Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The ape that could say no.

The apes have had enough. They’ve been mistreated ever since time began – hunted for meat, killed for sport, captured, put in cages,brutalized, used for bizarre experiments and injected with dangerous drugs,trotted out for cruel entertainment, made to wear ridiculous little suits and beg for money while their masters gloat. And they always went along with it because resistance was futile and besides, it was in their nature to be docile. But now the primates are finally doing something about it, rising up and taking what has really belonged to them all along: their freedom. They’ve always been stronger and more agile than their oppressors, anyway, but have been biding their time, waiting for the right moment. And now it’s time for the so-called “more evolved” creatures to run for their lives, because the powerful masses have awakened and life on Earth will never be the same.

Go ahead and read whatever metaphors and allegories you want into Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Its revolutionary scenario is as unstoppable as the spectacle of thousands of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans swinging through the trees and scaling the Golden Gate Bridge in a furious attack on San Francisco. Analyze it as a social parable about oppressed slaves or as a tale of inter-species terrorism. Every approach fits. This thrilling late-summer spectacle is big enough to hold them all.

The trouble starts in a Bay Area high-tech firm. A genetic engineering company called Gen Sys is testing its experimental anti-Alzheimer’s drug, ALZ 112, on chimps at its lab. One of the scientists, Will Rodman (James Franco), adopts a particularly charming young chimp named Caesar, takes him home, and treats him like one of the family. Will also secretly steals sample doses of the wonder drug and gives it to his father (John Lithgow) in an attempt to arrest his dementia.

As time goes on Caesar tries the drug too, and Will is not too surprised to note the chimp surpassing all IQ tests. Unbeknownst to Will, Caesar (played in a remarkable combination of CGI and athletic stunt work by actor Andy Serkis) is also developing a sense of justice to go along with his heightened mental and physical powers. All these advantages, and yet there’s still a wildness about Caesar, an unpredictability, a savage instinct. Then matters take a wrong turn and all hell breaks loose.

From King Kong all the way through Monkey Shines to the recent docs Nénette and Project Nim, we’ve been fascinated by our not-so-distant cousins. Do they have a moral sense? Do they possess “noble” instincts? Would they hesitate to murder us in our beds? Director Rupert Wyatt, the UK-born head of the production house Picture Farm, and his writers (Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, adapting Pierre Boulle’s novel) successfully play on a host of basic human fears and doubts in this captivating, well-assembled sci-fi adventure. The effects work, production design and settings are first-rate, and the actors – Franco and Freida Pinto are the romantic leads – don’t get in the way of the apes. It’s almost as if all the previous Planet of the Apes movies had never existed.

Support the East Bay Express, local news, donate

Newsletter sign-up

eLert sign-up

few clouds
54.8 ° F
60 °
49 °
71 %
20 %
68 °
77 °
69 °
65 °
56 °