The Rise of the Planet of the Apes–movie review

‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’:

More Than Just a Message Film

by Sandra Olmsted

Much like the original film, Director Rupert Wyatt’s The Rise of the Planet of the Apes has a message; however, it is also an exciting summer film and worthy addition to the franchise.

Billed as the prequel to the franchise and somewhat a remake of the 1972 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, this film tells the story of Caesar (played by Andy Serkis through the magic of motion capture and computer generated character) who will eventually lead the rebellion of the enslaved apes later in the franchise’s storyline.

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins with Will Rodman (James Franco), a research scientist at Gen-Sys, feverishly researching a virus which causes brain cells to regenerate because his father, Charles (John Lithgow), is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Just when Will believes he has a cure and is presenting his finds to the board which must approve the cost of human trials, the chimp, who is suppose to perform as proof of the virus’s effectiveness, goes crazy, wrecking the building and attacking the employees.

Consequently, Will’s boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), shuts down Will’s project and orders all the apes who have been given the virus be destroyed.  As fellow researcher Rob (Tyler Labine) puts down the 12 chimps, he discovers the real reason for the chimp’s rampage:  She’s had a baby and is protecting it.  This is where one of two story flaws occur.  How did this pregnancy and birth get by the researchers, and why didn’t the researchers use this information to save the project?

Unwilling to put the baby down also, Rob leaves Will with the decision to either kill the baby chimp or take him home until a sanctuary can be found.  Will takes Caesar, who was exposed other virus in utero, home.  A few years later, after a run-in with the next door neighbor, Hunsiker (David Hewlett), Caesar is injured, and Will takes him to see veterinarian Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto).  Will and Caroline eventually fall in love.

Another run-in with Hunsiker later leads to Caesar’s captivity in the brutal animal control facility, run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his malicious son Dodge Landon (Tom Felton).  The second story flaw in this otherwise excellent film is that, although Caesar understands a whole lot of the human world and is very intelligent, he apparently never had any contact with the concept of punishment for crime, such as jail.  Even though he has a TV in his bedroom, and despite his intelligence, he cannot be taught that the neighbor is to be left alone.  Later, Caesar gets a stronger dose of the virus and apparently looses his “animal” instincts which caused him to attack Hunsiker, but this plot point took distracts the viewer from the story.

The original Planet of the Apes film was conceived and produced against the backdrop of civil rights and used man’s inhumanity to animals to parallel man’s inhumanity to man in that context.  However, director Rupert Wyatt’s The Rise of the Planet of the Apes deals not just with man’s inhumanity to man, but with man’s inhumanity to animals.  In the world fraught with war, revolution, famine, and cruelty, the fact the Caesar avoids killing, even though he clearly can kill, questions exactly which lives, both animal and human, are expendable and for what reasons.  The treatment of the lab animals as disposable things easily destroyed at the whim of the corporation and the ill treatment Caesar and the other primates plainly show how badly some animals are treated. But the argument for animal testing versus human testing isn’t fairly discussed.

Director Wyatt uses Weta Digital’s motion capture for all of the film’s key animal characters, including, the wise circus orangutan, an unpredictable gorilla, and dozens of chimps, and this allows human actors to provide these animal characters with sympathetic personas.  The nuanced performances by the actors behind the CG faces adds nonverbal visual storytelling to the film’s achievements. and the visual storytelling make the action scenes more interesting because the viewers can empathize with the animals’ emotions which the human actors convey through the animals’ expressions.

Just as the Planet of the Apes was honored with an Academy Award nomination for costume and an honorary award for John Chambers’ outstanding make-up achievement, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is worth seeing for its computer generated “costumes” and “makeup” and for the performances of the actors playing animals, especially Andy Serkis, who played the title character in King Kong (2005).  Unfortunately, there is no Academy Award category for humans who play animals.  Meanwhile, Patrick Doyle’s evocative and beautifully score emphasizes all of the big and small moments perfectly.

There are several connections that viewers might find fun.  Harry and the Hendersons is referenced by the casting of John Lithgow, the use of a wood-paneled station wagon, and Caesar’s final line in the film.  During the film, a rocket blasts off, carrying the astronauts who will return to earth after the apes have taken over.

Some character names also reference the original Planet of the Apes: The name Dodge Landon refers to the characters Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Landon (Robert Gunner), who were Colonel Taylor’s (Charlton Heston) fellow astronauts, and the circus orangutan befriended by Caesar is named Maurice after actor Maurice Evans, who played the orangutan Doctor Zaius.

Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and suggested by Pierre Boulle’s novel La planete des singes, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a Twentieth Century Fox release.  Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes runs 105 minutes and is in theaters now.

Stella Artois SL Filmmakers Showcase

The St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase (SLFS), an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis, serves as the area’s primary venue for films made by local artists. SLFS screens works that were written, directed, edited or produced by St. Louis natives or those with strong local ties.

The 16 film programs that screen at the Tivoli from Aug. 14-18 serve as SLFS’s centerpiece. The programs range from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. -filmmakers-showcase>;

On Monday, Aug. 15 at the Tivoli Theatre at 5 p.m. Shorts Program 3: Shorts from Cinema at Citygarden and Pulitzer Dreamscapes Competitions 81 min.

The program includes:  “The Inheritance” Vanessa Roman and one of our movie reviewers Sandra Olmsted, 5 min. A young woman discovers in a dream what she really inherited from her grandmother.planet of aps pg 13

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