Movie Review: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)
An awesome franchise spanning 5 films and a horrible Tim Burton remake, THE PLANET OF THE APES has been a long-standing staple of genre films. Sure it’s no STAR WARS, however it’s quite a fan favorite series of films that to this day has found no equal. I’ve always maintained that what PLANET OF THE APES did with its circular time paradox with its 5 films, no other film franchise has been able to do, to this day.
Keeping all that in mind, August 2011 brought us a new perspective into the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, with a remake of sorts… RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
This film literally blew my mind. Well obviously not literally, as I’d have grey matter on my curtains instead of being able to write this review. However, RISE… fulfilled all expectations and more with its brilliant script and even more brilliant execution.
WARNING: This review may contain a horribly gushing reviewer.
Essentially a reimagining of the entire PLANET OF THE APES franchise, RISE… completely tweaks the origins of the story into a more contemporary setting. James Franco’s Will is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, which he tests on Apes. Eureka!! The drug does exactly what it’s supposed to do; however due to an unexpected side effect, the trials are shut down and the Apes are put down. One Ape gives birth to a baby while on the drug, and our nice scientist rescues that baby.
While taking care of the baby Chimp, Will and his Alzheimic father, notice the Chimp display insane levels of intellect. Will keeps him and studies him, to find that the drug was passed down from the mommy Ape and instead of being a cure for Alzheimer’s, it’s made the baby Chimp super smart. A drug that may possibly make a normal healthy person, super freakin’ smart… you can understand that stakes this movie sets up right away.
grown up Ceaser with his ‘Daddy’
THE PLANET OF THE APES, for those who don’t know, is an awesome tale of, essentially, a time paradox, involving man’s own downfall from being the dominant species of the planet. I’ll attempt to sum up the entire Franchise now. *deep breath* [Note: Check below this Review for a Cheat Sheet of the entire Franchise. I found it after I had already written the below, and I hate Editing! ]
The first film introduces us to this brand new planet. American astronauts that crash land on a weird planet ruled by Apes. The humans are primitive and can’t speak while the Apes have their own society. Imagine the flipped version of our world. Apes experiment on Humans, because they consider them to be mindless animals, however, some scientist are sympathetic to Humans. The Apes have a religious belief system, of a messiah, who saved them and gave them their evolved capabilities.
The American Astronauts are captured and studied and when one Astronaut finally speaks, the Apes’ entire belief system comes crashing down. At the end of the movie, we discover that the weird planet is actually Earth, in the future… as our lone survivor of the crash finds a half submerged Statue of Liberty near a beach.
So basically the ‘Planet’ part in the title is a complete misdirection, because the end of the 1st film leaves us with a feeling of ‘wanting more’. How does Earth become the way we see it? And that more is explained and comes full circle with the following4 films. I won’t go movie-by-movie… [see Chart at the end of this Review for a movie-by-movie breakdown ] but more gist of the story.
The two Ape scientists who were friends of the original American Astronaut, end up being branded as traitors by their government for helping the Humans. They flee by getting into the American Space Shuttle and find themselves in the past, where Humans ruled. So Three talking and intelligent Apes from the Future, travel back in time to when Humans ran things. With me so far?
Human society treated the Apes as celebrities, they became a novelty. However, as the truth about their origins surfaced, their experiments on Humans in the future, the Human Government deemed them as security risks. They escaped to a local circus, but to make things worse, the lady Ape was pregnant. Eventually the Apes were hunted down and killed, but not before giving birth to a baby Ape, and hiding him with the circus owner.
original Ceaser and “Daddy”. yes… that’s Ricardo Montalban!
This baby Ape grows up amidst other animals, and a nice circus owner, who educates him and treats him like a Human, even naming him Caesar. At this point in time, decade or so after the future Apes came, the civilized Human society has made Apes their pets/workers/cleaners/etc. Apes in society are like servants. A visit to the city causes the death of the circus owner, and Caesar is handed over to the city for reassignment as a worker Ape. No one knowing that he’s actually a smart ass Ape who can talk and read and write and be sarcastic.
During this experience, Caesar sees how his fellow Apes are mistreated and abused. This defines him as he starts a revolt of Apes against Humans by using his advanced intellect and eventually takes over the world. Which is the beginning of the transformed world we see in the first film. Caesar is the Messiah that the Future Apes society and culture is based on. Full fuckin’ circle.
THE RISE pays great homage to the original franchise, while changing a lot of core concepts, but holding on to their essence. What makes this movie great however, is that it plays out not as a genre movie, but almost like a typical revolution/jail break film, with the sci fi elements essentially making it a thriller.
The scenes between our lead Chimp, Caesar, and his time in the Ape Shelter (basically jail for apes) are awesome. The interaction between him and the other Apes, in a primarily natural method of communication in the Animal Kingdom, was just brilliant. Without words, those scenes convey the bulk of the emotion of the film.
Those scenes even play out like a prison break movie, reminiscent of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. The way in which Caesar, without speaking, conveys to the big Baboon that ‘individually, we are weak… but together we’re unbreakable’… is just too cool for words. Even Caesar’s initiation into the Shelter’s society, by being beaten down and learning how things work, the hard way… was great character development.
RISE works on many levels, starting off as a pure sci-fi movie, but the first act developing the bonds between Caesar and his Human father, which we never experienced in the originals. Caesar’s transformation from a happy and lovable Ape pretending to be Human into a full-blown Ape revolutionary freedom fighter was fuckin’ awesome. Andy Serkis, (Ceaser) does SUCH a brilliant job as Caesar that it has to be seen to be understood.the Revolution is upon us!
Make no mistake: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES IS Caesar’s movie. The humans do NOT matter. This CGI Ape with a Human actor is THE Lead of this movie, not James Franco. Not anyone. However, there is some great supporting cast. John Lithgow as the alzheimic father is great. However, the CGI/human Caesar overshadows all human actors. Bar none!
RISE OF THE PLANET of the Apes s the epitome of what it takes to reinvent an existing, classic, film franchise into another century. How the core concepts of the original franchise is retained, along with all the ways that everything happens, upgraded to fit out world, almost 50 years after the originals… is mind blowing. Every remake/reboot/reinterpretation should follow RISE’s example going forward.
PLANET OF THE APES CHEAT SHEET [ Not made by me! ]