Movie review by EDF
Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Andy Serkis, David Hewlett, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Leah Gibson, David Oyelowo, Chelah Horsdal, Karin Konoval, Sonja Bennett
Director: Rupert Wyatt
As mentioned in a previous review, origin movies are the new sequels. It is a clever device as moviegoers will already be familiar with these franchise movies from their repeated broadcast on television. Why bother investing in new movies with new stories when it is easier to gain a ready made audience by rehashing an old story idea. 20th Century Fox thought they were on to a good thing with Tim Burton’s version of PLANET OF THE APES but it ultimately failed as it tried to recapture the excitement of the original movie but ended up just being just dark and unexciting. So now that we have the origin story of PLANET OF THE APES, what’s it all about?
The story begins with man’s attempt in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Will (James Franco) is a scientist working on the cure but the work is also a personal one as his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from Alzheimer’s. Using chimpanzees caught in the wild, they are injected with the test drug 112. Out of all the chimps, number 9 is responding best to the drug, showing higher brain functions than all the others by completing complex puzzles. Trying to secure further funding, the company are unsuccessful due to an incident with number 9. Left with no choice but to destroy the test subjects, one is spared and sneaked out of the facility, a young chimp with a strain of the test drug in his system. Will takes the chimp home and deciding whether to keep him or not, finds that his father has immediately grown attached to the chimp, who he has now named Caesar (Andy Serkis in motion capture performance).
With the drug program given less priority, Will takes some vials of the drug 112 and administrates them to his father, even though he knows that this is only a temporary cure. With his father now living life Alzheimer’s free; Will concentrates on raising Caesar, who each year is becoming more intelligent. One day, hearing the sound of children playing in the back yard next door, curiosity gets the better of Caesar as he leaves the house for the first time. Upon finding Caesar in their garage, the children scream for help whereby their father Hunsiker (David Hewlett) comes out and starts beating Caesar with a stick, but Will turns up in time to save Caesar.
As the years pass, Charles condition worsens as the 112 drug is becoming less effective. With no choice, Will tells his boss about administrating the drug to his father and he agrees to let Will continue on with his research on the new drug, 113. Meanwhile, Charles has taken a turn for the worst and he tries to steal Hunsiker’s car. Watching the scene from the house and believing that Charles is in danger, Caesar attacks Hunsiker and is promptly taken away from Will and placed in an ape sanctuary until it is decided what to do with Caesar. While caged up, Caesar and the other apes are subjected to cruelty by one of the keepers, Dodge (Tom Felton). Not willing to take any more of this abuse, Caesar must hatch a plan to escape but he would need the help of apes who are smarter than the ones he is locked up with.
As far as remakes go, while they have put in a lot of work into this movie, the script for the most part is average and predictable. Unlike the Tim Burton remake where it relied on makeup, RISE OF… is dependent on CGI and motion capture. We have seen this before with Peter Jackson’s KING KONG, of which both movies share the same motion capture actor, Andy Serkis. Without a doubt, the work that Serkis and WETA Digital have produced is astounding where the expressions are as realistic as you are going to get without having the real thing on the set. While moving along at a decent pace, not a lot really happens. Not unless you are into how animals react to situations, then this might not interest you at all. What is interesting though is that it does ask the question to you as a viewer, if animal testing is even morally correct as these animals really have no say in this matter. Should man play God with life and suffer the consequences somewhere down the line? While the human characters are, dare I say it, a bit dull; it is Caesar that grabs your attention. Andy Serkis has excelled himself with a performance that is on par to that of Gollum. The final act of the movie is what everyone is waiting for and when it is over you might ask yourself if that was it. Even with little nods to the original movie, you end up wondering how a few apes can take over the world. Maybe the end credits will answer that question for you but by the end of it, the movie falls somewhere in between monkey magic and monkey nuts but you may or may not feel like a monkey’s uncle for watching it.