|Hint: more than a tire swing|
Well, a different focus, for starters. Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins with brilliant scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) experimenting a new drug on chimpanzees. You see, Will's father, Charles (John Lithgow), has Alzheimer's and Will is trying to find a cure. In other words, his drug will repair the brain, or enchance the brain if no damage is present. When Will finally finds a chimp that responds positively to the drug, he pleads with his boss (David Oyelowo) to approve human testing; boss-man agrees to give Will a chance to convince the Board of Trustees. On the very day of Will's presentation, the super-chimp (dubbed "Bright Eyes") goes, um, bananas, attacking people and destroying property. Obviously, the drug is bad and all the chimps must be killed. But wait...! Will and his monkey handler guy (Tyler Labine) discover a teeny, tiny baby chimp in Bright Eyes' cage --- Bright Eyes wasn't drug crazy, she was protecting her child! Aww...!
|Free shipping? Why wouldn't you buy a monkey?|
The human actors in Rise of the Planet of the Apes are just okay. I don't completely buy James Franco as a brilliant scientist, but I thought he handled his role fairly well. Freida Pinto's character didn't add a whole lot to the story, but she was also fine. John Lithgow was pretty good as Will's father, but I would have preferred seeing his character's big breakdown happen at night. David Oyelowo was less impressive as the greedy and ruthless science boss; his character could have legitimately had a mustache-twirling scene where he counted his imaginary money. Brian Cox plays a small supporting role and is decent, although I think he has played the same basic bastard character a few times over by now. This is the first first big post-Harry Potter role for Tom Felton, and he is once again stuck playing a villain. I really wanted to like Felton here, but I couldn't wait to see him die.
|If only for his lame "It's a madhouse" line|
Let's start with the title/tag line.
the apes go into the redwood forest. Humanity then apparently suffers a pandemic during the closing credits. That's right, the deadliest part of this movie happens off-camera. Really, that was the most disappointing realization I had with Rise of the Planet of the Apes; it wasn't so much a "rising" as it was winning by default.
|Fact: apes love railings|
That ending would have been a slight let down in the best of times, but when you combine that with a supposedly smart story doing many stupid things, things start to get ugly. I won't dive into my first problem with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in depth, but I have to mention it. This movie takes place over a span of eight years. Eight years! And the only character that has even a slight cosmetic change in all that time is Caesar. I'm not saying that Freida Pinto needed a perm or that James Franco should have had a mullet, but every human character is static over those eight years --- they have the same appearance, the same jobs, live in the same homes, and apparently have the same opinions. If anything argues that this movie is about the CGI monkeys, it is that indifference to character development.
|Slightly attracted strangers, or longtime lovers? This could be any scene in the movie.|
There are moments of Rise of the Planet of the Apes that are truly entertaining. Caesar's schemes were pretty cool and the CGI/motion-capture expressions were fantastic. But this is a clumsy movie. It has ham-fisted references to the original film (although the spacecraft bit was subtle and cool) and extremely shallow human characters running around in a plot with many convenient logic holes. I can't overlook my utter surprise that this movie wound up entertaining me, but I was disappointed in the overall direction of the picture as well as its numerous moments of stupidity. Given the same overall story and a less ridiculous script, I would probably give this movie eight stars. But Rise of the Planet of the Apes sucks hard on the stupid lever, and I can't ignore that.