'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' - Movie Review

Updated on January 29, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

In this cinematic landscape full of remakes, extended superheroes universes and dozens of disappointing sequels, the rebooted franchise of Planet of the Apes have been quietly gaining its space. With a discreet (but sufficient) marketing and a modest fanbase with rational expectations, the saga, of which now the trilogy has ended, have gained public and critic praise alike, without the need to saturate the media.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was born as an individual idea of producer-writer Rick Jaffa after reading a real sad story about a pet chimpanzee that was having problems adapting properly to the domesticated human environment. Understanding the obvious link with the historic--but stalled--Planet of the Apes franchise, Jaffa decided, along with Amanda Silver, to develop a script that would serve as the first chapter of a new trilogy.

Without looking like a forced counter reaction, Rise of the Planet of the Apes goes almost in the opposite direction from Tim Burton's failed 2001 attempt. There are no actors with masks and prosthetics or ape characters with golden armor or dramatic royal tunics. There is no time travel or space exploration. If anything, this film shares some ideas with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Unlike the original saga, this film decides to chronologically start the events that slowly and progressively will create the ape-dominant dystopia.

In this first step, we meet Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), who is desperately seeking a cure for Alzheimer's disease through a viral-based drug called ALZ-112 testing conducted on chimpanzees. His motivation goes beyond the professional realm, as his father Charles (John Lithgow) is already in advanced stages of dementia.

After a presentation that went terribly wrong because of an ape's aggressive behavior, Will's boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders to cancel the research and to euthanize all the chimpanzees involved.

Will decides to save and secretly adopt Caesar (A fantastic Andy Serkis, perhaps the main reason behind the success of this film), an infant chimp that has superior intelligence thanks to the direct genetic transmission of his ALZ-112-treated-mother.

Of course, Caesar grows and begins to question his domesticated pet identity in contrast to his animal nature. Caesar is a walking diaspora: Too intelligent and civilized to be a wild animal, too proud to be leashed and too hairy to be considered a human equal.

After several inevitable clashes with the law and human institutionality, rebellion ends up being the only viable route for Caesar.

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This film is smart enough to leave the door open to the hardcore sci-fi elements. There is a whole subplot in Easter egg form--presented through background TV news or newspaper clippings-- about the space mission "Icarus," which has mysteriously disappeared.

But the greatest merit of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is its extraordinary job in modifying the racial-overtly racist-metaphor of the original saga. This isn't a portrait of a racial war between privileged white men and a savage black civilization where Charlton Heston (who was one of Hollywood's most conservative and retrograde voices in real life) is the hero, but a direct criticism of humanity's exploitative use of animals in the name of science.

The public empathizes directly with Caesar, and the vast majority of humans are clear antagonists whose uncontrollable ambition (That Spacecraft isn't called "Icarus" for nothing) and natural colonizing arrogance is the deserved cause of their own destruction.

Movie Details

Title: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Release Year: 2011

Director(s): Rupert Wyatt

Actors: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tyler Labine a.o.

4 stars for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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    • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Shepards 

      6 months ago from Europe

      Thank you for your comment. Never watched the TV series, I did watch the original movies in my youth. Some where better than others. I think I was still very young, I remember being awed and not really able to understand the plot the first time.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      You have done a thorough review with background details of this film. I still recall the TV series of my childhood many years ago.

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