Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow
Dir. Rupert Wyatt
Ok, ok, I can forgive the needlessly wordy and nonsensical title. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is much smarter than any prequel should be, and that’s giving it a lot of credit. Sure, it won’t be as memorable as 1968’s Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston, but it’s a lot better, and smarter, than anything else you’ll probably see in theatres.
The premise of the film is that a scientist (played by James Franco, in a performance where he essentially just does what he’s told) in an attempt to find a cure for his father’s (John Lithgow) Alzheimer’s disease, inadvertently creates an ape with mental capacities akin to that of humans. The ape, called Caesar, naturally, becomes disenchanted with human society after he is treated harshly by some undesirable folk at animal control and uses the “cure” to create a race of apes just like him.
The film is more layered and nuanced than one would expect, but to get the full experience, you have to have a decent understanding of its predecessor (which is why you can read that review on this page too). Watch for when Tom Felton, playing one of those undesirable folks at animal control, quotes Charlton Heston’s “take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape” at a climactic point in the film. The line comes off as slightly cheesy and is a little too self-aware for its own good, but its placement in a film where the apes slowly overtake the humans is pure genius.
It’s a solid piece of filmmaking. The film ends at an odd point, not quite fulfilling the expectations of a prequel, asking the audience to fill in more of the gap than it should have to between Rise and Planet of the Apes. After you leave the theatre, you’ll find yourself remembering the names of the apes and not those of the humans. The film truly was a success in that it blurred the supposed boundary between animal and human, savage and civilized, placing the audience in the middle.