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Rise of thee Planet of the Apes.


Rise of thee Planet of the Apes

Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong languagel

** 1/2 - There I was, sitting in the theatre and before I could say "Wait, I don't like these kinds of movies," everything went dark and the film began. And the rest is history (or pseudo-history anyway). Related to, but not a remake of the original Planet of the Apes movies, this one begins at the beginning, so to speak, complete with better special effects. And action. And lots of expressions of surprised amazement.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working for a pharmaceutical firm who develops a serum that may cure Alzheimer's disease. The scientists are in the process of injecting this serum into a chimp when Rodman notices that the chimp is gaining IQ points geometrically. But before they can proceed with this success, suddenly everything goes awry when the main chimp goes crazy and destroys most of the lab. Never mind that the chimps are "caged" not in cages, not in Plexiglas, but actual glass, conveniently breakable.

Things happen, the chimps are destroyed, and the project trashed, but Rodman takes in Caesar, the chimp's baby, who has genetically inherited his mother's intelligence. He and his girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto), a beautiful primatologist, take care of Caesar at home as well as Will's father (John Lithgow) who is suffering from ... you guessed it - Alzheimer's.

Will Will give in to the temptation to inject his own flesh and blood with the serum? I'm not telling and you can't make me. Nor will I tell you how the apes turn mean, although I understand that all apes turn against humans when they become adults - or at least become dangerous.

The movie has us rooting for the animals and against the drug company, not to mention the "shelter" that takes care of stray apes. It's so interesting that Americans seem to love movies that celebrate animal underdogs and condemn corporate greed and insensitivity, when in real life their inclinations are entirely the other way around.


Anyway, the special effects are incredible, with shots of real orangutans and baboons and chimps interspersed with well, men in monkey suits. Of course there are no genitalia or bare bums to offend our sensitive natures.

Andy Serkis is cited by some as "playing" Caesar, while others say he gave a "motion-capture" performance via digital technology. One can no longer simply refer to "animation," a la Roger Rabbit. Caesar was certainly excellent, although I'm not sure exactly what he was, although some of the time I guess he was Andy Serkis, who did "Gollum" in Lord of the Rings and will soon to be featured again in The Hobbit.

The apes are finally fed up and Caesar, smarter than all the rest, becomes their emancipator and ring leader.

The humans get what they deserve, including Will and Caroline, who somehow believe that they can just find Caesar and take up where they left off. But unlike a loyal dog, the ape has other plans. He has an obligation to his people (group? species?), not to mention climbing the redwood trees of California.

Franco and Pinto are like all of the other humans you've ever seen in these roles in movies like this. Loving, but not overly so, still seeing the animals as ignorant children, and astonished in a rather childlike way when the animals rebel. This is a big come-down for Franco but I guess after 127 Hours he'll always be eligible for parts like this until he ages. Lithgow is just okay as a guy with Alzheimer's - nothing special.

Several of the other actors are given more scope. It was fun to see Tom Felton almost reprise his role as the young Malfoy in Harry Potter, this time cast as an abusive zookeeper.

Abuse? Fun? This does sound sick, but recall that both Harry and Planet are not meant to be taken too seriously. I just loved to hate Felton in this role. David Oyelowo as Steve Jacobs, the evil corporate boss, is quite good in his contempt for the animals and indeed any goal beyond the bottom line. But there's a problem here.

Spoiler in this paragraph: At first glance it may seem like a good thing that a black man, Oyelowo, is cast as the corporate boss, "the suit" as it were. Oyelowo plays the part well. But film analysis requires paying attention to who gets "punished" and who doesn't in films. Usually the villain dies, but very often the villain is either an ugly man, a man of color or a woman of any color. Jacobs attempts to escape, but to no avail and his demise is rather drawn out. I wanted him to be saved but I'm not sure how others felt. Would a white CEO be scripted to die or did this fate conveniently go to a man of color? Just asking. There was something odd about it. And racist. Just saying.

There are quirky and delicious hints that point in the direction of the sequel, having to do with the serum's dire affect on humans. Watch for the sneeze during the credits. It portends no good. I intend to see the sequel when it comes out even though there's always about five to ten minutes in the middle of these things that I think I will die of boredom. But I didn't die and I could have done worse with my time.

**** - You should see it - I'd see it again!

*** - Entertaining but flawed

** - It didn't kill me; see it at a $1 theatre

* - Skip it - it's not worth the popcorn
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Author:Miller, Dorothy
Publication:Liberty Press
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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