Like many people, I was disappointed in Tim Burton‘s Planet of the Apes. I can see where he was trying to go with it, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth and the mouths of a lot of folks I’ve spoken with. So, when they announced that there was going to be another attempt at rebooting the franchise, I rolled my eyes. There was no way that people would make the attempt again. I didn’t see Rise of the Planet of the Apes in theaters. I think I was protesting or I just wasn’t into it. Who knows?
I was scrolling through the available movies on HBO Go last year and I found it. Well, it was there and I didn’t have to pay any extra money for it. Why not watch it, right?
Holy shit, you guys. It was good. No, not just good. Good doesn’t really do it justice. It was great. I’m going to do my best to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, but with the trailers for its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, all over the internet, you can probably guess a few things yourself.
All Will Rodman (James Franco) wanted was to find a cure for Alzheimer’s so he could help his ailing father, Charles Rodman (John Lithgow). As a scientist working for Steve Jacobs (David Oyelowo) at Gen-sys, he was experimenting on chimpanzees with a viral drug that they discover actually boosts cognitive function. A random turn of events brings Caesar (Andy Serkis) into Will’s life.It’s hard to raise a chimpanzee and Will ends up getting help from pretty chimp expert, Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto). Of course, the day eventually arrives when Will can no longer keep Caesar at home and he’s forced to hand him over to a primate shelter under the care of John Landon (Brian Cox) and his unpleasant son, Dodge (Tom Felton).
You can imagine how things went after that.
The thing that struck me about this movie was how it kept with one of the underlying themes of the original franchise. Mankind’s worst enemy is, as always, itself. In searching for a miracle drug, they end up unleashing some very unintended consequences. On top of that, the performances by the entire cast were fantastic, particularly John Lithgow’s. Man, oh man. He was just so good. While I’m giving kudos, I want to give credit to Andy Serkis’ mocapped performance as Caesar and the animators who brought the ape cast to life. The other theme that the film touched on was what it means to be a person. Caesar’s struggle as a smarter-than-the-average-ape in a world that treats him unfairly and underestimates him comes through the screen beautifully. There’s a surprising amount of depth in this movie.
I think what worked for this movie that didn’t work for Tim Burton’s attempted reboot was that they went back to a more basic story. I loved that they found a believable way to tell the story of how Earth became a planet of the apes. While we know how this story is going to end, watching their new take on the journey is fantastic. So, yes, while you may feel as I did once, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not checking this out.