Wednesday, May 18, 2016


(August 2011, U.S.)

Although they each contain a worthy moment or two, I have no great affection for the four PLANET OF THE APES sequels of the 1970s that followed the classic 1968 original with Charlton Heston. And Tim Burton's 2001 remake...well, let's not even talk about that worthless dud! That in mind, I was none too enthusiastic about another attempt at a reboot of this legendary film franchise. But because I try to be fair whenever possible, I gave RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES a look when it became available on DVD. The result? Well, here I am!

Despite my traditional prejudices against Hollywood remakes and reboots, I give this film credit for genuinely going back to the beginning to create an origin for a new story built on the foundation of a former tale. The story of how humankind came to be dominated by apes begins right here in the present day with the development of a new drug called ALZ-112 that could very well be the cure for Alzheimer's disease. The drug's creator Will Rodman (played by James Franco) believes in the drug's ability to not only cure the dreaded disease, but also in its ability to increase greater intelligence in the subject. The subject, an ape (of course) named Caesar, starts out as a household pet of Will's when he brings him home as a baby to save him from certain death by the California biotech company he works for. As the years progress, so does the relationship between man and ape, and with it, evidence of severe aggression by Caesar when he nearly kills an irate neighbor who threatens Will's gentle father (who appears to have been temporarily cured of his own Alzheimer's disease with the miracle drug, by the way). The terrible side effect of the drug, by the way, is that while it benefits the ape, it appears to kill humans when they're exposed to it and anyone else who has come into contact with the contagion. After the attack on the neighbor, Caesar is consequently locked away in a primate shelter where he is treated cruelly by the other chimps and the chief guard. As a result of his heightened intelligence, however, Caesar learns how to unlock his cage, gaining free access to the common area. With the assistance of a large gorilla, he not only confronts the other apes giving him trouble, but also claims position as leader of the entire bunch. Intelligence leads to anger, which leads to aggression, which leads to revenge and this is the moment where not just Caesar, but all the apes in all of San Francisco rise up against mankind. And very much like the original premise in CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972), it all begins with one ape (Caesar) declaring a single word against his enemy..."NO!" (this after being called a damn-dirty ape and told to take his stinking paws off the abusive guard - sound familiar?) The rising is followed by an awesome battle as the newly-freed ape army fights their way through the city of San Francisco and takes over the Golden Gate Bridge to make their way into the nearby redwood forest that they will inevitably call home. When the apes have finally arrived in the forest, there is an effectively-dramatic moment when Will arrives and begs Caesar to return home. In response, the ape hugs his former master and speaks to him for the first time, declaring, "Caesar is home." The look on Will's face when he comes to realize the total potential and consequences of his experiment-gone-wrong is astounding. The apes are free, but this is only the beginning. For it takes just one contaminated human being flying to another country to ultimately spread a deadly disease throughout the world via international flying routes that will one day bring the end of the human race, which is what we as the viewer are informed of as the end credits roll, setting up the premise for what will be the next film in the series. And so, unlike the climax of 1968 original, we do not "blow it up" in this film. Our final demise begins with the simple act of a human sneeze.

But wait, on the other close attention to the film and you'll find two very quick moments suggesting that somewhere out in space, events are taking place that will eventually play out as part of the grand destiny of things to come. A quick flash of a television news broadcast shows us a glimpse of the Icarus space flight taking off and also of its crew inside the ship. Later, a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle adds that the ship has been "Lost In Space". There's no doubt that this is clearly a reference to the space flight that the original 1968 film began with, commanded by Colonel George Taylor. So what does this mean? Is one of the inevitable PLANET OF THE APES chapters of this modern reboot going to bring us right back to where we all started nearly fifty years ago? We can only hope that this newest franchise will not be so brazen as to try and copy (or re-copy) the original classic; that's pointless! There is no reference to the Icarus flight that I can recall in the film that followed, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (great film, too!). We can only wait to see if things change in the next film due in July 2017, WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Besides solid performances by all those involved, the special effects and the extraordinary contributions by actor Andy Serkis as Caesar truly make the film special. Caesar's prison conversion from passive house pet to violent revolutionist is an interesting exercise in filmmaking that is damn near silent, with simple and precise images depicting Caesar's commander-like personality and his organizational skills of a repressed group of primates from chaos to absolute order. As human's, we can't help but consider our tragic doom due to our ignorance of science and our stupidity in the mistreatment of animals. Did we deserve what we got in the end? Maybe. Either way, we've seen the apes rise and take over this planet before and now it's happening all over again.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Will Rodman: "Caesar, I'm sorry. This my fault. This has to stop. This isn't the way. You know what they're capable of. Please come home. If you come home, I'll protect you."
Caesar: "Caesar is home."

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