PG-13, 105 min.
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Pierre Boulle (novel “The Planet of the Apes”)
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Richard Ridings, Chris Gordon, Jay Caputo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Ty Olsson, David Hewlett
Sometimes I hold back on star ratings because I just feel like I can’t be handing out four stars left and right. Also, I often just love a movie and hold back because I don’t think others will see it the same way. As a critic that’s really going against my job, which is to point out what others may not see in a movie whether it be good or bad.
As I recall, I took a star away from this movie only because it embraces an action element in its final act. The thing is the plot of the film wholly supports the action sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge. Everything about it comes from elements that have come before in the film. It establishes the apes as the “good guys” were this a more traditional movie. But then, it really isn’t.
Watching it with my boys, I found the younger of the two simply had to break it down to good guys and bad guys. At first I told him that there really weren’t any good guys or bad guys in this, but then by the end I recanted and told him it seemed the apes really were the good guys. Humanity, in its apparent need to advance in science and in its own selfish nature to never accept what we are given pushes too far sometimes. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a cautionary tale for that behavior just as the 1968 original “Planet of the Apes” was, although that one concentrated more on our nature towards war.
“Rise” cleverly takes something none of us would consider to be an ignoble or dangerous goal and shows us how our ambition and greed can lead to our demise. Ultimately, the virus created to fight Alzheimer’s that is the real threat to man, not the apes. We’re busy concentrating on the wrong problem. Everybody is up in arms about Cesar, the ape, being treated as a human when what will annihilate us hits us from behind. Meanwhile, Cesar’s struggle is also a mirror to man’s necessity for freedom. He achieves it by winning a power struggle amongst his own kind first.
Cesar’s battle against man is not personal. He wishes no man any harm. He just wants a place to live with his brethren. That fact that this coincides with the virus taking out most of humanity is merely coincidence. The fact that man created the serum that sent the apes up this evolutionary leap as that same virus that wiped us from the planet shows us the folly of playing God. It’s hard for action to get much deeper than this. Hell, good drama rarely reaches this level of complexity. This is a great movie.