This summer’s reboot of the franchise started with the classic 1968 Charlton Heston film. Rise itself sort of takes the place of the third and fourth film of the original series, highlighting Ceaser’s origins and the primate battle with humans for supremacy. It’s not really a remake, though, as it draws plot points from several other sources, such as Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys and even Issue 16 of the 70s Planet of the Apes inspired comic Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth.
Unlike it’s source material, however, Rise of the Planet of The Apes script is relentlessly dour and offer nothing of the wit that made the original movies fun to watch. And it’s plot progression repeatedly requires people to act in inexplicably stupid. How so?
While most of the reviews of the film were positive, much of what makes the film watchable is Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar and his growth as a character. On the human side of things, the script is as hackneyed as any straight to video sci-fi movie, and makes about as much sense. The third act is pretty ludicrous, and the human characters less than memorable, while the apes are more or less depicted as super-powered.
The plot revolves first around James Franco’s scientist who is trying to find a cure for his father’s altzheimer’s disease. Apparently a treatment that staves off Alzheimer’s for close to a decade has no market value in his world, but a risky smart drug would (even though anything resembling a smart drug in our world is quickly restricted.) And to further make us scratch out heads, the more advanced variety of the drug is turned into an inhalable form (I guess the screen writers couldn’t figure out how to smartify the rest of his fellows while making it easy for the deadly to human form get out of the lab.) Really, his character from the much panned Your Highness was more interesting than the one he has here.
As such, the film has two story arcs. Ceasar’s, which is compelling until he releases the smart gas on his fellows, and well meaning Franco’s story which has people acting stupider and stupider and himself progressively more and more impotent in affecting the overall plot. Sadly for the only female cast member with more than a couple lines, Freida Pinto is pretty much wasted as the Franco’s Vetrinarian love interest. She’s mostly restricted to looking pretty and telling Franco’s character that “There are some things man isn’t meant to controll/change.” This unfortunately is rather how genre film is these days. I can’t remember the last sci-fi movie that had a decent female lead.
Along with this we get a nasty Chimp refuge run by a jerk and his asshole son (who is given lines from the original Planet of the Apes which make no sense considering the rest of his dialog.) A money hungry big pharma CEO who thinks there’s no money in an proven, if Alzheimer’s treatment, but when faced with a drug which supposedely increases intelligence, decides it’s a good idea to ignore all drug development protocols.
The actual drug (yep, it’s got a Z in it’s name, like many recent movie drugs) basically works like magic. And it even later affects apes simply by association (the apes that are later rescued from the San Francisco zoo instantly become eager and effective members of Caeser’s army.)
So, in the end, the film makes little more sense than the more goofy films it’s story is drawn from. Which is too bad. As far as I can tell, despite Andy’s creat performance, this is maybe the 4th best Planet of The Apes film, as it struggles with making sense for much of the film, and completely give up on it when we hit the third act.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (+1.0 for Andy and his fellow ape actors. Otherwise the movie’s pretty much as good as most SYFY original scripts)