Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Using awe-inspiring motion capture technology, this reboot takes a fresh new look at the franchise and creates a remarkable start to a trilogy. Chimps are captured in the jungle and brought to a research facility where Will Rodman (James Franco) researches Alzheimer's. Due to an incompetent worker Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine), a chimp, named Bright Eyes due to the green eyes that are a symptom of the heightened intelligence, escapes and is brutally killed scaring off investors before human trials. Franklin and Will discover a baby chimp in Bright Eye's cage. Franklin convinces Will to take the ape so he doesn't have to put it down. Will returns home where he cares for his father Charles (John Lithgow) who suffers from Alzheimer's and names the chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis). The baby already exhibits advanced intelligence and grows smarter over the next three years. Charles's condition worsens during the same three years until Will brings home a sample of the drug. 

Charles almost immediately recovers as Caesar finds himself in trouble with the neighbors. Caesar is injured so Will takes him to a vet at the zoo, Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto). Together they take Caesar to the redwood forest across the Golden Gate Bridge. Caesar grows even smarter and stronger over the next five years but is distressed when he sees a dog on a leash like him. Will sees Caesar's intelligence increase exponentially but the effects of the medicine wear off on his father. Caesar fights the neighbor again when Charles, in an attack of dementia, tries to drive the neighbor's car. Caesar is forced to go to an animal shelter run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his ruthless son Dodge (Tom Felton). Caesar reacts poorly to being in captivity and the harsh treatment from Dodge.

Will informs the company head Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) that the drug worked but is having a regressive effect now. Excited, Jacobs gives Will more resources for his research. Will tests the enhanced drug on Koba (Christopher Gordon) but during a test Franklin is exposed to the drug and cover up his bad symptoms like coughing blood. Caesar does not get along with the other apes in the pens but manages to establish dominance with the help from a gorilla named Buck (Richard Ridings). Charles passes away from his disease but Jacobs moves forward with the tests. Franklin tries to warn Will but ends up sneezing on Will's neighbor who is a pilot, spreading the disease. Caesar becomes the leader of the apes and sneaks out to obtain an aerosol version of the new drug. He infects the other apes who show the symptom of green eyes. 

There is a brief allusion to the space flight Icarus that contains the pilots from the original film. Franklin is found dead in his apartment. Caesar tricks Dodge into the main pen to fight him and speaks for the first time. He leads the apes in a rebellion and Dodge attacks Caesar with an electric rod but gets hit with a hose, becoming Caesar's first victim. The apes escape out of the pens and head into the city. They charge back into the research center and free the apes that were being experimented on. In an exciting sequence, the smart apes take over the city of San Francisco leading to a confrontation on the Golden Gate Bridge. The humans turn violent shooting the apes from a helicopter but the apes manage to take them down. Jacobs dies in the helicopter when Buck the gorilla takes it down, sacrificing himself for Caesar. Will confront Caesar one last time in the redwood forest and lets him go. The credits show the spread of a virus across the world.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an interesting way to reboot the series from director Rupert Wyatt. The film lays the groundwork for how apes evolved while still having plenty of exciting scenes and one especially cool scene at the end. It does feel like a prequel in a lot of ways and I always felt like there was a lot more potential there, which has been fulfilled at this point. The movie boasts impressive action but nothing compares to the motion capture performance by Andy Serkis. The new trilogy begins here and plants the seeds for a movie nearly fifty years old. 

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