Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Friday 15th November 2013

I could describe Rise of the Planet of the Apes as being a lot like Limitless, only with a computer-generated chimpanzee instead of Bradley Cooper. Or I could call it a remake of Escape from Alcatraz, but with a computer-generated chimpanzee instead of Clint Eastwood. I think instead I’ll go with; Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it’s a lot like The Matrix, but with a computer-generated chimpanzee instead of Keanu Reeves. At least that one sounds like a trade up…

This film is basically one long special effect, involving a lot of apes. And I don’t mean to sound too negative here, the apes look really good. In fact, they’re so good, I actually wanted them to win. I’m not sure if I was supposed to want them to win… maybe I was. Or maybe I’m just not really a people person.

Anyway, you’ve been scratching your head since that first paragraph, wondering how this film could be so much like Limitless, Escape from Alcatraz and The Matrix… I don’t want to ruin the film for you so I’ll stick to information you probably already saw in the trailer. Given that this is an American film, the trailer basically condensed the entire plot (including the ending) into two and a half minutes of clips and soundbites. So here it is: Scientists develop a drug to cure the human brain of Alzheimer’s which they test on chimps with the unexpected side effect of a huge leap forward in intelligence which leads the chimps to become angry at being the playthings of humans and one particularly ugly chimp grows to love Jacobs crackers but that’s not really pertinent so anyway Freida Pinto is a vet who teams up with James Franco to babysit a chimp but that chimp does something naughty and gets put in an ape sanctuary run by Brian Cox who hates all apes and yet still runs an ape sanctuary… aaaand Franco’s chimp cunningly escapes the sanctuary and steals the clever drug to make the other apes clever and oh shit there’s a gorilla and the apes hate a black man and they also hate parking meters… aaaand they also hate windows and policemen and trees (which seems odd) and they’re all over San Francisco at this point and they’re even on the Golden Gate Bridge and holy hairy testicles, can that Gorilla really fly that helicopter or will this go horribly wrong? Damn, now I have to see this film to find out that one tiny and probably inconsequential detail they left out of the trailer…

I used to think a trailer was like a little teaser that left you with a ton of burning questions you really wanted to know the answers to, which would then spur you to go and watch the full length film… turns out a trailer is actually an exhaustive summary of THE ENTIRE STORY that makes you question whether it’s worth paying to see the rest. Okay.

So yeah, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it has a brain-enhancing drug like the one in Limitless, but apes make much better use of it than Bradley Cooper does. They, like, emancipate themselves and shit like that, whereas Bradley Cooper just gets really up himself and then falls out with Robert De Niro.

And also, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a lot like Escape from Alcatraz because the apes escape from a big building that isn’t actually Alcatraz but it’s in San Francisco so it’s kind of similar. And Clint Eastwood did those movies with the orangutan so in my head he’s quite strongly associated with apes. You may have gathered this film has a lot of apes.

And Rise of the Planet of the Apes is also like The Matrix because the apes have a similar IQ to Neo (until they take the drug that makes their brains bigger). Wait, I had a better reason than that… oh yeah, the apes find out that their entire world (the ape sanctuary) is actually a prison built by humans to keep them ignorant of the truth. Only, in this case, the truth isn’t that the world’s been taken over by evil robots or anything cool like that, no, the truth here is that there are lots of trees outside that humans don’t want the apes to climb. Damn dirty apes. But there’s no Agent Smith here, and I think that might be the main problem with this film; there isn’t really a bad guy we can easily identify and actively decide to hate. I mean, Brian Cox the menacing but ultimately lazy and indifferent ape sanctuary guy could have been it. The ugly ape who likes Jacob’s crackers could have been it. Nature definitely did not bless him in the looks department, and as Hollywood has tried to teach us over and over again; ugly people/apes are always bad. And yet the ugly ape never really gets his moment in the spotlight, he never gets to do anything particularly naughty (well he does kill that one drug company guy… but that guy’s a dick anyway so no one really cares). And then there’s James Franco’s angry neighbour, whose early fit of rage makes him a promising candidate, until it turns out his anger is justified when James Franco’s ape eats his finger. It’s almost like the filmmakers themselves couldn’t decide so they just kept playing around with different bad guys. In the end we’re left with this vague notion that the entire human race is the bad guy… so get ready to hate yourself.

As I may have mentioned already, this film features some very impressive apes. “But wait a second Adam, what about the people?” I hear you ask, “We’re people so we don’t really give a shit about apes, we can’t relate to them, we want a story about other people.”  Okay, fine. I can tell I’ve disappointed you deeply by telling you that a film entitled Rise of the Planet of the APES is about apes, not people. Calm down, there’s still a whole bunch of people. They just aren’t as impressive as the apes…

There’s John Lithgow, although he doesn’t really have a lot to do, apart from repeatedly failing at playing the piano (because he has Alzheimer’s) and crashing a car (because he has Alzheimer’s) and going out in his pyjamas (did you get the Alzheimer’s thing yet?). He also spends a lot of time talking to an ape. But I don’t think that’s because of his Alzheimer’s… There’s also James Franco, who pretty much just rehashes his role from Pineapple Express, but this time he’s engineering drugs rather than selling them. Although technically he does distribute drugs indirectly, by stealing them and carelessly leaving them in the fridge for curious apes to find. So maybe he is a drug dealer after all. Either way, he doesn’t really do much other than amble into a lot of stupidly dangerous situations looking a bit stoned… always a good combination. There’s also Freida Pinto, who really serves no purpose whatsoever in this film besides looking pretty (which she does a damn fine job of). At first I thought she was there to make Franco’s ape buddy all jealous to ramp up the tension… but it turned out the ape didn’t really seem to mind her. Neither did anyone else. To be honest, given the amount of acting she was required to do, and the impact of her character’s actions on the advancement of the plot, I would have preferred if they’d just spent Freida Pinto’s wages on an extra CGI ape… They probably could have done the same with James Franco. Even Brian Cox wouldn’t have been sorely missed. So humans didn’t really put on a good show here. In fact, they could have just left all the humans out of the whole thing and had a planet full of apes. Then they could have even streamlined the title and called it Planet of the Apes, instead of the overly wordy and B-movie-reminiscent Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Wait, no, they already did that film didn’t they? Yeah, the one with Charlton Heston where he’s on that planet with all the apes and then it turns out it was earth all along… oh shit, and the exact same thing happened to Mark Wahlberg… so it’s almost like this film was completely unnecessary.

Ah fuck it, the apes were cool.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is definitely a film for ape-lovers (not literally people who make love to apes… although they’ll probably enjoy it too). It’s not so much a film for people who love people, because it ultimately thinks we kinda suck. Mainly because we’re not nice to apes. The moral of the story here is that we should all be nice to apes. Otherwise at some point in the future they’ll annihilate our entire species. They won’t really want to, but we’ll force them into it by being such dicks. All the poor apes want to do is complete complex mathematical puzzles to show us how smart they are. And climb trees. They’re actually really peaceful and cool. But they’re still going to murder us all. And eat our fingers. Not even James Franco can stop them… well, he might be able to, if he actually puts in a bit of effort and stops leaving the Super Ape serum lying around in the fridge for anyone to find.

Latest Blog Posts

The Raid 2

Read my review of The Raid 2 which is really more of a story about how I fell asleep in the cinema. Not because of the film, I was just tired.

John Carter

Once again I felt compelled to watch a film that no one else on the planet seems to have seen despite an insanely pushy ad campaign and a universally indifferent response from critics. Is John Carter as mediocre as it’s cracked up to be? Actually no; it’s quite enjoyable if you’re looking for a bit of adventure with a lot of swordplay thrown in. My only concern is that if you look a little deeper Disney seem to be pushing some pretty questionable morality with this one...

Red Dawn

I can’t comment on whether Red Dawn is a successful remake because I haven’t seen the original, so all I’ll say is that the original film would have to be astoundingly bad to beat this... You know that moment when you’re at some form of social gathering and a stranger says something hilarious without realising it’s even remotely funny? That sums up Red Dawn.

Welcome to the Punch

I don’t really like James McAvoy but I gave him the benefit of the doubt just this once… and he didn’t prove me wrong. The film’s not all that bad though, mainly thanks to Mark Strong and Johnny Harris. Anyway, check out the post in which I mostly talk about beards.

Wrath of the Titans

Once again I have gone against my better judgment and spent almost two hours of my time watching a sequel to a film that disappointed me deeply… thankfully my faith was rewarded as the sequel, while not by any means perfect, was good enough to seem like a vast improvement over the Clash of the Titans remake. I realise that’s not really saying much. Read the review for more of this insightful commentary.