Another possible title could be Apewakenings or even Primatenormal Activity.
In a nutshell, this is a movie that illustrates how hideous it is to be a lab rat – to be experimented on – not matter how noble the cause. And the oppressed might learn more than we wanted them to know – like how to fight back.
Monkey see monkey do = humans in deep doo-doo.
I loved the 1968 original Planet Of The Apes starring Charlton Heston because it’s intriguing to contemplate life if we weren’t at the top of the food chain. What if we were an enslaved species and treated as sub-human? It’s good to ponder the possibilities because it could happen and it reminds us to have a little humility.
I also reckon Tim Burton did a great job re-imagining the movie in his version starring the terrific Tim Roth as the angry General Thade – a chimp with a chip on each shoulder.
So now we have this kind-of-prequel that addresses the modern issue of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and Dementia – but it really explores how the monkeys first got the upper hand.
James Franco leads the cast as the kind-hearted passionate scientist with John Lithgow playing his father who suffers with Alzheimer’s. Franco brings home an orphan baby chimp from the lab and calls him Caesar who evolves at an incredible rate thanks to an experimental drug – ALZ 112.
Monkey Magic it ain’t. Their behaviour goes from being super smart to something like Animals on Angel Dust or Primates on PCP. Not only is Caesar adept at climbing and swinging – he also seems to be pretty good at Parkour.
The eventual uprising of the digichimps is led by Caesar who for the most part, is actor Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit overseen by the Weta Workshop – the same SFX production place that did all the great work on Lord Of The Rings. Andy was the actor who gave us Gollum in the Tolkien trilogy whom he described as a ‘three and a half foot junkie’. And he also was the go-to guy for motion capture when it came to creating the biggest monkey of them all – King Kong.
It was decided the simians had to be digichimps because it would be subversively ironic to exploit chimps in order to make a movie about chimps being exploited.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes succeeds in terms of terrific set up, good performances and superb special effects that really serve the story.
But here are a few questions and thoughts I have on some WTF moments.
** SPOILER ALERT**
1) What brand of jeans does Caesar wear – and what happened to them when the real fighting breaks out on the bridge? They just vanished from his body.
2) Why was there zero chemistry in terms of the love story? Do they both prefer the company of other species? If so then there should have been heart-warming awkwardness between them instead of bland compatibility. Would have contrasted better with primate courtship behaviour.
3) Why didn’t any of the super smart simians pick up the dropped guns on the bridge and start using them on the humans?
4) Why did Caesar say those 3 silly words to James Franco at the end when it would have been more effective to hear him just say ‘no’ to JF thus reinforcing the simian resistance to human domination?
5) Did the digichimps use telepathy to free all the other primates from all the other zoos in San Francisco and why does San Francisco have thousands and thousands of them?
6) And why have Harry Potter star Tom Felton (who plays a cruel zookeeper of sorts) saying that classic line from the 1968 original ‘get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!’ For one thing, modern people don’t speak like that. It was out of character. And the audience I was in the cinema with groaned in unison.
I still enjoyed the movie overall but the above questions needed to be asked and answered in script meetings.
Humans have to be on top of this stuff because if [intelligent] apes take over Hollywood, it’ll be the end of cinema as we know it. King Kong will live to reign again.