Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Visual Effects (Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joe Letteri, R. Christopher White).
Watched April 7, 2013.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes should have been awarded Most Awkward Title, but like Real Steel, turns out to be a pretty entertaining blockbuster, although this one did try to have some depth to its story.
Sometime in the not too distant future, James Franco… I mean Will Rodman is trying to find the cure for Alzheimers, particularly because his father is suffering from the devastating disease. Like most drugs, he is testing on apes, and within the first few minutes there is promise and hope–one of the apes, Bright Eyes, is finally showing potential. Will knows he’s on the right track, and rather hastily gets his reluctant boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), to let him pitch the drug to the board. Inevitably, things go wrong, and it seems like it’s back to the drawing board… except when Will finds Bright Eyes’ baby boy. Not able to put him down like Jacobs wants, Will smuggles the baby chimp home and notices almost right away that the chimp is hyper-intelligent.
Many years pass, which include experiments and growth, both on humans and chimps alike. Will’s father Charles (John Lithgow), whom Will has been giving the experimental drug for Alzheimers, has improved drastically, and as the chimp Caesar has grown, so has his intelligence. Will is teaching him to sign, and because of his affection for the primate, grabs himself a vet for a girlfriend, Caroline (Freida Pinto). Her role is rather pointless and I’m never actually sure why she’s there, except to dab Caesar’s occasional boo-boo and to lend an emotional support for traumatized Will.
Because Will does become traumatized towards the end of the film. First Caesar is sent away, and then things get real crazy. As this film is a prequel for the two before it, the ending is rather inevitable, but the journey is revealing and entertaining. Caesar is a sweetheart whose brain eventually gets the better of him. Taking him away from Will is probably the worst decision the human race has ever made.
Rise is nominated for its visual effects, and they are definitely impressive. Although the apes are clearly animated, their facial expressions and movements are fluid and realistic, and at times it is easy to forget their animation. The story and over-all execution is drastically less campy than the previous films, even Tim Burton‘s 2001 version. Humans aren’t portrayed as all-out bad guys. There are definite sour fruits all throughout the film, but Will and his family represent the good guys, and they do it well. It is hard not to root for Caesar and his companions, but if one has seen or knows of the previous Planet of the Apes films, it is impossible not to root for the survival of humanity.
Fun fact for the fans, there is a brief, although significant clip of the first manned shuttle to Mars, but if you don’t understand that reference, move right along.
If you’re looking for a blockbuster that semi-successfully goes a bit deeper into morality and life questions than your typical summer hit, this would be a good one to try out. However, if you’re more into films like The Artist or Pina, I would highly doubt that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is your cup of tea–but you knew that already.