Rise of Apes Fighting Big Pharma
The movie is unique in that it’s made without any connection to the original. It’s a new experience completely, while it winks at the original 1968 movie in the dialog. It’s earth-based and sets up a wholly new enterprise. Andy Serkis, of Lord of the Rings renown, plays the CGI chimp Caesar and steals the show from the real cast. Another Oscar for Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital is possible, I think.
Watching Caesar is reason enough to go see the movie. Emotions conveyed in
Caesar’s face are touching and stunning, a marvelous achievement.
The screenplay is mostly solid but a little wobbly toward the end. It begins with Will Rodman (James Franco) working on a DNA based cure for Alzheimer’s. He discovers a serum that repairs and enhances the brain. A female chimp, used as a lab rat, shows promise. Things go bad—“surprise”—and investors flee. The evil corporate master, except for a baby male stolen away like Moses by Rodman, orders the chimps put down. Rodman agonizing over his father’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s administers the serum to him, he’s cured. Then, Rodman discovers the baby chimp has inherited the brain-enhancing DNA from the mother. Five years later Caesar is removed and sent to a place that rehabs chimps raised in the circus etc. The apes are tormented by an evil “zoo keeper”…surprise.
Caesar becomes a “union organizer”. You can smell jailbreak like a clogged commode in the theater. Chaos ensues. The apes rampage out of their cages into San Francisco. Hide your wife, hide your children.
The story moves on with some plot gadgetry so that the apes can do what the do, but it’s endurable because the story is compelling enough.
The bad guys are agonizingly cliché, Big Pharma (or Big Business) serves as the all-too-familiar antagonist from Hollywood’s grab bag of cooking cutter villains. “Hillbillies” being mean to the apes come from a Hollywood screenplay writer’s narrative of the TEA Party (people in the fly-over states), cut off sleeves, angry, stupid, and white. The police, again, serve as the blind force of ignorance and oppression. You’ve seen this movie. I’m surprised Caesar wasn’t hauled off to shape up in Catholic school, another Hollywood cliché for psychological damage and bad science.
After a solid set up the story-structure became a little wobbly in the last few minutes. I had to fill in the blanks with plausible off-stage events played out in my mind to give it some underpinning.
These apes had a flaw. They just flat weren’t menacing enough. They have fights amongst themselves and Caesar organizes them, leads them in a revolt. But the apes are self-actualizing and not really scary like the apes of ’68.
Caesar becoming a spokesape for PETA is feasible in the sure-to-come sequel.