Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Greg Says: Sedate treatment with no message.

Title: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Date: 12 August 2011
Recommendation: Don’t waste your time.
Helpful: 1 out of 3 found this helpful.


Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. His experiments prove successful on a chimpanzee whose intelligence is increased by orders of magnitude. However, a last-minute outburst by his prize subject results in the chimp’s death and the termination of Rodman’s research. The chimp had given birth to a child named Caesar (Andy Serkis of Gollum fame) who inherited the super-intelligence.

Rodman raises Caesar in his attic. But while the animal has human-like intelligence, it has ape-like strength and a child’s naiveté. When a neighbor has an altercation with Rodman’s Alzheimer-stricken father (John Lithgow), Caesar comes to his defense and injures the neighbor. The police come and Caesar is locked away in the local Â… chimp jail (I think it was a zoo, but it was never made clear). Now that all the players are in play, we’re off and running.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a remake of the classic “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972). “Conquest” had strong moral themes: slavery, man’s inhumanity towards man, man’s inhumanity as exhibited through his mistreatment of animals. “Rise” has no such high aspirations. In fact, “Rise” appears to have no aspirations whatsoever.

From a story-telling point of view, it’s not really clear who the hero of the story is. It starts out looking like the story of Will Rodman and his goals of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. There is a sub-plot involving the Lithgow character and how he fades in and out of awareness and ultimately death. But it is so lightly treated that it could have been completely written out of the script. There is a love interest for Rodman (the lovely Frieda Pinto), but she could just as easily not have been in the movie at all. It isn’t until well into the second act that it is clear our focus is to be on Caesar.

Taken as an Action/Adventure movie, “Rise” falls down again. There are occasional events where apes run amok, but except for the climax, no one ever gets hurt in the film. There are scenes where humans are rude to the apes, but never really harm them. I blame this on the PG-13 rating. It appears this movie was made for younger children and not adults. There is very little action in the movie and what little there is, is so tame as to be boring.

The special effects are quite good. Andy Serkis has carved out a one- man niche for green-screen acting. Caesar and the other CGI apes are very believable, complete with very human facial expressions. But still, at times, you can see through the CGI and see the animation. I’m sure in a few years these artifacts will be resolved and actors, even Serkis-animal (sic) actors, will become unnecessary.

There are a number of curiosities in the movie. Rodman talks to Caesar in English, but Caesar has to use sign language to talk to Rodman. I guess the assumption is that Caesar is smart enough to understand the spoken word but has no vocal ability. Other annoyances were heavy- handed homages to the 1968 “Planet of the Apes” in the form of one- liners from the film and film clips used on the incidental television screens. It was cheesy and overdone.

The movie plodded along at amazingly slow pace. With a running time of 110 minutes (precisely the average movie duration) there was so much that could have been dropped out or edited for time. With no action, slow pacing, dull plot, and uneven use of good actors, I recommend you don’t waste your time.