GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Not a madhouse, just disappointing | I Smell Sheep

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Not a madhouse, just disappointing

By the Emperor, where to begin with this one? All right to be fair, I did not go into the film with high expectations. I've seen the original Planet of the Apes movie with Charlton Heston. I think it's a great movie. Sure it's kind of cheesy, a bit dated with the Cold War fear of nuclear apocalypse, and Heston's acting is rather hammy, but there's a sort of earnestness to the film. A lot of hard work went into the original film making it a cult classic and part of the zeitgeist. Now, do any of you remember the sequels to the original Planet of the Apes? All three of them? Yeah, I'm going to go with maybe a handful of you were even aware they existed. However, they do exist and they were.....well downright disappointing and generally ignored because they paled to the original. I don't know what to classify Rise, because I know there was a remake back in 2001. So is it a prequel, a relaunch, reboot, sequel? What is it? But honestly debating over what this particular film is will probably be a moot point because I expect this film to be quickly forgotten.

I'm going to go ahead and just spoil the plot because I don't think anyone should watch this movie. Save your money, watch the 1968 classic instead, it's much much better. So, our story begins with a generic pharmaceutical/genetic research company researching a drug called ALZ 112 and using it on chimpanzees. ALZ 112 dramatically increases the cognitive abilities of chimps and Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) hopes to that this drug will provide a cure to Alzheimer's. Results are going great and they are preparing to move on to human testing with the drug when one of the test subject chimps goes on a rampage throughout the research headquarters. Ultimately the board is unimpressed and decides to declare ALZ 112 a failure. And then our first plot hole shows up. It turns out that the chimp that went on a rampage was trying to protect her baby. Which none of her handlers knew about. This entire time the chimpanzee's been pregnant and no one noticed? No one in this entire medical lab that has several specialists on chimpanzees did not realize that one of your test subjects was pregnant? Excuse me, I need to go rip some beef jerky apart to keep me from losing my mind.

Sorry about that, anyway with the rest of the chimps having been put down because the company thought it was a result of the drug, Will takes the little CGI monkey home with him. It is there that we meet Will's father, Franklin (John Lithgow) who is suffering from Alzheimer's. This explains why Will continues his research with ALZ 112 and his desperate hope for a cure. This will be important later. Anyway, since nothing interesting happens in the next three years we cut to Caesar, that's the name they give the chimp by the way, and his amazing mental development because....the in his genes...or...something. SCIENCE! Don't look at it too closely. Anyway, Caesar gets hurt and this is where we meet Caroline (Freida Pinto), a doctor at the San Francisco Zoo, I'm assuming it's the San Francisco Zoo because it's set in that city and I don't know if they have more than one zoo. Whatever, point is Caroline is apparently a chimp doctor and after patching Caesar up serves nothing more than being Will's romantic interest. Meanwhile, Franklin's condition gets worse and Will decides to start stealing ALZ 112 from work to treat his father hoping it will cure his disease. And then suddenly it's five years later! Wow, nothing interesting going on here! Except this brings up even more plot holes.

First of all, Will says that his father will probably have to be on monthly treatments of the drug so they can keep Alzheimer's at bay. So he's been stealing drugs, highly expensive drugs mind you, on a regular basis, to treat his father FOR FIVE YEARS! HOW HAS NO ONE NOTICED? No one has caught on? Really guys? I mean, I guess maybe it's possible but....really? But before we can struggle with this plot hole we get another whammy, Caroline and Caesar ask about Caesar's origins. So Will explains, briefly, that he works for the pharmaceutical company and got Caesar from the failed experiment. And Caroline's surprised! She's known him for five years and never, not even once, asked where he got Caesar from? Even if he lied about where Caesar came from you mean to tell me that for five years Caroline has known nothing about what Will does for a job? Nothing? *shakes head*

Anyway, it turns out Frank's immune system is starting to fight the drug and it's not working anymore so Will has to develop a new more aggressive strain of the drug which is apparently a virus treatment. Sorry, I'd ask a pre-med friend for help but it's 2:30 in the morning and I want to get this finished. Anyway, so Will's company begins testing with ALZ 113 on a new batch of chimps and it looks like science will bring a better future for us all. Meanwhile during one of his relapses Frank crashes David Hewlett's car (Wait, they got Dr. McCay for this? How?). Hewlett gets really angry, Caesar comes down and bites his finger off. So Caesar has to go to chimpanzee jail. Technically it's a primate refuge, but based on how they treat the chimps there it's more of a prison. Oh yeah, just a by the by, anyone who hates seeing animals be mistreated will hate this movie. Just a minor point but worth mentioning.

Anyway when Caesar gets put in the chimp house, the movie starts lagging and relying on CGI monkeys to carry the weight. And I don't know where chronologically we are in the movie, but in terms of pacing it's like 70% of the movie that relies on CGI monkeys. Sure there's some stuff happening outside the chimp house but it keeps coming back to the damn monkeys. And I don't know about you but the CGI apes look...wrong somehow. Sort of like the uncanny valley, but with apes instead of people. I kind of got a headache watching a bunch of CGI monkeys for over an hour. And perhaps the weakest part of this film is references to the original film during the chimp prison parts. I've heard rumors that you shouldn't mention better movies in your film, but every time I noticed a reference to the original Planet of the Apes, I wished I could have been watching that instead.

Anyway, so as you could probably guess from the trailer, Caesar leads an escape! Oh no, the monkeys are learning! In fact, Caesar manages to break out of chimp jail, get some samples of ALZ 113 (which is airborne now instead of being a shot like ALZ 112 was) and make all the monkeys in the chimp house intelligent now.

However, ALZ 113 is not the miracle drug that we hoped for. It turns out that while it makes apes super-intelligent, it kills humans.....somehow. I'm about 90% sure that's...not...physically possible...maybe a biology expert could help me out. Anyway *dramatic chord* It's deadly to humans but makes monkeys smart! And the virus is out, oh no! Okay, so one lab tech got infected and he infected David Hewlett. How far can it spread really? More on that later.

Anyway the last part of the movie is basically CGI apes going around San Francisco, freeing more apes, and causing general havoc. Apparently there's like 5,000 monkeys hidden in San Francisco or something. I can think of maybe 50 monkeys we have here in Cincinnati but maybe things are different over there in California. Anyway, the monkeys flee across the Golden Gate bridge, huge fight scene, helicopter, horses for some reason (probably again referring to the original movie), and in the end Caesar and the apes all flee to the redwood forests of California and live out their lives in peace. Oh, and they can talk now. Again, I'm no expert so maybe a biologist can help, but I don't know if chimpanzees have the same vocal equipment to produce the sounds of human speech. Is that possible? Oh well the monkeys are free and the movie ends on an upbeat note as the credits roll.

Wait...the virus kills people. Were we going to resolve that? Guys? Guys?

Okay, yes, it's resolved. It turns out David Hewlett is an airline pilot and is briefly shown after a handful of credits to be slowly dying in a busy airport. The credits then continue showing the spread of the plague across the airline routes and presumably killing us all.

Well. That did not go as planned.

Ultimately this movie is just downright terrible. The plot of the Alzheimer's drug is full of holes in the beginning and becomes less and less relevant as the film progresses. The characters are one-dimensional and end up as nothing more than framing devices for the "conflict" of Caesar. I mean, there's nothing about Caroline other than she's a chimpanzee doctor and she's in a relationship with Will. The movie would lose literally nothing with her gone. And that's not because I hate romance plots. There's not even a romance plot, she's just there. Seriously, the film's really about Caesar, and he doesn't even talk. Well, he does at the end, but most of the time he's silent. And he's not even real! He's just CGI! And while it's possible for a plot to revolve around such a character, this movie just does not have it. A far more interesting conflict would be asking if we should treat Caesar as an animal or as a person because he is straddling the line between them. Instead we watch him slowly plot to get out and...take over the world? Get free? Caesar never really has a clear motivation. So watching him and a bunch of other CGI apes for a couple hours is just boring. And, personally, the CGI rendering is not the best so I found it painful from an aesthetic viewpoint to watch as well. Overall this was a terrible movie experience and I would not take anyone to see it.

Getting one sheep because that's the lowest I can give it.



  1. I am heartbroken to hear that RISE is CGI junk. I should have known when I heard the premise of the story and immediately thought it was uncannily similar to DEEP BLUE SEA (Searching for a cure to Alzheimer's, a group of scientists are attacked by the intelligent sharks they created.) I'll probably watch RISE anyway - on DVD - but now I'll be warned.

  2. Yeah SF has the one zoo, there is also the oakland zoo but thats across the bay. I liked that it was going to be in my area but what a bummer! I didn't have high hopes but i thought at least a 50/50 was going to be the best rating this movie would get. what a waste, great review Ben. Going to wait for the dvd

  3. hmmmm, some people have been enjoying it. I think we will still go see it next week. I am sure I will have the same "science" problems with the plot like you .

    Still need to see Cowboys and Aliens and Harry Potter. Got to get to the movies!