Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes – Movie Review

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Ah what a piece of work is man. How noble in reason, infinite in faculties…yada yada yada – you might use the same Shakespearian quote to define the beasties in ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ hitting multiplexes this weekend. This film aims to take the Apes franchise in a more human direction as it prequels the story of the ultimate imprisonment and demise of the human race at the hands of these mad primates.

Characters and Crew Of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Main Cast:

  • James Franco as Will Rodman
  • Andy Serkis (through performance capture) as Caesar
  • Freida Pinto as Caroline Aranha
  • John Lithgow as Charles Rodman
  • Tom Felton as Dodge Landon


  • Director: Rupert Wyatt
  • Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
  • Producers: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

For those new to the franchise, the gist of the earlier films is the return of an American astronaut to the planet Earth only to find that Apes have taken on the role of the dominant species of the planet, and humans are hunted and subjected to torturous existences like the zoos we cage apes in today. Where ‘Rise’ flips the script is by detailing how the apes became intelligent and where their eventual world domination began which in this case, is sunny San Francisco.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a dedicated biochemist on the verge of producing a groundbreaking drug that could cure Alzheimer’s. As with any serum, chimps become the obvious test subjects. But before Will can show the world his amazing research, the test apes are abruptly put down and oddly unknown to the research facility, one of the test apes was pregnant and gave birth to a chimp named Caesar that has traces of the serum in his system which manifest as a brain cell enhancer producing greater than normal intelligence. Refusing to accept that raising a wild ape is a bad idea (even a really smart ape), Will takes Caesar into his home to raise. What follows is a species awakening as Caesar grows up and discovers who and what he is and how different he is from the humans he’s raised around. When Caesar mistakes a neighbors scolding and lashes out against him, he gets sent to a primate sanctuary (what luck there was such a large one so close to home), where he meets other apes in captivity. It almost sounds cliché that the father-son proprietors of the sanctuary, John & Dodge Landon (Brian Cox & Tom Felton) have very little respect for apes and subject them regularly to mistreatment and abuse. Not being your average ape, Caesar is violently acclimated to his new surroundings by his cagemates, but eventually finds a way to reach and reason with them while getting a crash course on where apes rank in the schemes of humankind thanks to the sanctuary owners cruel son Dodge (was this a stretch for Felton whose had plenty of practice being an a**hole from his stint in the Harry Potter films as Draco Malfoy? I think not.). Not content to accept their place in the chain of life, Caesar finds a way to steal batches of the serum and expose his fellow apes giving them all incredible intelligence. With an army of smart ape brethren behind him, an all out assault is launched against the San Francisco Bay community and mankind.

What you need to know first and foremost is what this film isn’t. It’s not an action film, although there is action. It’s not a cool sci-fi thriller, although it has thrilling moments and definitely carries a classification of science fiction. In fact, I daresay it’s a drama (and for the 1st and 2nd act, almost moves at the pace of one). This is a stark tale of man’s duality that plays out with the ape as the human. It makes suggestions about our penchant for cruelty, showcases our inspirational power to love, and revels in our unflinching motivation to test the bounds of nature with our creativity (of course the almighty dollar is at the root in the film, but hey – no species is perfect). Franco (Spiderman) brings nothing new or inspiring to his turn as passionate scientist Will Rodman, and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), who plays ape doctor Caroline Aranha is nothing more than eye candy – albeit really, really cute eye candy. The probelm is Pinto has fallen into that group of ‘hot actresses’ which is much better than a ‘hottie acting’. What’s the difference? Ask me in the comments section). John Lithgow (Ricochet) portrays Will’s Dad Charles who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and serves as the driving force behind Will’s passion to develop a cure. Granted Lithgow is old, but his acting skills could be put to much better use in much better roles – he seemed incredibly wasted here playing an inept aging old Dad.

The true stars of the film are the apes, but that credit lands squarely on the digital animators. To put it bluntly, these apes look darn good and eerily human. They add to your perplexed focus of who you’re cheering for. They look so human, you start to think of them that way, and become incredibly understanding as to why they’d want to wipe us all out based on how we’re treating them.

I really enjoyed this film as a drama and you may too, but therein lies the rub because it isn’t being sold that way by the filmmakers. It’s marketed as a wild ride of apes and conquest, but it’s really a strong and emotional story about mankind, our unrelenting drive to usurp nature and the cruelty that is at the core of both our species. You don’t need this box office fodder to tell you how any dream being driven with those motives is going to end.

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