Movie Review: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto

Written by: Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Buy Rise of the Planet of the Apes on DVD (or DVD/Blu-ray Combo)

Rent Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Amazon

When Planet of the Apes was first released in 1968, I doubt that anyone truly expected the franchise that would be born from its success. Featuring state of the art makeup effects coupled with a story that on the surface was riveting and below the surface was intellectually stimulating, it grossed a ton of money and sent the folks at 20th Century Fox into convulsions with excitement for sequel opportunities (not much changes in the movie business, you see). Four sequels were produced from this landmark film, ranging from great (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) to almost unwatchable (Battle for the Planet of the Apes), as well as both a live-action and animated television show. By the end of the 70′s though, everyone was pretty aped out and the franchise was allowed the chance to cool down.

Cut to the beginning of the 21st century, and Fox decided it was time to bring back its storied franchise about ape revolutions and destroyed landmarks for a new generation of moviegoers. Enlisting the talents of director Tim Burton, the revamped Planet of the Apes was released in 2001 and although it did make a boatload of money, critically it was not a success and the moviegoing public wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit for a sequel. 20th Century Fox decided to shelve the apes once again, showing the kind of restraint that you wouldn’t expect from a movie studio.

And now a decade later, 20th Century Fox has gone back to the well with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, hoping that the second time’s the charm when it comes to rebooting the entire series. And this time, they get it right; by somewhat following what was established in the original franchise while also building its own universe and course of events, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the rare reboot that does it correctly.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes starts off current day, following hot shot scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) as he works on a miracle drug with the potential to cure Alzheimer’s for a pharmaceutical company called Gen-Sys. The drug, which rebuilds and repairs brain cells as well as increases intelligence, is in the testing phase using a group of chimpanzees as the subjects. One in particular, codenamed Bright Eyes (HA!), is ahead of the pack and the perfect test subject to show the Gen-Sys review board in order to get the okay to start human trials. During the board meeting, however, something goes awry; Bright Eyes freaks out when she’s forced out of her cell and starts causing all sorts of damage around the facility. She and the other chimps are immediately put down and Gen-Sys decides to push this drug under the rug instead of continuing to pursue it.

While examing Bright Eyes’ cell, Will discovers the real reason she freaked out; she was trying to protect her infant child Caesar whom she had secretly while imprisoned (just go with it). Not wanting to kill a baby, Will is forced to bring the chimp home with him. Soon he learns that Caesar has genetically inherited all the effects of the miracle drug from his mother. Not wanting to give up on his research, hoping that it will cure his ailing father Charles (John Lithgow), Will decides to keep Caesar as a pet and study his progress hoping for a breakthrough.

Soon enough eight years pass and Caesar becomes a full fledged adult chimp, who has formed a strong bond with Will. After Caesar has a violent outbreak against a hostile neighbor, he is whisked away to an ape sanctuary run by a father (Brian Cox) and son (Tom Felton) team who are over the top in their cruelty to the apes in their custody. Caesar, feeling abandoned by Will and filled with anger at the treatment of his species, begins plotting for the ultimate jailbreak…and maybe even much more.

Read the rest of the review over at Man, I Love Films

Grade: B

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