apesAccording to the new, origin, Sci-Fi thriller, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it all started in a genetic engineering lab in San Francisco.

Whether you have seen the original movie or not, most are familiar with the final scene in the 1968 film PLANET OF THE APES. Plus there is the classic Heston line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Both of these moments are so engrained in cinematic history. But how did it all begin? According to the new, origin, Sci-Fi thriller, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it all started in a genetic engineering lab in San Francisco. Not sure this will sit perfectly well with die hard fans of the classic flick, but for summer movie goers, it’s not too bad.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a genius geneticist who is working hard on a cure for Alzheimer’s; in part because his father (John Lithgow) suffers from the devastating disease. When one of the test monkeys gives birth to a remarkably intelligent chimp, Rodman thinks the drug might be successful. But anyone familiar with Sci-Fi knows that there is no fun in that. Something has to go terribly wrong, and in this case it is a highly developed and extremely disgruntled ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis).

Though there are a few gaps in the continuity between this one and what is portrayed in the 1968 classic, there are several good things as well. For one the advancement in technology these last forty three years has done wonders for the onscreen beasts. What was then a big furry suit with a zipper up the back is now a seamless computer enhanced graphic that makes Caesar and his primate pals larger than life. Serkis made a name for himself as the lowly Gollum in the Lord of the Rings Trilogies, as well as Kong in the King Kong remake. Here the technique known as performance capture once again renders him into a memorable, detailed character. 

In fact, Caesar seems so real that you find yourself rooting for him. It is easy to forget that this is not a real animal but only a series of blue sensors. This lifelike transformation makes the film work on an emotional and adventurous level. Without it, the audience would be distracted by what might look fake and disjointed. Serkis adds movement and fluid gestures to make every part of Caesar riveting.

The writing was solid enough though nothing award winning. I appreciated the references to the classic. It paid tribute to it nice enough and tried to make the story line fit. Again it is sci-fi so you have to give it a little wiggle room. The action and suspense make up for any lack of depth in dialogue. The apes are fierce and when they finally decide that enough is enough the battle that ensues is forceful and attention grabbing. By that point you have started to admire as well as fear Caesar; a combination that makes the final scenes moving.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language. The main issue parents will consider is the violence and scary images. The apes are loud, aggressive, and ferocious when need be which would certainly frighten most of the 10 and under crowd. If you are a fan of the original I suggest going in to this with an open mind. Instead of expecting perfection appreciate a neat look at what “could have happened”. The effects are stellar and the action and story solid enough to make this a decent viewing. It gets 3.75 out of 5 jungle gyms. Being a huge admirer of the 1968 flick I wasn’t sure what to expect and was a little leery. But I walked away satisfied and got more than I bargained for.


Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.