Saturday 6 August 2011

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

1968. I'm that old to have been there when the very first iconic film of this series came out with Charlton Heston. I forget that there are those who know absolutely nothing about these films and for whom this is brand new film. The good news is that this brand new film is good and stands on its own. Even if you are in the dark about this story which dates all the way back to 1963 to a science fiction novel by Pierre Boule, you have a good movie tale which keeps you riveted to your seat. If you do know the series, you finally have an element added to the story which explains how the apes rose in power, the humans fell and we wound up with this crazy upside down reversal of Darwin's theory of evolution.

James Franco, who made a splash in the 2010 film 127 hours, plays Will Rodman, a scientist working on a drug called ALZ 112, a potential cure Alzheimer's. This miracle drug is actually some sort of virus which fights the degenerative effects of the disease by allowing the brain to regenerate itself. The testing on chimpanzees leads to the discovery that the regenerative effects of the drug cause the intelligence of these animals to shoot up the scale leaving them, as we discover, more and more on par with humans. It is here we have the crux of the movie, the crux of the entire series: animals become self-aware and see themselves as more than just animals.

As a curious associated note, there is 2011 documentary making the rounds called Project Nim about an experiment to teach a chimpanzee the American Sign Language. (see Wikipedia: Nim Chimpsky) Nim Chimpsky (November 19, 1973 – March 10, 2000), a chimpanzee, supposedly learned 125 ALS signs however there is some controversy amongst the experts whether or not this constitutes a legitimate acquisition of language as in humans. It is felt that language, the ability to communicate abstract ideas with grammar and syntax is an ability that only exists in humans. How much ALZ 112 would be necessary to push monkeys over the line?

The Franchise
The film series of films dates back a number of decades. While things started on a high note with the first film, the quality of the other fims is questionable and I can only assume the other films may have been looked upon more as cashing in as poosed to an attempt to make a good film. Oddly enough, Tim Burton's remake of the original story in 2001 didn't garner much critical success which was unexpected considering this man's talent and track record. I did see this film and thought it was better than its 45% rating but I admit, it didn't add anything new to the story. This new film, as a prequel, does add a fresh perspective on the story and may just be the "reboot" the franchise needs. Certainly the ending leaves the door open for another film.

Planet of the Apes (1968)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Rotten Tomatoes: 41%

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Final Word
As a tip of the hat to the original 1968 film, one of the characters utters the immortal words of Charlton Heston: "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape." Was I the only one who laughed?

As I've read through various on-line articles about the film, I've run across a few groaners as people make (supposedly) amusing references to monkeys. "You'll go bananas for this film." *rolls eyes* Oh my gawd, has somebody written "you'll go apes**t" or "it's a barrel of monkeys" someplace? *laughs* I guess some of us just can't resist the temptation to make a joke that is screamingly funny... if you're 12 years old. Then again, don't we all have our 12 year old moments?

*me addressing all theatre goers* People, people, people! When the credits start rolling do not jump out of your seat to rush out of the theatre or you're going to miss something! Yes, the film ended; we had maybe a minute or two of credits then we got this postscript which neatly presented a plausible explanation about the downfall of humanity and the eventual domination of the apes. Heck, how many people had already gone? There was a crowd at the exit who stopped and stood transfixed by this last bit of the story.

All in all, this was a good film. If I was to try and fit it together with the other films, I would call it a prequel; it tells the story of how the apes came to take over the planet. Yes, the film stands on its own but does tie together some of the loose ends about how human beings on Earth were toppled from their position at the top of the food chain.


Rotten Tomatoes: Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 80%
Led by Rupert Wyatt's stylish direction, some impressive special effects, and a mesmerizing performance by Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathes unlikely new life into a long-running franchise.

Wikipedia: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (originally titled Caesar and Rise of the Apes) is a 2011 American science fiction film. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt. It is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes series that will act as a foundation with an origin story for a new film series. Its premise is similar to the fourth film in the original series Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), but it is not a direct remake in that it does not fit into that series' continuity. It was released in the United States and Canada on August 5, 2011.

official movie web site: Apes Will Rise
Video clips, trailers, photos, cast and story; it's all here. Plus various photo downloads and a comic book!

Rotten Tomatoes: Planet of the Apes (1968 film): 89%
Planet of the Apes raises thought-provoking questions about our culture without letting social commentary get in the way of the drama and action.

Wikipedia: Planet of the Apes (1968 film)
Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, based on the 1963 novel La planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. The film stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. It was the first in a series of five films made between 1968 and 1973, all produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and released by 20th Century Fox. A remake and reboot followed in 2001 and 2011.

Wikipedia: Planet of the Apes (2001 film)
Planet of the Apes is a 2001 American science fiction film, based on Pierre Boulle's novel and a remake of the 1968 film of the same title. Tim Burton directed the film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, and Estella Warren.

Wikipedia: Planet of the Apes (franchise)
Planet of the Apes is a media franchise with seven films (one a remake, one a reboot), a television series, and comic books. The series began with the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which was based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des singes (Monkey Planet or Planet of the Apes) by Pierre Boulle.


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