I like doing these re-reviews. Alot of times I feel differently about a movie as I get older, or I notice new things after seeing it more than once, or I benefit from being removed from the context of the hype and the reactions I’d been hearing when it came out. But it’s a challenge too because it’s so easy to be redundant. More than once I wrote a draft of one of these and then read my old review and found out I unknowingly repeated an idea or even an exact phrase. Shit. Like I was doing I, ROBOT and I was real proud of this joke where I rewrote the 3 Laws of Robotics in my own way. Then it turned out I already did that years ago.
And as the gap narrows here at the end of the series it’s getting pretty ridiculous. This was only 2 years ago, and I haven’t gone off to live a quiet life in a monastery and stick fight in a remote village or anything like that. A man can only gain so much wisdom in that period of time, so my views haven’t really changed on the movie of THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES of the starring James Franco. It’s still a very enjoyable dumb man’s thinking man’s sci-fi.
In a way the many little things that already bothered me before are more distracting without the surprise of this being a decent movie. I still don’t like that director Rupert Wyatt treats certain characters as assholes as a cheat to make the audience more comfortable in siding with the protagonists. The prime example is the next door neighbor (David Hewlett), who we’re obviously supposed to hate in his various run-ins, even though in every single case he’s clearly 100% correct to be angry. First, a fucking ape is rampaging in his backyard where his children play. Second, a neighbor has gotten into his car and is ramming it back and forth between two other cars. Third, a stranger is in his side yard and then coughs blood in his face. Basically this man has had his castle violated by the neighbors in every way other than finding Franco jerking off onto his bed. But the filmatists go way out of their way to make you hate him in each of these scenes, amping up his douchiness and lack of empathy.
Wouldn’t it be way more dramatically interesting to just play it real, and acknowledge the guy as an innocent victim? Why not do that?
And I still think Franco (as the scientist who raises super-intelligent ape Caesar in his house) has a relationship with Freida Pinto that’s pretty weird. They’ve been together for 5 years and he hasn’t told her where Caesar came from and how he got so smart? Or that he’s treating his father with stolen experimental drugs? And she doesn’t get upset when she finds out? They just stay in perpetual honeymoon stage and don’t show any signs of aging as the years pass.
But I gotta say it still worked on me. Caesar’s situation is so sad and so is his “father”‘s. There’s no clean solution to this. To put a leash on Caesar is demeaning. As a sullen teen he sees a dog on a leash and starts questioning dad about whether or not he’s a pet. He’s too smart to be a pet, so he should never be on a leash. On the other hand, for the doctor to walk around in public with a full grown ape, one that has attacked people in the past (even bit a guy’s finger off), would be completely irresponsible. So he makes the honorable decision to let Caesar go off into the Redwoods to become his own man.
In a way maybe this leads to the inevitable war between man and ape, but oh well. A virus spreads across the world during the end credits. The humans were gonna be fucked either way.
I look forward to the sequel. I’m still kinda apprehensive about how much they’ll make the apes talk, but I’m not so against it anymore. It’s gonna have to be post-apocalyptic in a way (a virus has killed most of humanity and made apes intelligent) so they got no choice but to make it completely different movie from part 1.
Also I got some hopes for the director Matt Reeves, because he wrote UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY and directed the surprisingly good LET ME IN. I guess he also had something to do with that TV show they used to have called Felicity, so its star – Keri Russell I believe is her name? – will be in this in a human role. Jason Clarke from ZERO DARK THIRTY is also in there. And it’s cool that the supporting ape characters Koba, Rocket and Cornelia are gonna return. They stayed with Caesar I guess.
That would be cool if there’s a part where the humans are on the run, they’re heading south looking for shelter and they end up in Los Olivos, where they find Neverland Ranch. But it turns out Bubbles has gotten the ol’ green eyes, escaped from his primate shelter and returned home. And then it could be like HOME ALONE but with Bubbles setting traps for Jason Clarke and Keri Russell but then they make friends and go on the ferris wheel together and it ends with a remake of the “Beat It” video with Bubbles as Michael and the two gangs are man and ape and he tries to show them how to get along. I will be VERY surprised and disappointed if the movie is not exactly what I described right here. Your move, Hollywood. Don’t blow it.
Other than in dance, martial arts or parkour sequences I would be happy if they decide to do a little less jumping in the new one. The effects are so great but all the soaring ape shots kinda give the trick away. They look more real on the ground.
I said in my original review that I’d have to consider the politics some more. In these long two years I have not stumbled across a deeper understanding of anything that’s being said in the movie. As far as I can see it’s just taking the usual archetypes: well meaning scientist who gets too obsessed and does unethical experiments, greedy corporatist who cares more about profits than safety and ethics. I don’t think it’s saying anything heartfelt about science, it’s just saying what you’re supposed to say in any sci-fi story. The idea of an Alzheimer’s drug that restores memories sounds far fetched, but I’ve actually heard of one that they were hoping would do that. I don’t think it panned out though. Maybe this is true, maybe they were worried about superapes.
It’s kinda funny how standard it is for movies to try to make us scared of trying to cure diseases. I know they don’t mean it as a serious message, but it’s always there. I wonder, has there been a real life case where experiments trying to cure cancer, AIDs, etc. led to some terrible virus or other disastrous consequence? I know it hasn’t made monsters, zombies or super-intelligent apes yet, but is this “tread lightly, don’t play God by trying to cure diseases” a legitimate scientific concern, or just a lazy sci-fi cliche? I’m leaning toward the second one. But I guess I can’t knock it if it works so well.
Well, I’m not gonna try to stretch this one out. I probly said enough the first time. Griff, go ahead and give us your fond memories of those bygone days of twenty-eleven.
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other movies that came out that summer: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, SUPER 8, GREEN LANTERN, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS AND PART 2, CAPTAIN AMERICA IS: THE FIRST AVENGER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN
highest grossing movie that year: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.