Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Released in Theaters: August 5, 2011
Genre:Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Prequel
Runtime: 105 minutes
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Cast:James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine
Official Site: http://www.apeswillrise.com/
SYNOPSIS: Set in present day San Francisco, James Franco plays a genetic engineer whose experiments lead to smarter apes and the beginnings of a war for supremacy.
Sex/Nudity: Some flirting and a few kisses. A couple lives together and is shown sleeping in bed, though it’s unclear whether they’re married.
Violence/Gore: Quite a bit for a PG-13 movie. The movie opens with poachers trapping apes in nets and chasing them with guns and machetes. A lab ape gets aggressive and runs rampant through a science lab before being shot and killed. An ape bites the hand of a neighbor who’s harassing a member of the ape’s human family. A human treats apes badly at a primate facility, poking them, calling them names, and spraying them with water from a hose. A man is electrocuted when an ape sprays him with water just as he activates an electric stunning device. A climactic showdown features hundreds of apes attacking cars and people on the San Francisco bridge. An ape attacks a helicopter and a man falls into the water as the helicopter goes down. Apes throw people over the bridge, use spears as weapons, and one dies protecting his leader. An older man with Alzheimer’s gets confused and eventually dies in his sleep. A contaminated man dies from a mysterious virus.
Profanity: One use of sh*t, as well as infrequent uses of “damn,” “hell,” and “ass.”
Drugs/Alcohol: Workers at a primate shelter are shown with drinks in their hands.
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 14 and older familiar with the original Planet of the Apesmovies, or who like sci-fi action movies.
Will Parents Like It? It’s very entertaining, especially if you’ve seen the original Planet of the Apes films and catch the little nuances here and there. It’s somewhat violent for a PG-13 movie, though, which is why I don’t recommend it for kids younger than 14.
REVIEW: I recently watched a gripping documentary called Project Nim, about a social experiment started in 1973 wherein a chimp, named Nim Chimpsky, is sent to live with a human family and raised as if he were a human baby. But the researchers seemed to have no idea how to go about it, and although the chimp did learn some sign language, he grew into an aggressive ape and eventually ended up in a drug testing facility and then a caged sanctuary for primates. The scientists did practically everything wrong, starting with taking the chimp from his real mother when he was just a baby.
I couldn’t help but think about that film as I was watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the Planet of the Apesmovies back in the 1960s and 70s. In this case, a chimp named Caesar takes on the Nim Chimpsky role and is raised in the home of Will Rodman (James Franco), a genetic researcher who’s working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, which his dad Charles (John Lithgow) suffers with. In both cases, they’re treading dangerous ground.
But let’s back up a bit. The movie begins with apes being captured in the wild and taken to a lab to be used for testing Will’s drug, designed to help the brain heal itself. It not only does that, but actually makes the subject smarter, so when his star testing ape gains superior intelligence, he goes berserk and wreaks havoc in the lab, which results in the company boss (David Oyelowo) ordering that all of the chimps be put down.
That’s when the newborn chimp is found and taken home by Will. Charles immediately becomes attached to the chimp and names him Caesar after the book he’s reading, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Turns out that Caesar, played with motion-capture awesomeness by GollumAndy Serkis, is really smart because he was exposed to the drug while in his mom’s womb.
After Caesar defends Charles and bites a neighbor, Will is forced to surrender him to a caged primate shelter, where he’s abused by one of the workers (Tom Felton) and rebels. Because Caesar is really smart, he’s able to track down more of the drug, expose the other apes to it, and lead them out into the world, where they engage in a climactic showdown with humans on the San Francisco Bridge.
Never mind that what seemed like just a handful of apes in the facility suddenly turns into hundreds on the bridge. That’s just a minor blip in this otherwise entertaining and engaging film. James Franco takes a lot of flack for his roles lately, but I continue to love his work and he WAS nominated for an Oscar for 127 Hours.
John Lithgow never turns in a bad performance, and Freida Pinto does a good job with her unsure-about-the-whole-experiment veterinarian character. Tom Felton, best known as bad-boy Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, once again does justice to a nefarious role as the abusive worker at the primate facility. You want him to get what’s coming to him, and I’ll just leave it at that.
I love how they bring in little bits of trivia from the original films. Felton’s character, Dodge Landon, is a reference to fellow astronauts Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Landon (Robert Gunner), and during Caesar’s early life with Will, you see him playing with a little Statue of Liberty toy.
This movie works for a lot of reasons: the acting, attention to detail, great special effects from Weta Digital, the blending of family drama and sci-fi action, and the fact that medical experiments which alter animal development are already a reality. The chilling end, which alludes to how the apes rise to rule the earth, has me pining for a sequel.
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM:
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Syndicate her family movie & TV reviews in your publication; visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email firstname.lastname@example.org.