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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » September 2, 2011
Film review
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
September 2, 2011   
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Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffner in 1968 is a science-fiction classic and over the past decade, two attempts have been made at revisiting it. The first, Tim Burton’s remake from 2001, was a major let down, despite a cast of excellent actors. Ten years later, Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) has come up with a prequel to the original movie showing how a new species conquered Earth while humans were practically wiped out. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the most pleasant surprises to have opened in movie theaters this year. It delivers a well structured and fast-paced plot with impressive cinematography and special effects.

Will Rodman (James Franco—127 Hours, Tristan & Isolde, the Spider Man series), a scientist hired by a company researching gene therapy, is obsessively trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. His zeal is natural given that his father Charles (John Lithgow—The World According to Garp, Kinsey), is suffering from the disease and with each passing month plunging deeper into a private world. The key to discovering the right form of treatment appears to be experiments on chimpanzees. One of the experiments produces the eagerly awaited results, but just as Will is about to introduce an unusually intelligent female chimpanzee to his bosses, the ape runs amok and is shot and killed. As it turns out, she was protecting the baby she had given birth to a few days earlier. Will sneaks the little chimpanzee out of the lab and takes him home, where he soon realizes he is dealing with an extraordinary animal. The preparation administered to the mother seems to have stimulated the baby’s brain to develop far beyond what is normal.

A few years later, the ape, called Caesar (played by Andy Serkis—the Lord of the Rings series, Prestige) has the mental capabilities of a human child several years older. Caesar uses sign language, flushes the toilet, makes use of simple tools and is even successful as a match-maker for Will and an attractive vet named Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto—Slumdog Millionaire, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger). Things take an even happier course when Charles Rodman, whom Will secretly treats with the miraculous new medicine, recovers from any signs of Alzheimer’s while his IQ actually increases.

But everything has a price. Caesar suddenly becomes more aggressive and Charles’ disease comes back with a vengeance. One day Charles mistakes his neighbor’s car for his own and damages it, prompting the neighbor to start a heated argument. Upset, Caesar attacks the neighbor in Charles’ defense. He gets locked up in an ape shelter managed by John Landon (Brian Cox—Troy, Red, Match Point) and his sadistic son Dodge (Tom Felton—the Harry Potter series). Thrown among members of his own species for the first time in his life, Caesar first gets kicked around, but in no time he realizes that with his colossal intellectual advantage over the others, he is destined to become their leader. In the course of several weeks, he manages to carry through a plan as a result of which hundreds of apes escape from their confinement and start a battle against humans in the streets of San Francisco. Not even Will can stop his pet ape any more.

The script of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, even if predictable at times, is undeniably coherent. All subplots are carried right through to the end and minor details prove meaningful. The movie is spectacular from the start. The climax, when hundreds of apes charge over the Golden Gate Bridge, is a visual masterpiece. The epilogue, inserted during the end credits, provides a closure to the story and links the movie to Schaffner’s classic made 43 years ago.
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