Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Drama
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Will Rodman (James Franco) is a geneticist working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, he is using chimps to test his drugs.  His early research on a female ape called “Bright Eyes” is promising, not only does her brain heal itself, but her intelligence increases markedly. But the treatment causes dramatic side effects, Bright eyes behavior becomes violent and erratic, and she is ordered to be put down by Stephen Jacobs (David Oleyowo)  Before she dies bright Eyes gives birth to a son named  Caesar (Andy Serkis) by Will’s father, Charles, (John Lithgow) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Will takes Caesar home and raises him for 8 years.  Caesar’s intelligence is passed on by his mother, and his cognitive growth is so stunning that Will tries the medicine on his dad.  Charles shows the same promise as Caesar does, but then regresses, leading to an altercation with an angry neighbor named Hunsicker. (David Hewitt)  Caesar intervenes trying to save Charles and bites Hunsicker.  Charles later dies from the biogenetic medicine that showed so much promise.

Caesar is then taken to an animal shelter/zoo which more closely resembles a prison than a zoo or a shelter.  Caesar is routinely subjected to sadistic and inhumane treatment by the son of the owner of the shelter, Dodge Landon  (Tom Felton)  As his treatment gets worse, Caesar hatches a plan to lead an ape rebellion and break out of the prison.  Will tries one last time to take him home, but Caesar refuses.  Does Caesar break out of the prison that Will put him in?  How far can the ape rebellion go?

I will admit to being a huge fan of the original Apes movies, but I tried to go into this with an open mind.  Open mind notwithstanding, this movie did not pass muster with me.  There are too many plot holes in the movie for me to enjoy it.  How can intelligence be passed from mother to son if the genetic intelligence is man-made?  Who does the zoo/shelter only house apes and gorillas, where are the other animals?  Why does Caesar’s brain power not regress like Charles’?  The writers were also trying to be too cute by half by making all those allusions to the first Apes movie.  Bright Eyes is what Zira called Charlton Heston’s character, Dodge and Landon were the two astronauts with Heston.  “It’s a madhouse and get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape, were iconic lines from the first movie integral to the mood of the film, here they’re just throwaway lines that have little impact in the new film.  And in the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar chose his name, it wasn’t chosen for him.  The themes are rather pedestrian, anti-animal testing, anti animal cruelty. The planet of the Apes series dealt with big  issues, evolution, nuclear war, racial inequality, the new movie takes none of this on.

The acting was sub-par, and I think the writers really missed an opportunity here, there was a lot of self-congratulation about how good the CGI was, but having a mute main character is a double edged sword.  True Heston was mute for a time, in the original Apes movie, but that served only to raise the dramatic tension. The human acting is not good either.  Where is the urgency in his role?  He’s too laid back.  Frieda Pinto is abysmal in this movie, to the point that she can’t even say her lines clearly or with any purpose.  Lithgow was the only actor who put any skill into his role, but I say again, Alzheimer’s disease is not a topic for a popcorn flick. The whole movie misfires for me.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I wasn’t bananas over it.

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