Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Dir. Rupert Wyatt
A fantastic movie that should teach Hollywood what a great summer flick should look like.
Will (James Franco), a brilliant and promising scientist, develops a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Since it’s still in an early stage and its effects on people have not been tested, Will’s team use it on apes. In result, the apes develop intellectually; however, one unfortunate incident shuts down the drug program. After the incident, it turns out one killed ape had a baby. There’s no one to take care of it so Will “adopts” it for a couple of days. Once the little ape ends up at his place, it wins his sick father’s (John Lithgow) heart and stays for good. What’s unusual about the little orphan is that he takes over his mother’s transmuted genes, and very early on starts showing signs of highly developed intelligence and comprehension. The little ape, called by Will’s father Caesar (Andy Serkis), becomes a living proof that the drug works. Will gambles his luck and gives the drug to his father, whose mind has sadly deteriorated because of Alzheimer’s. Miraculously, the father is cured and feels better than ever. Yet, complications enter Will’s life as he underestimates the power of Caesar’s mind.
Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver wrote an absorbing and moving story. At the beginning, Caesar and Will share time on screen, but pretty quickly Caesar is placed in the center of attention. The movie takes time to show how Caesar develops and grows into the leader of the rebelling apes. As Will serves as one of the good guys, he’s pushed to the background to make room for more ape characters to enter the story. The fact that Will and Caesar get separated triggers a whole range of (human) emotions, which are going to make the ape stronger and inspire a fighting spirit in him. Although the story of the apes rising unveils gradually and slowly, the movie is still dynamic. Caesar’s flashes of genius coincide with various incidents and accidents so there’s never a dull moment. Plus, it works for the story because the rise of the apes becomes convincing and quite realistic, filled with Caesar’s struggle between his animal nature, conflicting emotions, and high intellect. Also, amazingly the movie gives us longer scenes where apes communicate, but obviously don’t speak. Those scenes make us realize we can actually understand their message – it’s all in their gestures, facial expressions, moves, and their bright eyes.
When it comes to the apes, the special effects impress. It’s not merely their movement, or Caesar’s eyes, which reveal all his thoughts without any additional explanation, at the same time, being neither the eyes of a person or an animal. Caesar combines elements of both races, fortunately avoiding tackiness and exaggeration. The same goes for other apes. They’re distinct since each of them is given unique physical features accompanied by different memorable personalities. When Will and Caesar fill the frame together, it looks so natural as if the ape was real. All movies relying on special effects should look as good as this one. Though it may sound like wishful thinking, this should be the standard.
As for the relationships between people, one relationship makes sense and one is unnecessary. The relationship between Will and his father is substantial to the story. Will’s determined to cure his father. For this reason, he tests the drug on the apes without paying attention to the consequences. The father plays important part in Caesar’s development, as well. Caesar cares for him and protects him when needed. Besides, Will’s relationship with his father counterbalances Caesar’s relationship with Will, who after all replaced his parents. The other relationship is between Will and Caroline (Freida Pinto), a young and attractive vet. Sadly, it adds nothing to the story or the movie itself. She merely serves as Will’s female counterpart, or rather his shadow. Is there a rule that every movie must include a pretty girl no matter if she’s significant or not? In this case, the story would work perfectly well without her.
The movie nicely combines an evil corporation with emotional depth and great action. We follow the plot without any confusion. No major loops stand in our way of understanding or enjoying the story. We get attached to Caesar though he’s not portrayed solely as a victim, or labeled good or bad. While we side or identify with him, we may feel as conflicted as he is. After all, he’s about to take over the planet and threaten human lives. Yet, it’s this ambiguity that makes it more fun to watch. Besides, we believe in the rising and can imagine what follows. The scope of epic sequences thrills and we should by no means feel guilty being excited about it. Exciting, touching, absorbing – I, for one, say yes to a summer blockbuster like this one.
Long days, pleasant nights,