Friday, 12 September 2014
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (5 Stars)
I avoided this film when it was released in 2011. The main reason was that I was so disappointed with the 2001 version of "Planet of the Apes", and I expected another disaster. After accidentally going to see this film's sequel, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", I thought I would give it a chance. Wow! I wasn't disappointed at all.
This film tells the story of the first intelligent apes. Unlike the original pentalogy it doesn't rely on temporal paradoxes to explain their intelligence. Dr. Will Rodman works for a company called Gen-Sys and is trying to invent a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Chimpanzees are being used for animal testing. Unknown to him one of the female chimpanzees, Bright Eyes, is pregnant when she is injected with the test drug. This results in her giving birth to an intelligent ape. When he's ordered to kill all the chimps Dr. Rodman secretly takes the baby home and calls him Caesar. Caesar is taught American sign language, in much the same way as Washoe in the 1970's.
After attacking a neighbour to protect Dr. Rodman's father, Caesar is put in an animal pound. This is his first contact with other monkeys. His intelligence is underestimated, and he easily escapes. He steals more of the experimental drug and gives it to the other monkeys. They readily acknowledge him as their leader.
The one strength of Tim Burton's 2001 film was the realistic appearance of the monkeys, but this film does it even better, thanks to the advances in computer animation. From the beginning of the film we feel for Caesar, and we take his side when he comes into conflict with humans. It's excellently written and directed. This is a franchise reboot that was worth doing.
Fans of the original pentalogy will recognise the respectful references to the original films. Caesar was the name of the leader of the monkeys in the fourth and fifth films, although he's a different character in this film with a different origin. It's amusing that Caesar's mother is called Bright Eyes. That was the name given to the astronaut played by Charlton Heston in the first film.