I’ve seen the earlier pieces of the Planet Of The Apes franchise before, but to be honest it’s been awhile since last immersing myself in their world. Perhaps I should have taken some time to jog back a bit and revisit the older films, if for no other purpose than refreshing the old memory recall. While the thought did cross my mind, I opted against a rekindling project. Instead I simply went to see Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, expecting to have the recall flashing back to me, as I enjoyed the much hyped summer film.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the newest installment. I remembered just enough to know that I did enjoy the earlier films, and combining that notion with some interesting trailers, it made the decision to see this movie all the easier.
On a Friday afternoon, on one of the cooler days, still high 70’s though, of the recent past few weeks, I didn’t really expect the theater to be overly crowded. Yet, to my surprise, the theater line was long as I stepped into the main lobby section of the multiplex. I assumed that most of these people, because of starting times, would be there to see the Bateman/Reynolds The Change-Up, so I headed over to the kiosk to buy my tickets. After the tickets spit out from the machine: I waited a shorter than normal period at the concession area, had my ticket taken, was directed to the 14th theater, one of the four I assumed would be featuring the Apes, seeing they are the ones typically reserved for the more highly anticipated films, and then the short walk to the double doors and into the darkness I went.
As I walked the long hallway I could hear the previews had already began. Walking up the steps I could see Matt Damon, in denial over his wife’s sudden passing. I’d seen this trailer a few times already, so I knew it was for Contagion; therefore I had no reservations to use this time to escalate the steps and find a seat. As I mentioned, the theater was pretty full, the middle seats seemed to be all taken, the entire first five or six rows seemed too crowded to even attempt a search through. So I settled for an aisle seat off to the right side of the auditorium, just in time to catch the preview for John Carter and fully settled in by the time In Time was on the screen, both of which convinced me that they’ll be in my future viewing docket. Finally the feature presentation began. What follows are the impressions I took from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
For most of the film you’d have trouble pairing this edition with the ones predating it. Outside of the obvious inclusion of primates galore, you’d have to dig deep into the subtleties to find a link between this and the others in the franchise. One of these subtleties has to be a quickly fleeting scene, where a newspaper is shown with the headline, “Lost In Space,” a reference I found to be brief, yet cementing Rise in its precursory, prequel role. The other referential link relates to, coincidental or not, a contagion. A reference that will continue after the initial set of credits begin to roll, alluding to the future that will come, where the Apes replace humanity as the dominating species on the planet.
Outside of the above-mentioned subtle linkages, this film is basically a story about a scientist doing everything in his power to help his father overcome Alzheimer’s. James Franco, plays Will Rodman, a scientist at Genesys, a medicinal research and development company. We see that he’s developed ALZ-112, a virus that he hopes will cure Alzheimer’s disease. We see “bright eyes,” an ape that has shown remarkable progress, enough so that Will feels comfortable in seeking the human testing approval vote from Genesys’ board. All hell breaks loose however, as “bright eyes” wrecks havoc within the facility, an episode that costs the primate her life, as well as determining the fate for the other test subjects at the lab.
It turns out that “bright eyes” was pregnant and her reactions were not due to the instability of the drug itself, but was simply a heightened sense of her protective instincts. She acted in rage, not to be violent for violence’s sake, instead she was simply doing her motherly duty, protecting what means the most to her, in this case, her child.
The story continues as Will brings home the baby chimp with him, an action that was supposed to only be temporary. We get to see his father, played by John Lithgow, up close in his deteriorating mental state. There was an obvious connection between the father and the baby chimp, something that convinced Will to keep and raise the chimp as his own.
As the chimp is growing we are told and are shown how “Ceasar,” as he’s called, has the intellect far above that of humans in similar age groups. Will realizes that his drug had passed from mother to son and continued his research from his home. His father is then seen in such a state that Will chooses to inoculate him with the ALZ-112. Charles not only recovers fully but also improves as well. The feel good upswing lasts only a short while, but at least Will was able to give his father five additional quality years of living before a reversion of condition takes place, as the antibodies in his system began to overpower the virus in a big way.
This reversion prompts Will to create a newer, more aggressive strain of the virus, ALZ-113, which proves to be the turning point in the film, as well as the inciting incident for all the Planet Of The Apes franchise, at this point, yet to come.
The film finishes extremely strong, as the primates take control and revolt. During the revolt, we watch as the aggression in the apes grows, however, again, it is not shown that such behavior was the act of aggressive tendency; rather it seemed more likely to be a consequence based upon individual situations and conditions.
The only people the Apes hurt intentionally, causing death or harm to, are Will’s next door neighbor, who Ceasar attacks after watching Charles being verbally berated and physically poked, the manager’s son at the primate shelter, who abuses the apes, in both verbal and physical manners, the authorities in the helicopter and those on the bridge, as they were firing their weapons at the apes, and finally Dr. Jacobs, who was clinging to the helicopter as it hung from the edge of the bridge.
In each case, the incident was inspired by logic and emotion, never by aggression alone. In the case of the next-door neighbor, the protective instinct, displayed by Caesar’s mother, is seen once more, now from the son.
In the case of the son at the shelter, we see this protective instinct once more, this time not simply trying to protect a single loved one; instead here, we see Caesar’s protection spread to the rest of his “brothers,” also bound in cages, who’ve all been subjected to cruelty at this boy’s hands. In addition, in this case, we see Caesar enact revenge, shown through a detailed plot devised, where the boy would be subjected to the exact means of torture he gave Caesar in an earlier scene.
The most interesting thing with this scene, for me, has more to do with Caesar’s compassion than it does with aggression. The live-in worker, who seems to be an animal control/veterinarian at the primate shelter, is caught by the apes, is getting a severe beating, when Caesar stops the melee. He instructs the man to get into a cage and then he locks the cage door on the man. This is very interesting because Caesar is shown here as being able to distinguish the difference between the cruelty that the son had displayed, with this man, who really was just a voiceless being, in a way similar to the apes themselves. Yet by locking the man in the cage it does two things, it protects the man from needless harm but it also shows the other apes that he’s locked up this man, the way each of them had been treated for so long.
With the authorities in the chopper and on the bridge, this was simply a case where aggressive acts were resultant from a fight or flight mechanism.
The Apes were not intending harm, yet they became surrounded by those intent to harm them, therefore a plan had to be devised to minimalize as many casualties as possible, for both the innocent humans as well as for each ape, while at the same time enabling themselves the best possible method to defeat those intent on hurting them.
Finally, in the case of Dr. Jacobs, we get the only pure instance of revenge. Caesar is extremely intelligent; therefore it is assumed he has figured out that Jacobs was in essence responsible for his mother’s death.
On a whole, the acting was pretty good but there were a few moments early in the film, where the pacing and the lines seemed to be poorly done, particularly Franco’s persuading speech to Jacobs, taking place prior to the outbreak from “bright eyes.” Other than that instance though I didn’t see anything acting-wise to steer someone from seeing this film.
Overall I enjoyed the film. I thought it an inspired and novel ride, that used a once popular franchise, and created a detailed origin story out of bits and pieces of “fact,” combined with newly inspired plot.
Even if you’ve never seen the other Planet Of The Apes films, this one can stand alone, while still doing what it needed to do, in order to establish the forthcoming of the previous films, which most likely, I’m assuming, will be remade, especially after all the positive reviews and opening weekend box-office success that Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has achieved so far.