As we amble into the unofficial final month of the summer movie season, Rise of the Planet of the Apes beckons us with its big hairy paw to enjoy the mayhem of the final huge release of the summer. If you miss Rise, you have only yourself to blame as the rest of August feels like the leftovers no one wants to eat so they’ll be put in the back of the refrigerator until they get moldy as…
…you’re going to have to prefab your excuse right now to miss The Help as it’s placed in the exact same release slot that Eat Pray Love was in last year, and you’ve regretted the 5 hours you wasted watching that, haven’t you? You’ve been warned. Remember, racism is bad and Blacks and Whites and ________ [insert an oppressed minority here] working together is good, so you’ve gotten the Very Important Lesson from The Help so you really don’t need to see it.
…it really hasn’t been good summer for Ryan Reynolds has it? And this is from someone who was relatively neutral about Green Lantern. But when The Change-Up (despite Olivia Wilde) can barely beat out the Hangover remake, um, sequel, as an R-rated comedy, then you know you’ve got problems that not even Jason Bateman can solve.
…nobody actually WANTS to see the Fright Night regurgitation and its more-than-likely anemic conversion to 3D. Aside from David Tennant, nothing about its promos have dissuaded the notion that it’s another crappy remake (surprise!) in the overflowing septic tank of crappy remakes. Then again, it is in 3D so it’s probably really, really good because they would never make a bad movie and then convert it to 3D just to squeeze every last dime from what was a faulty enterprise to begin with.
… 30 Minutes or Less and Shark Night don’t look too bad for what they are, but we can all agree that on an Ape-to-human Ratio, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has them beat by a league or two.
And if you still have nightmares from that Marky Mark/Tim Burton Planet of the Apes misfire from a decade ago, put those fears to rest as Rise rises above that calamity from minute 5 on.
So you have no excuse not to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes, if only to see star James Franco bounce back from the box office failure of Your Highness. Sure, he’s lost a little luster from his 127 Hours Best Actor nom, but Rise puts Franco back on a tenable track.
Time for some SPOILER TALK! Below are SPOILERS for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Free free to add your thoughts in the Comments section.
RPA (written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver) opens in beautiful San Francisco, California, home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants, the mediocre 49ers, and future Ground Zero to the end of humanity. We meet Dr. Will Rodman (Franco), a rising young star in a company called Gen-Sys, aptly named since it will start the beginning of a new world. Will is on a verge of a breakthrough involving a chimp named Bright Eyes and a drug called ALZ-112. If 112 is as successful as Will hopes, then it could be a cure for Alzheimer’s.
And if 112 is as successful as Will hopes it is, then it could be a cure for Alzheimer’s. Wait, I already wrote that.
But 112 needs human trials, and if Will and the Gang can coerce investors in forking over more dough, then a cure is one step closer.
While Will is in the middle of a hi-tech power point presentation, Bright Eyes manages to escape and wreak havoc (Danger Will Rodman!!!) all over the Gen-Sys halls until she is eventually shot down right in front of the investors.
As far as presentations go it could have gone a lot better, but by comparison it was still less of a debacle than James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars.
On the plus side, there is a fresh batch of monkey brains to feed Indy and Short Round and the boardroom where Bright Eyes was shot has been converted to a theme room where Gen-Sys employees and their children can practice shooting a wide variety of captive animals.
As far as ALZ 112 goes, the project is as dead as Bright Eyes, as the One-Dimensional Bureaucratic Bastard and Head of Gen-Sys Mr. Jacobs (David Oyelowo) cuts off all funding. But Will has been working on 112 for 5 years, and he just can’t let a hiccup like an ape getting gunned down in front of suits set him back. He just can’t.
While they’re cleaning up the mess Bright Eyes left, a Gen-Sys lackey named Franklin (Tyler Labine) finds the reason why Bright Eyes went berserk. She had just given birth and was protecting her offspring. An understandable mistake that probably didn’t warrant getting riddled with bullets, but you know what they say about omelets and eggs breaking. Bright Eyes’ baby is a cute little ape and after putting down a dozen apes at the behest of Jacobs, Franklin doesn’t have the heart to do one more.
After battling Angelina Jolie for the right to adopt the baby ape, Will decides to take it home, but only for a day or two. Right.
When Will goes home we realize why he’s so heck-bent on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. His father Charles (John Lithgow) has Alzheimer’s. Didn’t see that coming. Now Will has a father with Alzheimer’s and a pet monkey. Charles immediately has a connection with the little ape, and at first we hope he doesn’t think the little ape is his grown-up Doctor son. Charles calls the ape Caesar and the name sticks.
Oh yeah, and Will decides to steal some vials of 112 from Gen-Sys and test them on his father. After a while, not only is Charles’ Alzheimer’s regressing, he’s actually becoming smarter. How’s that for disregarding protocol and breaking countless laws?
We montage 3 years later and discover that Caesar is smarter than your average ape. Will discovers that Bright Eyes passed down her 112-altered genetic stream onto her baby, and as a result Caesar is smarter than 3/4ths of the students in the U.S. Public School system.
Charles still has his wits about him.
Though he loves Will and Charles, Caesar is still a wild animal and longs for the outdoors. This gets him into trouble as he frightens the other neighborhood kids, and especially their parents. One of his trips outside the Rodman house gets Caesar a minor injury. This is fortunate for Will because Caesar’s vet is that girl from Slumdog Millionaire Caroline (Freida Pinto, window dressing and not much more). Caesar signs that they should go out to dinner. Everyone thinks it’s cute because it’s a monkey doing it, a lot like how the Olsen twins used to get cheap canned applause on Full House. They do. They hit it off.
We’re still in the really Happy portion of the movie as Will, Charles, Caroline, and Caesar go to the forest where Caesar can release his true nature and climb trees, fling feces, and other things that apes do naturally.
The Happy Portion will now end.
Charles’ Alzheimer’s is coming back stronger than ever. Consequently, he shows you why it’s probably not safe to let Alzheimer’s patients behind the wheel of a car. Especially one that’s not yours.
In trying to protect Charles, Caesar gets himself into some real trouble and as a result gets forced into a primate sanctuary where he’s with other apes. This sanctuary is run by great character actor Bryan Cox, who played Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter and the main villain in X-Men 2, so his sanctuary’s about as well run as the Turkish Prison in Midnight Express. Plus, his son played by Draco Malfoy.
Caesar finds himself without Will for the first time in his life and getting picked on by Draco. But he’s among his own kind and he’s smarter than everyone else, so everything is not entirely lost.
Meanwhile Will is developing a new cure, cleverly called ALZ 113, but as Charlton Heston would tell you if he could, the consequences could be even more far-reaching than anyone could imagine.
What works with Rise of the Planet of the Apes–
1) The final 30 minutes are the most involving (in a mindless way) of the summer that don’t involve somebody named Voldemort. Director Rupert Wyatt stages the Apes of Wrath finale without a wasted shot or an ounce of audience confusion. Yes, this is a reference to the muddling climax(es) of the Transformers movies that only succeeded in movie 3. May be the best sequence ever staged by somebody named Rupert.
2) Production designer Claude Pare makes the Primate Sanctuary the most ominous looking location of the summer. You can almost smell its depravity every time its shown onscreen.
3) The best developed character of the movie: Caesar, not surprisingly. As played by King Kong‘s Andy Serkis and with the aid of WETA’s magical effects, you’re rarely aware you’re watching a mostly digitized character, and Caesar’s better written that most if not all of the humans inhabiting the screen.
What doesn’t work-
1) It’s not as a much as a negative as one might think, considering the title of the movie does have the word “˜Apes’ in it, but again, the “human” characters barely register as beings and make as much an impact to the viewing experience as the numerous commercials they show before the movie. Franco is the only actor given something to do and he does the best he can with it while Freida Pinto furrows her brow while looking pretty and John Lithgow goes Full Retard. As you leave the theater, you realize that even the secondary Ape characters make more of an impression.
2) Good career move, Tom Felton. Draco spends a decade playing a one-dimensional prick and then his first major post-Potter role is playing a… one-dimensional prick. I’m sure Draco’s character has an actual name, but since he didn’t bother playing anybody different, he’s still Draco. And why give HIM the movie’s best/most famous line? Should have given it to Bryan Cox or the mentally challenged guy.
Overall. The best movie of the summer not involving Superheroes or Harry Potter and may be your best chance for big time summer fun before the Oscar Contenders roll out.