think it says a lot when Andy Serkis as an ape totally overshadowed Franco in the acting department.

I also have a problem with Freida Pinto as Caroline Aranha. Maybe it was the script but her role as the token female was a waste. Yes I know the token female in summer blockbusters are usually unnecessary, but I felt she was worse than unnecessary. She was utterly forgettable in the role. Most of the time, she doesn’t even look like she’s trying and doesn’t want to be in the film.

Still these are minor points when compare to the overall movie. As I had said earlier, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good film, without question the best movie I had seen this year. Bring on the sequel; I’ll be waiting!

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