We go from sharks to monkeys in the Batcave as today I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I've always enjoyed the Planet of the Apes movies, but truth be told I don't worship them the way some people do. I do count myself in the minority of people who will admit to having enjoyed the Tim Burton movie as well. Taking that into consideration, nobody who loves the old ones should be reading this expecting thought provoking comparisons and contradictions between the old and the new. I've seen them once or twice, it's been years, and that's about it. In fact I remember way more about the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes than I do the originals. I can't tell you if the origin story here even plays into the continuity at all. I assume it does, being that this is supposed to be the origin story of how the apes came to power, but I have no desire to watch the classic movies to see if this is indeed the case. Any of you who know, feel free to mock my lack of knowledge on the subject in the comments section.
A bit of a spoiler warning is probably in order here, I'm going to get a little more in depth with the plot summary than I normally do, because "smart monkeys take over" is just a little too short, even for my standards.
James Franco plays doctor Will Rodman, a scientist experimenting on apes searching for a cure for Alzheimer's disease, which has taken most of his father's mind. He's developed what he thinks is the final product, a drug that can actually undo the disease's affects. His presentation is brought to an abrupt end though, as the ape he's had the breakthrough with escapes and goes on a violent rampage throughout the lab, ending when it's shot dead on the table in front of potential investors in the drug. Will eventually discovers that the ape became unstable because it had been hiding it's newborn. Reluctantly, he takes the ape home with him, only planning to keep him until he can find a better place for him, but his father immediately becomes attached to the ape, naming him Caesar. Years pass, and Caesar begins to show signs of intelligence well above that of a normal ape. Will discovers that the drug tested on Caesar's mother was passed along to him. Seeing the effects the drug had on Caesar, Will secretly begins testing of the follow-up drug on his father believing that he will succeed where the last drug failed.
A neighborhood accident leads to Caesar being taken by animal control, where he's caged and mistreated by both the humans working there, and the apes themselves who view him as a threat. Eventually, he begins to communicate with some of his fellow simians, and he devises an escape plan. Once out, he visits Will and discovers the drug he had been testing on his father. Casear takes it and returns to the animal control center, where he frees all of the captive apes but not before exposing all of them to the drug. With the apes freed, they take to the streets, following Caesar as he leads his army across the Golden Gate bridge towards the forest where they plan to take refuge, but they've got man standing in their way.
It's hard to find a whole lot to complain about in Rise. I do think it's weird that the first test monkey, Bright Eyes, had a baby that nobody knew about being that she was a lab monkey, and there were a couple of other little plot holes that were forgivable but were there nonetheless. The plot does beg the question, did we learn nothing from Deep Blue Sea? When will man realize that making wild animals super-smart through Alzheimer research will not be ending well for us? What's next? Super-smart bears? Genius level wolf packs? Must we always choose the animals capable of doing the most damage if they escape?
The cast does a decent job, though the majority of them are secondary characters. Aside from James Franco and John Lithgow, most of the roles take a backseat to the CGI apes. While it's probably the best I've seen yet, the CGI here still won't be changing your mind if you're against computer generated characters interacting with actual actors. It's good, but still obviously not the real thing. The pacing is decent, it gets boring a couple of times, but never for long. Just as with Captain American earlier this summer though, this is an origin movie and is more story driven than action driven. In fact the big action sequence from the trailers doesn't take place until the last 20 minutes of the movie. It takes a while to get there, but is well worth the wait when it does.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great starting point for what I hope will be a relaunch of the franchise. If nothing else, I will have a better grasp on the characters and how the apes came to be. I couldn't help but think once Rise ended how great the next movie could be if it sticks to the same time frame, and we get to see the war between man and super-intelligent apes. Really hope that movie gets made. I've read a couple of reviews online, and most fans of the originals seem to be enjoying this new version as well. I definitely recommend giving it a watch, regardless of what you may or may not know about what came before.