Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first major film from director Rupert Wyatt (other than The Escapee from 2008). It stars James Franco, a scientist living in San Francisco named Will who has been working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, a disease that has effected his father Charles (John Lithgow). Will’s team of scientists have been working on an antivirus that they have been testing on chimpanzees that regenerates brain cells, though in the chimps it makes them more intelligent, to nearly human levels.
The process goes awry when one of the chimps violently retaliates against the scientists and is killed after destroying the lab and board room. While initially thought to be a reaction of the antivirus, it was discovered that it was due to her protecting her newborn. Will’s boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders that the remaining chimpanzees be put down though lab attendant Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) can’t kill the baby chimp so he convinces Will to take it home. Will discovers the baby chimp has inherited the synthetic intelligence from his mother and begins to train him with sign language and raises him with the name Caesar (Andy Serkis). At this point, he takes his research him and out of desperation, tries the experimental drug on his father who sees nearly instant recovery from his Alzheimer’s disease.
While having never seen any of the original Planet of the Apes movies, I didn’t have any expectations for the storyline for this one though there are several references to the original films, a few of which come from Dodge Landon (Tom Felton), assistant at the primate care facility where Caesar is later sent to. It’s these direct references that give proper acknowledgement to the original films with its modern day setting.
While not merely an action film, the movie does have some decent action thanks to some awesome digital effects. I didn’t find myself constantly distracted by the chimpanzees’ unrealistic movements and actions. John Lithgow played a particularly strong role as Will’s father as a convincing Alzheimer’s sufferer but also as a caring person toward Caesar and his son.
Not a movie for the sake of showcasing destruction, Caesar becomes the leader of an entire population of chimpanzees that make their way through San Francisco but he isn’t reckless. This could be an important point to remember for the next installment of the new Planet of the Apes franchise, and of course there will be more as was made evident simply by the title of this one. When there’s a rise, there must be a fall.