Rise of the Planet of the Apes has the the elements; it’s set up very well, it has well-conceived sequences and a final showdowni n a Hitchcockian famous location (the Golden Gate Bridge), all this adds up to a very good popcorn flick and I’m not sure the movie wants to be anything more than that, which is probably a good thing. While the social allegories of the Planet of the Apes films remain unexplored, I think we can all live with that. This is a prequel of sorts chronicling the creation of drug that improves the human and (unfortunately for those humans) chimpanzee brain that causes the apes to violently overthrow their better-dressed oppressors. James Franco plays the scientist creating the drug to save his Alzheimer’s-ridden father but this is Cesar’s movie, the experimental chimp who learns to resent his treatment by the kind Franco and eventually becomes the Che Guavara of the sub-species. Brilliantly realized through motion-capture by Andy Serkis, it’s simply good filmmaking as we see the animal get smarter and become more aware of his situation.
It’s all preposterous, of course (I wonder how the recent announcement of the limits of the humanoid mind will have on DVD sales) but it’s also good fun. I’m still not sure how the affected apes are able to instantly teach their compatriots to riot during the uprising of the last third of the film but, hell, I’m not well-versed in chimp culture. There’s also a money vs. ethics sub-plot in the form of the profits mad pharmecuetical boss who wants to rush the drug through before its effects are known but that’s formula apocolyptic stuff, even less successful is Freida Pinto as Franco’s girlfriend and fellow scientist, the character is so undeveloped why include it at all? I did, however, enjoy the long-suffering neighbor, a high-strung pilot who, as it turns out is less a throwaway but really the reason the human race is doomed to extinction. The movie has actors of quality in supporting roles (John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Thomas Felton come to mind) to make the entire enterprise punch a little above its weight. I will say, for all the advances in motion captures, and for as good as the apes are in this movie (and there’s a ton of them) I still found myself relating to the goats of Le Quattro Volte more.