Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not a remake of the 1968 classic movie Planet of the Apes. It is the re-imagined prequel of how apes begin their trek towards dominating humankind. The premise of the story is that a research scientist, Dr. Rodman (James Franco) and his team are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and they are using primates to study the effects of drug ALZ112 before conducting human trials. Coincidently, Dr. Rodman’s father (portrayed by John Lithgow) has Alzheimer’s. Needless to say, things soon go awry as the experimental ape named Bright Eyes seemingly goes berserk and the program is scrapped by euthanizing all the apes in the study. However, Bright Eyes’ offspring (Caesar) survives, receiving the drug in utero. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens – awareness, rebellion, and chaos.
The movie contains a plethora of references to the original movie. The first one that I noticed was the name of the research primate – Bright Eyes. (Bright Eyes is the name that Zira gives Taylor in the 1968 movie.) Other references are the classic lines: “It’s a madhouse – a madhouse!” and “Get your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty ape.” (previously uttered by Heston but now belonging to Dodge Landon (Tom Felton), who by the way, gets what he deserves.) Other recognizable references include Felton’s character of Dodge Landon being a combination of two characters in the original movie (Dodge and Landon were the other two astronauts that were on the ship with Taylor.) Some other references include Caesar playing with a Statue of Liberty puzzle (a homage to the original ending), the orangutan named Maurice (named for Maurice Evans who played Dr. Zaius), the primates watching a Charlton Heston movie (The Agony and the Ecstasy), and the head of the research facility named Jacobs (in honor of Arthur Jacobs who produced the Planet of the Apes movie.) I’m sure there are more, but that’s all I caught on the first viewing of this film.
The computer generated apes are visually appealing and blend in well with their human counterparts. It’s hard to tell where the real world end and the CGI world begins, although I am pretty sure that I have never seen apes on the Golden Gate Bridge on any of my previous drives. Andy Serkis as Caesar conveys a range of emotions as he goes from a beloved member of his adopted human family to a being aware of his status in the world and his determination to control his surroundings.
The movie’s ending can be summed up in one word: sequel. It is so predictable that you can see how this is going to play out: humans succumb to a virus, apes have immunity, apes take over the world, chaos, and more chaos.
Do yourself a favor and read Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel, Planet of the Apes, which is a quite different from the 20 th Century Fox movie version. In this novel, interstellar space traveler and French journalist Ulysse Merou is catapulted into a world resembling earth only to find that it is ruled by apes. You won’t find many similarities to any ape movie and there is a surprise ending, but I do recommend reading it. It’s still available through the popular on-line book retailer (you know which one.) If you are a die-hard lover of the genre it won’t diminish your love of the series, it will enhance it.