MOVIE REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Wil Avitt
Wil Avitt's picture

I'm a fan of the Apes franchise. The 1968 original is a science fiction masterpiece that actually manages to surpass the source material (but with such a deadly dull novel and a screenplay written by Rod Serling, this isn't hard). I liked the second and fifth movies (Beneath the Planet and Battle for the Planet), I loved the Apes TV series and I loved immensely the Tim Burton version (not a popular view, but it's mine). The third movie in the bunch (Escape from the Planet) is pretty boring and the fourth movie (Conquest of the Planet) was better, but still not quite Planet of the Apes. Rise of the Planet is basically a remake of the two movies that weren't that great to begin with.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of James Franco trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's and using apes as test subjects. The project ape, Bright Eyes (if that name sounds familiar, it should. That's what Zira called Taylor way back in the original), dies from the serum but gives birth to Caesar, an ape born with advanced intelligence from the testing inflicted upon his mother. Caesar grows more and more intelligent, and eventually leads a revolt against mankind, yadda yadda yadda.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good enough movie about apes taking over the world (which I firmly believe must one day occur), but it just isn't Planet of the Apes. Not only that, but it suffers from not using elements of the story from the original mediocre third and fourth apes movies. If you'll remember, Escape from the Planet told the story of Zira, Cornelius and Mylo escaping from the future Earth just before Charleton Heston and James Franciscus blow it up at the end of the second movie and end up returning to Earth in the 70's (which, by the way, violates all of Einstein's theories of FTL travel which formed the basis of the first film). At first the humans accept these future apes, until they find out that apes will conquer the world and eventually cause its destruction (even though it was the mutated humans and the astronauts who actually destroyed the Earth) and then they kill the apes. But not before Zira gives birth to a baby ape and swaps it out for a normal ape in Ricardo Montalban's circus. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes continues this Planet of the Apes origin by telling the story of Zira and Cornelius' baby, Caesar, who is treated as an equal by Ricardo Montalban but must act as a slave (since dogs and cats were all destroyed in a plague, apes became pets then slaves). The apes, sick of being slaves, revolt under the leadership of Caesar and yadda yadda yadda.

I like the scientific testing angle over the stupid apes from the future premise of the third movie, but I miss the slavery angle. It just made more sense that the apes would rise up after being enslaved than they would just because of some dumb zookeepers who mistreat them. Also, James Franco (as good as he is) just isn't Ricardo Montalban. There are also, I felt, a few too many winks and nods to the original, which was a failing in Superman Returns as well. For instance, the two jerk zoo keepers are named Landon and Dodge (Taylor's shipmates from the original), then there's the Bright Eyes thing and, of course, somebody just had to say the "Damn dirty ape" line.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is better in most respects than Escape and Conquest, but that was to be expected. My biggest gripe is that it isn't Planet of the Apes. Planet of the Apes is supposed to be about modern humans stranded on a... duh... Planet of the Apes (either a post-apocalyptic Earth or a different planet altogether). I will buy this on blu ray because it isn't a bad movie, it isn't great but it is very good, but mostly because I want this picture to make money. I want to finally see the war between the humans and the apes that finally destroys the world. That story was left out of the original series and that's the story I want to see. Maybe for the next Apes movie, but probably not because Hollywood seems incapable of any logic. They'll just keep giving us versions of movies we've already seen, and in this case didn't really care about the first time.

One more thing, I like the CGI apes well enough, they looked great, but I miss the charm of having actors in make-up. Rick Baker's make-ups for the Tim Burton Apes were amazing and everything doesn't have to be CGI. It's true that for this story the apes needed to be more ape-like and less anthropomorphic and I accept that, but for future movies I hope they return to a more traditional Apes look.

Will Conservatives Like This Movie?

They lay the animal rights gospel on a little thick, with the "dangers of animal testing" angle, but most conservatives can probably get past this. Listen, liberals, animal testing can't be avoided. Without it, we wouldn't have the great medical care you think is insufficient to Cuba's (I hate Michael Moore).