Review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Movie Review: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

--Rating: PG-13 (intense/frightening action and violence)
Release Date: August 5, 2011
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Genre: Drama/Science Fiction

Even the most ardent moviegoers are suffering from movie reboot fatigue. Hollywood is not only making too many reboots but they also tend to treat them ham-handedly. Fortunately for audiences, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is well-done and stands alone as an example of what a good reboot should be.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist on a mission to find a treatment or cure for Alzheimer's. The mission is both professional and personal since his father Charles (John Lithgow) has the disease. He comes up with a promising drug called ALZ 112 that gets tested on chimpanzees.

At first, the drug seems like the miracle Will has been waiting for. The chimps given the experimental injection become smarter. They learn sign language and perform exceedingly well on intelligence tests. Will and his bosses at the drug company go forward with a presentation to shareholders. During this presentation, something goes horribly awry and a test chimp goes on a rampage.

The testing and research for ALZ 112 is immediately stopped. All the chimps given the drug are euthanized to prevent another rampage. As the lab staff clears the chimp enclosures, Will finds a baby chimp in the same room that the rampaging chimp lived in. He forms a theory that the chimp got defensive because she thought the lab staff was going to harm her baby. He decides that maybe the drug is not dangerous after all. He sneaks the baby chimp and several vials of the serum out of the lab.

Will begins injecting his dad with the serum and becomes something of a surrogate father to the chimp, which he names Caeser. Caeser is played by actor Andy Serkis. Considering the history of the Planet of the Apes movies, one might think this means Serkis wore a chimp suit during filming. In actuality, Serkis wore a green suit with motion-capture dots on it. He did all of the movement and acting during filming with his green suit image being replaced by images of a chimp in post-production.

As Caeser grows up, the home that Will and Charles share is not big enough. Primate expert Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto) informs Will that Caesar not only needs more room to run around but should also be introduced to other chimps. Before they can acclimate him and release him into the wild, a terrible mishap occurs with a neighbor when Caesar escapes from the house. Normally this would mean that Caesar would be euthanized. Will decides to place him in a chimp sanctuary to avoid this.

The sanctuary turns out to be an abusive place that Caesar doesn't like. Since Will taught him sign language and reasoning skills, he begins to communicate with the other chimps. He makes them realize that they don't have to stay there with the sadistic Dodge Landon (Tom Felton). He stages an escape plan and leads the charge out of the facility.

This is where the action in the movie goes into overdrive as the escaped chimps run amok in San Francisco. Realizing that this is his fault, Will tries to save the day. No matter which side the audience is rooting for, the conclusion will likely satisfy. It also sets up the possibility of a sequel, in keeping with previous "Planet of the Apes" movies.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a lot of fun to watch and Serkis' performance is extraordinary. As Caeser, he brings more humanity to the movie than many of the human actors. Audiences may flock to this film for the nostalgia of the previous movies, but they'll stay to watch the fascinating human-computer hybrid performance that is the true heart of the movie.