Hairy and Brainy
I’m not sure how much evolution deniers will enjoy seeing this movie, but I sure did. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a adrenaline-filled ride, packed with the suitable special effects and one hell of a central character – a chimpanzee. And oh, there are humans as well- but they’re not really that important, except for the part where they start off this whole cataclysmic chain of events which just might end up with the extinction of their own species.
ROTPOTA (excuse the acronym, the title is too long) starts off where any self respecting science fiction film must – in a laboratory where cutting edge technology is being developed. In this case, it is a pharmaceutical company named GEN-SYS where Will Rodman (James Franco) is trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. He has a personal stake in it – his father (John Lithgow) suffers from the disease. He tests a drug on a chimp at the lab, with seemingly excellent results, and proposes that it be used for human trials. However, inconveniently enough, the test chimp goes nuts and wrecks the lab, and with it, any potential backing for the wonder drug. The bosses decide that all the chimps be put down,but Will cannot bring himself to kill a little baby chimpanzee. He takes the chimp with him to his house for what he thinks will be a temporary home for the primate. However, the chimp stays on for years, and starts exhibiting extraordinary intelligence and skills – something that Will believes he inherited from his mother, who had been treated with the drug that Will had developed years ago. Will also develops a relationship with the local veterinary doctor, Caroline (the gorgeous Freida Pinto), who, surprise, surprise, is a chimp expert as well. After a murderous attack on Will’s neighbour (who had been in an altercation with Will’s father), the chimp- now called Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), is sent to a primate shelter. There we meet the father-son pair of John and Dodge Landon (Brian Cox and Tom Felton), the chimp handlers, who behind a facade of decency, treat the chimps extremely poorly. Caesar, at first alienated and at a loss with the other monkeys in the shelter, soon ends up being boss, thanks to his brains. Not satisfied with being the boss of the inside world, he sets his sights on the world of humans as well.
One of the things you immediately notice is how borderline the human characters are to the whole story. They seem to almost have it too easy. Franco, while being one of the leading lights in a top lab, has not much ethics or philosophy to ponder over while doing what he does. Frieda Pinto does what apparently the script writer had in mind for her – sit around and look gorgeous, not that I am complaining. Poor Tom Felton seems to be stuck on his Malfoy character – a cold, arrogant, heartless man- but nonetheless, he carries it off. On the whole, however, one can’t help but feel that despite the title of the movie, the humans could have been made much better use of.
The real star without a doubt, is Andy Serkis. Caesar the chimpanzee is the most brilliant CGI animal since, well, Peter Jackson’s King Kong,where of course it was Serkis who portrayed Kong. The special effects (read motion-capture technology especially) are excellent, and Serkis is convincingly chilling. During some point of time, I felt very uncomfortable seeing how eerily man-like the behaviour of the chimps was getting. Especially when they exhibit those facets of men that are deplorable. This, of course, is the success of the movie.
Towards the end, however, the film seems a bit rushed. Everything happened a bit too fast for my liking. Then again, when a large bunch of monkeys are taking over San Francisco, I guess they would do things at a break neck speed. They are, after all, unlike us, wild animals. And that seems to be one of the central themes of the movie- an oft-repeated cliche- “don’t mess with things that shouldn’t be messed with”. Or as Pinto says during one of her brighter moments, some things are not meant to be changed.
Go watch the film. Definitely worth a viewing.
Three-and-half stars out of five.
The author can be contacted as swordthatwasbroken@ gmail.com