Hollywood has come a long way, baby. The days of prosthetic makeup are becoming a thing of the past. The newest, most shiny way to create the world of make-believe is digital visual effects. Weta digital is a leader in the industry with several big budget movies under its belt including the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, District 9, Avatar, King Kong, and the most recent simian centered film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The 1968 Planet of the Apes was revolutionary for its time. It featured people dressed as apes including fairly convincing prosthetics on the face and body. Rise of the Planet of the Apes gives new life to the Apes that take over our planet.
Andy Serkis, the man behind the monkey, has loaned his extraordinary talents and love of acting to films like Lord of the Rings (Gollum), King Kong, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes as Caesar. Serkis wears a complex suit designed to record his every move so that it can be placed on Caesar’s face and body in the film to give him the most realistic movements and mannerisms possible. Caesar is the baby of an Ape called Bright Eyes. She earned her name due to the one side effect of ALZ-112: a green tinting of the iris. Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) has designed the drug to cure Alzheimer’s which his father, Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from. The drug is tested on Bright Eyes who exhibits remarkable improvements in intelligence. During a feeding, Bright Eyes – who is normally pretty tame – goes ape shit. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)
Bright Eyes is taken down before any further damage can be done to Gen-Sys, the facility where Rodman works. When Franklin (Tyler Labine), the chimp handler, is told he must put down the remaining apes, he reluctantly does so until he makes a disturbing discovery: Bright Eyes had given birth before she died. Unable to bring himself to put down the baby, he hands him over to Will.
Will takes the baby home and ends up giving him a name and making room for Caesar in his life. Will discovers by looking at the green in Caesar’s eyes – the same side effect from ALZ-112 that his mother had – that because Caesar’s mother was exposed to the drug he is an ALZ-112 baby. Caesar has a room in the attic where he has toys and everything a young ape could ever want. He stares out the window in his room at the children outside until one day he ventures out to play. When he is injured, Will takes him to the doctor at the zoo who just happens to be the gorgeous and sweet Caroline (Freida Pinto).
Time passes and Caesar grows bigger and stronger and starts to wonder why he must stay in the house all the time. After an incident with some neighbors, Will realizes that it’s time for Caesar to have interaction with other chimps. He and Caroline take Caesar to a facility that introduces chimps like Caesar to other primates in a safe environment.
We come to find out that it is not safe and that the boy who watches over the chimps – feeding them and allowing them play time – is, for lack of a better phrase – a little shithead. But he’ll get his. In a showdown with Caesar, the little shithead is trying to put on a show for the other apes. He’s trying to show them who’s boss. Well, Caesar has already exposed the others to a more potent version of the drug and formed a loyalty. He grabs the little shithead’s arm and homage is paid to Planet of the Apes when the little shithead says “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
This is when things really get good. Caesar and the rest of the apes free themselves from their cages and escape into San Francisco. They go to Gen-Sys and free the other chimps there, they go to the zoo and free the ones there as well. Now we have a bunch of angry gorillas and the like terrorizing downtown San Francisco.
A co-worker of mine asked me the other day, “Couldn’t the military stop them? I mean, they are trained in guerrilla warfare, aren’t they?” He then dropped to his knees, tears in his eyes, laughing.
No, no the military could not stop them. They are super-smart and they are much bigger and faster than we are. It is fantastic watching the story behind the chilling Planet of the Apes and wondering what if.
This movie is frightening. Especially because it has been discovered that chimps in the West African Savannah have been discovered sharpening sticks and using them to hunt. You want to know what I think? You’ve read this far, so I assume that you do. I think that the feces flinging is all an act. Primates have us all figured out and are just waiting for the right moment. They have shown that they can be dangerous, and even deadly. My advice to you? Stock up on cookies. They love cookies.