“Born Free!! As free as the wind blows…
As free as the Grass gr—“ Oh shit. Sorry. I’ve gotta stop doing that!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent flick! I was totally surprised how much I liked it. It tells the story of how the planet fell to the apes in the first place. And is probably a little more plausible than just “There was a talking circus pet in Ricardo Montalban’s circus”.
Here’s the unexpected thing that the previews don’t really show you though. The Apes aren’t the villains in this movie… they’re the heroes.
In the previews, you just see the main character (Caesar) glowering in a cage, and him rolling some gas canisters, then some really angry apes, and then a bunch of monkeys on a rampage at the end. It’s easy to envision this flick (at least I did) as like a creature feature and the enemy is a pack of super apes on the loose.
But the thing is, this is the story of the Apes. Particularly of Caesar.
Caesar’s actually a pretty well-developed character. Born in captivity to a chimp who had been used in an experimental Alzheimer’s drug test, Caesar is brought home by the lead scientist when the project is shut down, and all the other chimps are put down. There he grows up, and is revealed to be super intelligent. Of course, a fully grown chimp is much harder to handle than cute little baby chimp, and once he reaches maturity, there are problems. After he attacks a neighbor (protecting Franco’s father, played by John Lithgow), Caesar is captured by animal control and sent to live in a sanctuary house, but it’s really more like monkey jail.
Having never been around other simians, it takes Caesar a little while to adjust. But once he does, it’s not long before he has the entire gang of primates following his commands. However, knowing that he would never be able to fully explain to them the concepts he needs them to understand in order to accomplish his objectives, Caesar escapes from captivity, goes to his “father’s” lab, and steals the canisters of the drug which made him so smart. He then returns to use them on his brethren, hence the gas canisters as seen in the previews.
From there out, it’s a fight to break free from their cruel captors, to break their brothers who are being tested on out of their captivity, and to make it across the Golden Gate Bridge to the wild.
Carnage ensues. Well, PG-13 carnage at least.
The CGI Apes aren’t perfect, there are definitely several times when you’re aware you’re watching CGI. But that’s alright, the Apes are far more realistic than the humans.
From the opening bell, when Franco’s character is talking to the President of his company using “dumbed down science”, and being responded to with “dumbed down business”, I thought, uh oh, are we in trouble here? Not really, because the Apes save the day. But if it wasn’t for the ape characters, the rest of the characters are straight out of a script writing program. Insert lab flunkie here. Introduce girlfriend there.
Why are the custodians at the monkey jail so comically evil? Being in captivity isn’t enough motivation for a hyper intelligent Ape to want to escape? He has to be tormented, as if this were “Midnight Express for Monkeys”? Why is this tech company so woefully under written? I swear the tech-corp dialogue used between the characters is so comically over simplified, it’s like a third grader’s idea of what kind of things get said at the high levels of business.
Oh well, forget them anyways. This is a story about the Apes. And in that regard, it’s an excellent story. Watching “Spartacus of the Apes” was engrossing, at times exhilarating, and in the end, you’re going to be rooting for the monkeys to kick some human ass.