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Sometime during the paleolithic era. Ok I’ll skip ahead

I suppose on some level we’re fascinated with where we came from and unless you didn’t crawl out from under a rock there is a general consensus that we evolved from apes. So, a whole lot of years ago, someone started making movies about what it would be like if Apes ruled the planet. They were B movies but a lot of fun and in a simpler time they played well.
Oh sure, the apes were clearly people in ape suits, with awkward movement and weird hum-ape faces. Special effects weren’t quite what they were back in the day. A lot was left to the imagination.
In 2001 director Tim Burton remade the original with, I think, mixed results. It didn’t have the punch this one does. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a really good watch.
It has the benefit of being able to tell a new story and they tell it well. It’s the prequel, so the world is their story board.
Once again, it’s a simple tale. James Franco is a scientist working on a regeneration drug that could cure Alzheimers, and of course, they’re testing it on chimps. The drug works well but when a chimp acts like an animal at a board meeting ALZ112 is called off. Yep, they never saw that coming. Undaunted, Will (Franco) takes some of the serum home to try on his dad who is in the grips of that terrible disease. The results are profound. Full reversal. The good doctor, who has ethics that make me look Ghandi-like, also brings home the son of one of the test chimps  Mom died but the son Caesar, is a bright little thing. He looks after Will’s dad, and becomes a member of the household.
Of course if that were the end of the story this would be a 30 minute movie so we need some turning points in the plot.
Well ALZ112 has a short-term impact and Wills’ dad is regressing. He tries to drive but only manages to drive into the car parked in front and behind him. This enrages one of the neighbiours who puts hands on him, which enrages Caesar, who defends pops.
This lands Caesar in animal jail and it’s on.
Will can’t get him out right away so that opens the door to Caesar interacting with the other chimps and gorillas. Poor peer pressure kicks in. Meanwhile, a sadistic guard at the compound drives Caesar even deeper into his contempt of most things human.
While Caear stews in monkey jail, Will is working on an even more agrressive drug, ALZ113, which has remarkable results and gets his boss at the drug company all sexed up to go full speed ahead. Will urges caution but of course that would make for a boring movie and it’s just a matter of time before there’s an accident. Turns out ALZ113 makes the chimps smarter but it has a very negative impact on humans. As in it kills them. Kills them dead. Oh, and did I mention that it’s very contagious?
I’m not going to go into the other elements of the story but I will say it’s a really good film. Franco is quickly becoming one of those very interesting actors who can take a role and just make it his own. He was the whole point in 127 Hours. I thought he was a good watch in this film. The apes are chillingly real, which makes the entire premise believable.
The story works.
There are flaws. The love interest is completely gratuitous. There’s more chemistry between Will and his boss than the two of them.
Also, for a locked security compound with closed-circuit cameras, Caesar has more freedom to come and go than Hogan did back at Stalag 13. Apparently you have to fail an aptitude test before you can work in animal care in the US.
Of course no movie is complete without a few ridiculously improbable stunts, but that’s all forgivable.
I think the director chose to end it at the right point. We can see how the end will come, even if he doesn’t completely spell it out for us.
I really enjoyed this film and initially I thought I wouldn’t. It’s like watching the Superbowl after you know your team has lost. Why would you want to watch monkeys enslave us?
Well go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and you’ll get the answer.
It’s surprisingly strong.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: Paul Peterson

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