I would characterize Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a “delightful” movie, but for an action/adventure, horror or SF movies, that’s not a compliment. SF movies can be “edgy,” “insightful,” “awe-inspiring,” “thrilling,” even “derivative.”  But not “delightful.” The Toy Story movies, for example, are “delightful,” and they’re also better than Rise, but we’ll get to that in a moment.


Will Rodman worked for a Big Pharma company developing a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, testing his concoction on chimpanzees. The announcement of his breakthrough goes horribly wrong with his prized test subject has to be put down, he it seems she has passed her heightened intellect (a side effect of the drug) on to her offspring, who Will takes home to raise. Things go reasonably well until the progeny (who is names Caesar) is put in an ape rescue facility—the first time he has not lived exclusively among humans. And from this forced exile Caesar connects for the first time with his simianhood—and plots his…


Revenge? Freedom? We’re not really sure what Caesar’s motivations are aside from giving Rise to the Planet of the Apes. (Of course, like it or not, for biological and classification purposes and a whole lot of technical reasons, humans classified as apes, too, so this is already the “Planet of the Apes.” So perhaps a more accurate name for the movie would be Rise of the Planet of the Other Apes…)


And that’s the problem with this movie. While it does answer the question from the last Apes movie (“How did these monkeys get so damned smart?”) and the unasked question (“How did we let them take over?”), there are too many lapses in logic that the filmmakers no doubt hope you won’t notice while you’re looking at all the pretty pictures.


And they are pretty pictures; all the apes are computer-generated motion capture characters (like the blue people in Avatar) and the work is flawless (except for a couple of quick lapses). But that is part of the problem: the apes are part simian, part gymnast, exciting moves that would probably be disorienting for any real primate—it’s too pretty to be genuine. And there are other lapses in logic—for example, could you live with a chimpanzee at home for ten years and none of their neighbors noticed? And after that unfortunate incident in Connecticut (where a pet chimp nearly killed and did permanently maim its owner’s friend), would the neighbors not report you?


This underscores why the Toy Story movies are better than this one. In the former, there was real character development—six-year-old Andy from the first movie is going off to college in the third. Nobody in Rise seems to age at all except Caesar. Will works on his cure for ten years with no real success: in real life, it only took them a little longer to map the entire human genome. (Or course, to be fair, “they” had help, Will was working solo. But he still had the same crappy car…)


Rise of the Planet of the Apes is entertaining but not engaging, a nice way to spend a couple of hours but probably not the best movie playing at the multiplex. Despite some good performances from familiar faces and a few clever shout-outs to the original film… I’m hoping there won’t be any more sequels, prequels or reimaginings.


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