Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Evolution Becomes Revolution (2011)

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

Working for a medical research company, Gen Sys, Will Rodman has been working for years on a cure for Alzheimer’s. The drug ALZ 112 is supposed to be the big break and gets used on one of the chimps, Bright Eyes. With some successful testing, Will brings the news forward to Steven Jacobs and sets up a meeting with investors. When a mishap leads to the restart of the program, Will and his partner, Robert Franklin, have to put down all of the test subjects but find a baby chimp in Bright Eyes’s pen. After some convincing, Will takes the baby chimp home and quickly becomes attached. After seeing the interactions between the little Caesar and his father, Will decides to continue to raise the chimp and track his intellectual progress, as it seems that Caesar has genetically received the effects of the ALZ 112. Over the years, Caesar grows into a full-size chimpanzee and begins to struggle with his identity as an animal with increased intelligence.

Starring: James Franco (Will Rodman), Andy Serkis (Caesar), John Lithgow (Charles Rodman), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket/Bright Eyes), Christopher Gordon (Koba), Jay Caputo (Alpha), Freida Pinto (Caroline Aranha), Brian Cox (John Landon), Tom Felton (Dodge Landon), David Oyelowo (Steven Jacobs), Tyler Labine (Robert Franklin)

There are two significant casts in this film: the human cast and the primate cast. Leading the humans is James Franco as the medical researcher. He projects a combination of restraint and excitement toward the beginning but also has moments of strong passion for his father and for Caesar. His character, at times, actually feels a little overly restrained but the focus is a little less on him and more so on Caesar. David Oyelowo represents that strong-willed businessman who has moments of cautiousness and periods of gusto. Freida Pinto serves more as a supporting character than a leading lady, but she has a few points of challenge for Franco’s decision-making. John Lithgow plays Franco’s father, who serves as the catalyst for the medical research. Playing a character with Alzheimer’s, Lithgow is able to show some dynamic change between moments of dementia and clarity. On the animal side, the characters are computer-animated but the expressions are provided by human actors. Included within the significant primates are Terry Notary (Rocket & Bright Eyes), Christopher Gordon (Koba), Jay Caputo (Alpha) and Andy Serkis (Caesar).

In an attempt to give life to the beginnings of a story made famous by Charlton Heston, Rupert Wyatt takes focus on how the world went from humans being the dominant species to the apes taking over. Gen Sys (aka Genesis) is focused on trying to cure disease but creates a new set of problems in the process. Will’s focus on Alzheimer’s brings forth a viral-based treatment focused on fighting the disease. With all medical testing focused on chimpanzees, Will’s success is short lived and Bright Eyes’s outburst is misunderstood. Unknowingly, their testing brings forth part of the potential downfall of man in the form of Caesar, who adopts the intelligence traits of his mother. The other side of the equation directly relates to the medical testing. When they move forward with a new variation of the formula in gaseous form, exposure causes unexpected consequences that have the potential for catastrophic implications different from the previous ALZ 112 in injection form. The indication of an epidemic that could spread throughout the human population (similar to that in Contagion) sets up a very interesting concept if there is a continuation of the series.

The presentation of the film mixes together CGI and human acting. The primates are fairly well done with the integration of the motion-capture of the corresponding actors and the CGI motions, which are fairly smooth and realistic. While some of the acting at times is a little flat (Franco after the loss of his father) or a little overdone (the caretakers at the primate reserve), the environments are fairly well designed to help move the story through its progression. The overall feel of the film is quick when the focus is on Caesar but slow when considering the other elements (i.e. medical research and beginnings of the pandemic effects of the virus). The banding together of the chimpanzees is a very entertaining element as it mixes primal moment of animal dominance and more civil elements of charity and shared human-like goals. One of the interesting elements in the medically-induced evolution was the ability to speak, which only included two lines by Caesar but added to the science fiction feel of the shifting power between man and ape.

As a reboot of the classic series, the film took the beginnings of the evolution of apes and the distress of humans and helped to create a believable context on an intriguing story.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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