Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I initially did not intend to see the latest Planet of the Apes movie. I saw the original series when I was a kid, and I don’t remember much about it, except for that famous iconic scene in which Charlton Heston screams “God damn you all to Hell” at the Statue of Liberty. (Nowadays he would be investigated by Homeland Security for doing that.) I figure the movies probably weren’t that good if that’s all I remember. (I didn’t see Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. I have always been somewhat ambivalent about Burton, and the thought of him doing a remake sent me into ambivalence overdrive.) However I heard a lot of good things about this new Planet of the Apes movie. A friend of mine told me he thought it was a better film than X-Men: First Class. So I knew then I should check it out.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working for Gen-Sys, a pharmaceutical company. (The film grounds itself in reality by portraying a pharmaceutical company as a cynical and corrupt place.) Rodman is trying to develop a viral cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. After an experiment involving chimpanzees goes seriously awry, the company’s CEO, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders Rodman to have the chimps killed. However, Rodman’s assistant, Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) persuades him to spare the life of a baby chimp. Rodman takes the chimp home and his father, an admirer of Shakespeare, names him “Caesar”. Right away, Caesar exhibits signs of extraordinary intelligence. Rodman realizes that Caesar has in his blood the viral agent that his mother was given. However, when Caesar attacks a neighbor who threatens Rodman’s father, he is taken away by the authorities and placed in a primate shelter.

I won’t say much more about the story except to say that Machiavelli would have admired the way that Caesar makes himself into the leader of the other apes at the shelter. And there is something deliriously entertaining about the sight of apes running amok through the streets of San Francisco. (Not many people get hurt, except for some who deserve it.) Oh, and there is an evil capitalist (the aforementioned Jacobs) in it. It always improves a film immeasurably when you add an evil capitalist to it. (Back in the 1990’s, it seemed as though every movie had a serial killer in it. Boring. Evil capitalists are a lot more fun.)

I’m told that this film has all sorts of references in it to the earlier Planet of the Apes films, but I didn’t pick up on any of them. This is just as well, since I hate these sorts of inside jokes in movies. (Nobody screams “God damn you all to Hell” at the Statue of Liberty. I suppose this would have been hard to fit in, since the movie takes place in San Francisco.)

By the way, when I was a kid, I read the Pierre Boulle novel on which the original Planet of the Apes movie was based. The ending is different from the movie’s. Instead of the hero finding that he has been on Earth all along, he returns to Earth and finds that apes have taken it over while he was on the other planet. It’s always something, isn’t it?

I have been told that a sequel is planned. I find this ominous, since sequels are (almost) never as good as the first film. This movie would be pretty hard to top. However, I did not think that this is a better movie than X-Men: First Class; the latter has more interesting characters and a more complex story. Still, Rise of the Planet of the Apes meets and exceeds all other expectations.

2 Responses to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

  1. Andrew Coates Says:

    Thanks for your reviews, which I always find enlightening – I’ll make a point of looking out for Incendies (though I will still see In a Better World).

    One to watch out for, which I saw a couple of days ago, is The Guard http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_kJ3d1vqs4

    It’s, well, just fun (like In Bruge).

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