Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Plot: Will Rodman (James Franco) is a San Francisco scientist who has been trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus on chimpanzees. The virus mutates the chimpanzees, giving them a human level of intelligence. One of his test subjects, a female chimpanzee, goes on a rampage because she believes her baby, to whom she secretly gave birth, is threatened. She is killed after disrupting a board meeting. Will’s boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders subordinate Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) to put all the test chimpanzees down, but he cannot bring himself to kill the chimpanzee’s baby, and instead gives him to Will, who names him Caesar (Andy Serkis) and raises him in his house. Caesar has inherited his mother’s high intelligence, and learns quickly.

Will gives a sample of his cure to his father, Charles (John Lithgow), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At first, his father improves but later his body’s immune system fights off the virus and his dementia returns. In his dementia, Charles gets into his neighbor’s car and damages it, angering the neighbor (David Hewlett). As he threatens Charles and pushes him down, the onlooking Caesar attacks him. After the incident, Caesar is forced to leave Will’s house and is held in a San Bruno primate facility run by John Landon (Brian Cox). The apes are treated cruelly by Landon’s son Dodge (Tom Felton) who works as a guard there. Caesar is initially treated poorly by both the staff and the other apes. When Dodge brings his friends into the facility, one of them gets too close to Caesar’s cage and is grabbed by Caesar, who steals his pocket knife, later using it to escape his cell. Caesar then frees a gorilla and, with his help, gains dominance over the other apes.

Review: I didn’t really know what to expect when I was walking into the theater, but I knew that I was excited that I might be seeing a really awesome movie. I only really paid this movie any attention after the first trailer was released a few months ago, and I was quickly enamored. The performance of Andy Serkis was immediately the centerpiece of the movie, with the creepy physical nuances and traits that his character would emote by a look or gesture. It seemed that technology could finally create a Planet of the Apes movie that I would actually be interested in watching, and man was I right.

There were a few things that immediately caught my attention and one of my favorites was James Franco. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I watched his character like a hawk looking for a chink in his armor to exploit. I didn’t find one. He plays a scientist and my thought was that the guy who made me lament Harry Osborn couldn’t possible be able to pull off a convincing scientist, could he? He did. He really did. It’s moreso out of some of the motivation that the character has to succeed in his science with his father succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease and his semblence of a normal life deteriorating at any given moment, it not only helped propel Franco’s character as a scientist but also as a son opposite John Lithgow.

The performance from Lithgow could have easily been a sticking point for this movie. It’s his characters’ well-being that motivates both Franco and the, astonishingly intelligent, chimpanzee known as Caesar to take up their own individual causes and initial motivations for their goals. His performance could have easily done damage if not accepted by audiences and was the “make or break” for the entire first act of the movie. Lithgow delivered and presented a character that an audience truly “followed” and empathized for as we saw his mind deteriorate due to the disease.

The other, more obvious, delimiter for this movie had to be the performance of the apes. Andy Serkis is creepy. I know, I just blurted that out but when in the theater and sitting amongst a sea of people exclaiming “ooh’s” and “oh shit!”s left and right, I tend to believe I’m not alone with that knee jerk statement and reaction. Caesar is something to witness as he communicates in a way that’s primal yet unnervingly human. I know I’ve already mentioned this plenty, but the mannerisms really help immerse yourself in the spectacle of witnessing the increasing intelligence of Caesar.

Overall: The movie is awesome. I really enjoyed the 3rd act of the movie which showcased the expected “Rise” of the apes. Franco and Lithgow presented characters that audiences can humanize with and appreciably moved the movie along at a steady pace without too much faltering or detraction. There’s a pre-requisite love story that occurs in the movie as well but it wasnt somethign that was a detriment to the overall film, or even a significant distraction. The star of this film is Caesar, plain and simple and and no amount of humans or love stories diminish this film or seq from the overall focal point. Caesar has arrived, and he does not disappoint.

I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes an 8 out of 10.

**Originally posted on Goosenips

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