The Scoop: 2011 PG-13, directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring Andy Serkis, James Franco and John Lithgow
Tagline: Evolution Becomes Revolution
Summary Capsule: See how filmmakers cleverly connect the dots from a human-run world to an ape-dominated one
Justin’s Rating: It’s a funhouse! A FUNHOUSE!
Justin’s Review: Toward the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the animal workers is shown as being slightly dumber and more ape-like than the actual intelligent apes, which was a nice subtle moment of movie irony. Yet I kept feeling like lead James Franco was more of a dumb monkey than that, being one of those unethical scientists who tamper in God’s domain, pull his shorts down and moons everyone in God’s domain, and takes out a graffiti can and spraypaints all over God’s domain… just because.
He’s not the most noble of protagonists, is what I’m saying. Even if the movie tries to make him out to be.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a film that I can safely say everyone thought was going to crash and burn so very hard, yet pulled off a summer 2011 miracle by being one of the best and most entertaining films during the blockbuster season. You can’t blame the audience’s assumptions here, based on the franchise’s track record: Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes was a boring mess, and pretty much every Apes movie prior to that except for the original was schlocky crap. So in summary, one classic film, a whole bunch of forgettable sequels, a bombed reimagining, and now another reboot. Why this didn’t tear the universe a new black hole, I have no idea, but I’m not complaining about its surprising competence as a storytelling platform.
From what I can tell, Rise is a complete restart of the franchise, less interested in bridging the gap from current times to the events of the 1968 film (wherein humankind went extinct after nuclear war, I believe) than figuring out a fresh and new way to take the concept and run with it. It’s an intriguing challenge for a pseudo-prequel: How do you go from the modern world to a smart ape-dominated one without losing your audience to hysterical laughter? In this case, you hire Andy Serkis to be the actor behind the CGI ape lead, and then treat the concept seriously without insulting your audience too much.
In an attempt to cure Alzheimer’s — which his father has — young and dashing mad scientist James Franco creates a treatment that has a side effect of boosting intelligence in the lab monkeys. Because he did not see Deep Blue Sea, which had this exact same plot, he doesn’t realize that making wild animals smarter means that a shark is going to bite off your arm and you’re going to have to put up with Samuel L. Jackson speeches. When his project is terminated, he takes home the only surviving ape, a chimp named Caesar (Serkis), and raises him as part of the family. Caesar gets smarter, starts figuring out he’s more pet than family, and wonders just how many faces he can bite off before animal control can stop him.
Naw, not really on that last part. Due to a misunderstanding, Caesar is thrown into a primate preserve, and James Franco comes up with an even more effective — and dangerous — treatment. Mashing the two together creates an explosion of ape evolution and good times for all.
As Caesar is the focal point of the film — cute chimp to downtrodden prisoner to rebel leader — it was essential that he was done so right that we could identify and sympathize with him. In this, the film succeeds wildly; you can just see Serkis’ influence and facial gestures, much the same as with Lord of the Rings’ Gollum. Caesar may not be on the side of humans, but he’s not a heartless savage either. He just snaps after being mistreated by Brian Cox (who has firmly settled into the role of smarmy bad guy) and wants something better for he and his. When the ape-poopy hits the fan, it gets very interesting indeed.
For fans of the franchise, there are plenty of clever references to classic quotes and names and events, so the whole effort feels very respectful to the franchise as a whole. After seeing it, I’m definitely interested to see where the series is going to go from here, and if humans will ever be worthy of rooting for again.
- This is the second film in which Andy Serkis plays an ape, having previously portrayed 2005’s version of King Kong.
- Caesar uses a bundle of sticks to explain to Maurice how an ape alone is weak but apes together are strong. The bundle of sticks, or fasces, was a symbol of authority in ancient Rome, the origin of Caesar’s name.
- Charlton Heston can be seen on the TV set in the Ape bunkhouse in the role of Michelangelo from The Agony and the Ecstasy in this movie.
- The background mention of the space mission which refers to what happened in the first film. Late in the film we are told that the spacecraft and astronauts have disappeared.
- This movie is the first installment to feature another great ape species besides chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans; Koba, the scarred lab ape and some apes at the Gen-Sys and sanctuary, are bonobos.
- The jigsaw puzzle that Caesar has nearly completed is a depiction of Taylor and Nova from the original Planet of the Apes, riding on a horse down the beach, just before coming upon the Statue of Liberty.
- The name of Tom Felton’s character Dodge Landon is a reference to the characters Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Landon (Robert Gunner), Colonel Taylor’s (Charlton Heston) fellow astronauts.
- The name given to Caesar’s mother is “Bright Eyes” due to the coloration in her eyes caused by the ALZ-112 virus. “Bright Eyes” is the name given to Taylor (Charlton Heston) by Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter).
Maurice: [to Caesar in sign language] Why cookie Rocket?
Caesar: [to Maurice in sign language] Ape alone… weak. Apes together strong.
Maurice: [to Caesar in sign language as they observe their fellow captive apes] Apes stupid.
Dodge Landon: It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!
Will Rodman: I’ll take you home.
Caesar: [slowly] Caesar *is* home.
Dodge Landon: Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!
Caroline Aranha: I love chimpanzees. I’m also afraid of them. And it’s appropriate to be afraid of them.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Planet of the Apes
- King Kong
- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers