Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A prequel that pretty much delivers


Rise of the Planet of the Apes can be considered apart from its cinematic forebearers, I think. Possibly you recall them: Planet of the Apes, the provocative 1968 monkey-suit classic, with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall; that film's four silly sequels; and Tim Burton's inconsequential 2001 remake of the original movie. This latest Apes is a prequel—no shuddering, please—and it does a good job of setting up a whole new franchise. The visual effects, by Peter Jackson's Weta Digital, are a substantial advance in that field; and the picture's extraordinary star turn by Andy Serkis, already renowned for bringing Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings films, raises once again the question of why a superb motion-captured performance isn't eligible for an Oscar.  

Serkis is the best reason to see the movie. Playing the lead ape beneath a seductively persuasive digital simian overlay, he conveys exuberance, disappointment, despair and menace with all the emotional shadowing that might normally be expected of an actor unencumbered by computer tracking. It's a wondrous accomplishment.

The serviceable script, by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, starts with genetic researcher Will Rodman (James Franco) conducting experiments with a new serum that has shown promise of being a cure for Alzheimer's—the dementia with which Will's father (John Lithgow) happens to be afflicted. The testing program is being funded by a genetics outfit run by a standard corporate greedhead named Jacobs (David Oyelowo). The test subjects, of course, are chimpanzees. The experiments go well until something awful happens, as you know it must, and Jacobs orders all of the test chimps destroyed. But a kindly chimp minder (Tyler Labine) saves one of the animals—a newborn—and gives it to Will for safekeeping. Will takes the hairy tyke home and names it Caesar (played by Serkis even at this childlike stage of the character's development).

The story advances with some invention, if little in the way of real surprise. We see that Caesar has inherited serum-heightened brain function from his late test-chimp mother. He becomes adept at sign language, among other things. Meanwhile, Will is administering the serum to his dad, and it works wonders—for a while. Then something else awful happens, and Will is forced to turn Caesar in to an animal pound which apparently specializes in apes. The place is a dank, oppressive prison, overseen by a sadistic warder named Dodge (Tom Felton, deploying the same malevolent sneer he used as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films). Dodge addresses his miserable charges with lines like "stupid monkey" and "you damn dirty ape," and we very soon feel a jailbreak coming on.

Apart from cliché characters like Dodge and Oyelowo's Jacobs, Will also has a girlfriend (Freida Pinto) whose presence in the story is entirely tacked-on. (She exists to utter lines like "This is wrong, Will," and not much else.) But Franco brings his characteristic warm concern to the proceedings (his Will is essentially an observer of the film's several alarming events); and Serkis, as I say, gives a terrific performance, convincing us of Caesar's sentient pre-humanity even when the script compels him to converse with less-elevated apes in voiceless subtitles.

As for the groundbreaking visual effects, they allow the situating of large numbers of rampaging mo-capped apes in practical locations (among them, the Golden Gate Bridge) in broad daylight, with little blurry-cam cheating. You marvel at the complex artistry of these sequences even when they go on a bit too long.

The movie is high-level pulp of a more-than-usually entertaining sort. And its final scenes, which naturally prefigure at least one sequel, are intriguing—we might actually want to see what else could be done with this revamped tale. Unfortunately, any further iterations would logically have to lead us, somewhere down the road, to yet another rehash of the original Planet of the Apes. And you wonder how many people, at this late date, might really want to see that again. Which is not to say they couldn't take this one for what it is—big-budget summer sci-fi—and have a perfectly fine time.

Kurt Loder is a writer living in New York. His third book, a collection of film reviews called The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, will be published in November by St. Martin's Press.

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  1. Good evening reason! This is the most blatant anti-Obama bigotry ever.

    1. Slow clap, madam. Slow clap.

    2. Wait…did you leave for the same reason Joe left?

      1. joe left because it was easy to make potshots at the republicans in power, but once the democrats came in and either did the same things or made it worse, it got a lot harder on him

    3. Obama being raised by James Franco would explain some of his “ideas” about economics…

    4. Shut up Suki, you’re dead.

  2. Where’s the review on “The Change-Up”?

    1. The Change-Up changes up the typical buddy comedy and is the funniest movie of the year! LOL

  3. I think this one can be safely placed in the unbelievability of the Jurassic park type.

    How fucking hard is it to shoot an ape?

    1. It’s apparently pretty damned easy- that what the WWF says anyway.

    2. That’s the part I don’t get from the previews. They show all of these apes with spears on top of buildings as if this is supposed to be ominous.

      Are you telling me that emergency response would have a hard time finding trigger happy SWAT goons who are needed to shoot rebellious monkeys?


      1. apes are not dogs

        1. Since adult male chimps are brutal killers who would just as soon bite your face off as look at you, maybe the police don’t shoot them because they’re too busy trying to recruit them instead.

          1. Idiots! Cops are pigs, not apes.
            Get with the program.

            1. Maybe they’re apemen

      2. Chimps are fucking dangerous. I don’t care if you have a gun, if they can be on you before you can use it, they will tear your arms off and break your spine.

        Now, obviously shooting them from a distance is different. But chimps are retarded strong. You know, like tard strength. But full tard strength.

        1. So are elephants, but we’d have no problem hunting them to extinction if we really wanted to.

        2. According to Daniel Tosh, a retarded chimp is a borderline superhero.

          1. Hi. This is Wilford Brimley. Welcome to Retardation: A Celebration. Now, hopefully with this book, I’m gonna dispel a few myths, a few rumors. First off, the retarded don’t rule the night. They don’t rule it. Nobody does. And they don’t run in packs. And while they may not be as strong as apes, don’t lock eyes with ’em, don’t do it. Puts ’em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming “No, no, no” and all they hear is “Who wants cake?” Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.

            1. Ooh ooh, say “diabeetis!”

    3. It’s not the non-shooting that is unbeleivable. It’s the immense number of apes. How many chimpanzees can there possibly be in an “ape pound”? At least the original started with the premise of lots of apes.

      1. I was thinking this too. Where the hell did all these apes come from? Aren’t they nearly extinct?

        Then again, maybe someone funded this movie in the hopes that it would do to apes what “Jaws” did to sharks. Damned dirty apes.

    4. The easier something seems, the harder it actually is. Remember that.

      1. That makes no sense at all.

    5. Last year there were over 14 MILLION hunting permits issued in the United States alone! The only REAL problem would be finding enough taxidermists to stuff and mount all those fucking chimps!

      Monkeys rise up, President declares open season, Forestry Service PRAYS that trigger happy citizenry doesn’t kill everything ELSE in the wild, crappy monkey themed merchandise appears at Wal-Mart, and story ends with sudden increase in “stir fry surprise specials” at the more seedy Chinese restaurants!

      Fuck me, all the chimp slaughter would probably get turned into reality TV followed up by the occasional greenie protest!

      And the PORNO, if they can make REAL LIFE Planet of the Apes Porn Parodies, then I’m more than ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY certain that Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy will be butt fucking monkeys on camera in six months followed up by some SCOTUS ruling on whether or not if gang rapping a super chimp would count as bestiality or sexual assault!

      With all of the PERVERTS in America, the sad truth will probably be that most of the poor apes will meet their end in some lonely maniac’s basement with a ball gag shoved in their mouth!

      1. Didn’t know that Caligula was a Reasonoid…

  4. I groaned when I saw that this was being made –

    – but it’s looking like it might actually be watchable.

    It’s basically SPARTACUS for chimps. And I kind of like the idea of SPARTACUS for chimps.

      1. is it “damn dirty ape” or “damned dirty ape” gramatically speaking?

        1. Spencer, you remember how I promised to kill you last?

          I lied.

        2. I can see loyal cover is not something I’m going to get from libertarians. I expected a chorus of “No, I am a damn dirty ape” from my comrades but instead I get grammatical queries.

          I believe it’s “damned, dirty ape” (unless the ape was damned dirty) but that’s not what Taylor said in that net. The stinking paws might have rattled him.

        3. Honey badger doesn’t give a shit about your grammar-nazi…

          Oh, wrong meme.

          Never mind.

    1. This is simply a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes with a different title and no Ricardo Montalban. You’ll recall that Ceasar was the name of his circus ape friend don’t you, and he would welcome the coming rise of the ape overlords.

      But still this does look good.

  5. Although I will say that the idea of a sadistic prison for chimps really stretches credulity for me. (That’s right – even more than the “superintelligent ape leads simian assault on San Francisco” bit.) Large chimp shelters tend to be labors of love.

    1. Hey, I’ll believe you getting from A-Z if A-B, B-C, etc. are believable. I’m with you on this one.

      1. I hate every chimp I see, from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-zee.

    2. After all SF has done for animals with the banning of pet stores and whatnot and having a Congressional rep who makes them look even better by comparison, I find it hard to believe these guys would go after that city.

      1. Dude, apes throw shit. I give them a pass if they aren’t up to date on politics.

        1. I’d be much more inclined to go see this movie if one of the scenes was of the apes mounting a massive shit-throwing attack.

        2. Apes Libertarians throw shit. I give them a pass if they aren’t up to date on politics human.

        3. So a small band of monkeys who are unable to discern potential human friends from foes are going to lead a revolution against 6 billions humans? Hell, they could’ve turned northern California to their cause with almost no effort.

    3. “Although I will say that the idea of a sadistic prison for chimps really stretches credulity for me.”

      Don’t underestimate the power of the profit-motive.

      Besides, it’s a lot more credible than the government sending a space station full of chimps to Saturn…

    4. Although I will say that the idea of a sadistic prison for chimps really stretches credulity for me.

      Pelican Bay?

  6. It looks interesting, but how exactly do the apes takeover? It’s not like Blader Runner, I,Robot, or Battlestar Galactica where the machines are already depicted as being large in number and in a position to stage a coup against humanity. The previews make the uprising seem no worse than an urban riot.

    1. Well if you watched the old school Planet of the Apes, you would know that there were monkey servants all over human civilization. Then Caesar (the son of Cornelius and Zira) rallies all the money servants to kill their masters and take over.

      Yeah, sorry, it’s a little hazy for me. I haven’t seen 4 or 5 recently. They were really bad from what I vaguely remember.

      1. Wouldn’t this sort of behavior give one pause about having a lot of monkey servants around?

        1. Are you kidding? I’d buy a monkey servant, replete with suit and top hat, in a second. It would be the ultimate: a monkey butler. Just think of it!

          “Get the door, Jeeves.”

          “OOHH AHAHA OOHH”

          “I see that Warty has arrived. Show him in.”

          1. Hey! Give me back Mr. Teeny!

            1. “Fine. Come on, Mr. Teeny. Let’s go to Old Navy. Maybe somebody there will get me started.”

          2. “Get the door, Jeeves.”

            Fail. Jeeves never had to be asked. He was there before the knock.

            1. +1 for knowledge of P. G. Wodhouse.

              (Jeeves also wasn’t a damn butler!)

          3. Right up until Jeeves and his bad-influence monkey friends beat you to death in your sleep.

            If hyper-intelligent dolphins rose up and started killing swimmers, I’d be disinclined to hire one as a lifeguard no matter how cool it might seem.

        2. Smithers, this monkey is going to need most of your skin

    2. Maybe this is REALLY what happens in 12 monkeys and the sadistic scientist was just a ruse.

    3. Aliens did this right. They had only a few Marines against a shit load of Aliens….the Marines did kick ass for most of the movie and in fact won by nuking the site from orbit.

      1. If this involves nuking SF, I can see the upside.

    4. What is the apes’ position on the debt ceiling?

      1. “What is the apes’ position on the debt ceiling?”

        Once upon a time, some scientists placed three monkeys in a room. In the center of the room they placed a short staircase. At the top, the scientists hung a bunch of bananas from the debt ceiling.

        Whenever a monkey tried to climb the stairs to get the bananas, the scientists sprayed the other two with a fire hose, much to their dislike. After many repeated dousings, the monkeys took to beating the monkey that tried to climb the stairs. Eventually, the monkeys stopped trying to get the bananas, and the scientists put away the hose.

        After a while the scientists replaced one of the monkeys with a new one. The original two monkeys violently protested any attempts by the newcomer to climb the stairs, and she quickly quit trying. One by one, the scientists replaced the other two monkeys, leaving no original participants.

        As new monkeys were introduced, they in turn were beaten and learned the rules. Although they had never been sprayed or even seen the hose, the monkeys continued beating each other for climbing the stairs.

        Why? Because that’s the way they’d always done things.

      2. What will it take to get their votes?

  7. It’s my understanding that the apes don’t actually take over, and that taking over is not the point of the San Francisco event depicted in the trailers.

    1. So it’s “Rise of the planet of a hundred or so intelligent apes mixed with 6 billion humans and counting”?

  8. a genetics outfit run by a standard corporate greedhead


    1. What do you have against greed?

      Turn in your libertarian credentials at the door.

  9. I like this line from the Village Voice rave for this film:

    “…the age-old rivalry between gorilla and helicopter…”

    That just makes me LOL.

    1. The ape in Iceman worshiped the helicopter….

      …plus Timothy Hutton.

  10. I hate every ape I see
    From chimpan-a to chimpan-zee
    No you’ll never make a monkey out of me

    1. Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius,
      Oh oh oh Dr. Zaius!

    2. Oh my god! I was wrong!
      It was Earth, all along.
      You finally made a monkey
      Yes we finally made a monkey
      Yes you finally made a monkey out of me!

  11. How come Loder never reviews Beautiful Girl on The Toilet 2 – Secret Excrement?

    1. WIN


    2. Where’s the thread that Japanese weirdo director savant became all the rage on H&R?

    3. Why wasn’t it SugarFree that posted this? That’s what I want to know.

    4. He’s goofy-looking.

  12. As a remedy to this I’m going to watch that BBC clip of the anaconda falling from the tree and strangling the monkey. Jesus that monkey screams like a bastard. And the way its face bloats …

  13. If I ever got a chimp butler, I’d also have to get a wife to clean up all the feces thrown on the walls. It just doesn’t turn into performance art as I’d hoped.

    1. I’d also have to get a wife to clean up all the feces thrown on the walls

      Too much information.

    2. I’d also have to get a wife to clean up all the feces thrown on the walls.

      The monkey’s or yours?

  14. Escape was pretty good, easily the best besides the original. All the others sucked, though.

    1. Seriously? You forget the cinematic triumph of Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

  15. 1. It’s “forebears,” not “forebearers.”

    2. Has Mr. Loder never seen Battle for Planet of the Apes? He seems to think that this prequel idea is something new.

    1. 2. be fair. he probably TRIED to watch it.

    2. Bear in mind, Reason apparently hired him because he has old school hipster cred, not that he actually knows anything about what he’s writing about.

      I mean seriously, how do you review a movie that is a remake and be completely unaware of the nature of the originals?

  16. disclaimer: I liked all the originals.

    Yeah yeah, the production is cheesy as hell….but they had such a mood to them. The discordant music and the clash between verdant green areas and desolate wastelands.

    Wonder if netflix has all 5 on Instant….

    1. I’m with you man

      1. Ditto. Of course, I was a kid when they came out, but loved them.

        James Franciscus and Charlton NRA for the wins lulz!

        PS When are they going to remake “The Omega Man”? And I mean, “The Omega Man” – NOT “I Am Legend”. I’m picturing Kurt Russell (circa “Death Proof”) in the Charlton Heston lead role. In the orig when he takes the Mustang from the dealer and drives it? #WINNING

    2. “Wonder if netflix has all 5 on Instant….”

      not in canada, netflix in canada has nothing you want to see

  17. I REALLY LIKE your idea for a Motion Capture Performance Oscar.

    Just realized that this would be a great replacement for defunct awards like sound editing and makeup.

    There does need to be some kind of recognition for voice acting in animated features and motion capture performances. Lack of recognition for voice actors is a longstanding deficit.

    Same with Golden Globes. Instead of Drama vs. Comedy/Musical, it could be Live Action vs. Animated/Voice performances. It’s a distinction that makes a lot more sense than the Comedy/Drama one.

    1. Wouldn’t motion capture awards be under the same category as martial arts choreography though? Is there an award for that?

    2. Sound editing is defunct? Since when? Did you see (hear) Children of Men? The sound editing in that was incredible.

      1. no

      2. hear it? I didn’t even see it.

      3. God damn it, everyone I know worships that moveie. All I know is, it was pretty meh, just like all of Clive Owen’s work (On Topic: Clive Owen is an apeman).

        1. Racist! How can you object to a feel good movie where the plot is about black immigrants saving the day by shitting out kids in a welfare state eager to have them!

        2. The movie was pretty anti-authoritarian since the police state is a manifestation of the hopelessness of a society doomed to extinction.

          And those long-takes were jaw-droppingly good.

          1. Yeah they were long, but the content was pretty boring, I can’t even remember the plot, besides a miraculously pregnant baby. I think I fell asleep in the middle, and then I woke to a part where they’re on a ship or something… Just a very forgettable movie.

          2. Yeah they were long, but the content was pretty boring, I can’t even remember the plot, besides a miraculously pregnant black girl. I think I fell asleep in the middle, and then I woke to a part where they’re on a ship or something… Just a very forgettable movie.

          3. Yeah they were long, but the content was pretty boring, I can’t even remember the plot, besides a miraculously pregnant black girl. I think I fell asleep in the middle, and then I woke to a part where they’re on a ship or something… Just a very forgettable movie.

            1. FUCK OFF SQUIRRELS!

              1. Hey, that is squirrel genius – particularly the out of sequence time stamps!

            2. Perhaps you should rewatch it? Because two scenes stand out to me: the scene where the car they’re riding in is ambushed and the scene where Clive Owen carries the baby down the steps of the apartment building during a fierce battle. Both were masterfully staged.

              1. i agree. it was just meh.

                give me doomsday any day of the week. far less pretentious, and more entertaining

              2. The latter was an amazing shot and is mostly what I remember about the movie. But one (or two) shots, even if they’re several great minutes, does not an epic movie make.

  18. I can’t stand monkey pictures. The first King Kong, an antique, no one would watch it except it is old. The second King Kong, crap. The third King Kong, motion capture crap. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, deluxe motion capture crap.

    1. Gorilla Beringei-ist / Pan Trogolodyte-ist!!!

    2. Reason TV isn’t bad.

  19. Do not , for one repulse , give up the purpose that you resolved to effect .

  20. Just make sure notto gve a chimp an AK-47

    1. That should be a LOADED AK-47.

      1. Don’t you mean Ape-K-47?

  21. The monkey rebels aren’t unionized. Fucking slaves of the corporate machine. Fuck them all.

    Intrinsically paternalistic fucking monkeys.

    1. Yes sir, Mr. Damon, sir, you are correct.

  22. There is to be no volunteers cleaning up da cages. We will be looking into da chimp scout what done cleaned up dis here cage.

  23. so it’s not a documentary?

    1. According to my local theater website:

      “Rise of the Apes” is an origin story in the truest sense of the term. Set in present day San Francisco, the film is a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.


  24. There used to be a site of galleries of apes carrying women from movie posters and pulp covers. I’ve forgotten the URL and my searches are futile. If anyone finds it please let me know.

  25. Will there be a review of “30 Minutes Or Less”?

  26. I strongly object to the faint praise for the original POTA, a genuine classic of space-age Hollywood, and to the uncalled-for insult to the original batch of sequels. They may have varied widely in quality but they had a pleasing time-travel loop, they always contained at least a few moments of crazy-man-crazy paradox and, no matter how bad the overall movies became, they invariably delivered memorable lines like “Ape shall never kill ape” and “Because I loathe bananas!” Plus Ricardo Montalban as a kindly circus master. What’s not to like?

    I think this prequel should have traded the corporate greed plot for Hollywood self-criticism. The apes rebel against the DGA over blatant work-rule bigotry: Clint Eastwood has directed a thousand movies while Clyde hasn’t been allowed to helm even one.

    1. I’m sure I’ve seen a few that Clyde directed. Or maybe it was Cheeta.

  27. Since the apes in this movie actually don’t (and couldn’t possibly) take over the world, I think the title is just a little misleading.

    I suggest:

    The Ape-rising

  28. The problems with this movie are

    1) genetic drug therapy doesn’t affect your DNA at the reproductive level. Ceasar’s mom may have been smarter, but he’ll still genetically be a regular chimpanzee.

    2) There are only about 1000 chimps and gorillas in captivity in the US, and the number in labs is very limited and controlled. I doubt there are more than 50 great apes in the San Fran area, much less the number we see in the film.

    3) Even if they were smarter, it would take the San Fran PD a long lunch break to take care of them.

    The movie just doesn’t work.

    1. Regarding numbers, in the 3rd and fourth of the original movies, I believe the answer to the number of apes was given. There was some kind of disease that killed most of the dogs and cats and humans started using apes and monkeys as pets. This led to the using augmented great apes in servant roles. But there were more apes around, even at the beginning, than we have now.

      This movie occurs after Taylor and crew have left(they might have new names in the PoTA sequel, but they’re Taylor and crew), so the rise in ape population can have begun.

      And the after-credit scene shows how they ‘take over’.

    2. I like the cut of your jib. A little suspension of disbelief is OK, but Hollywood these days just assumes no one can even employ the slight modicum of reason. Given that Transformers III and Hancock are tops at the box office, Hollywood’s condescension seems warranted. Transformers 3 doesn’t even have Megan Fox.

      1. When did Hancock do well at the box office?

        As for Transformers III, it was actually pretty good. Not “Glory” or “Platoon” good but very good for a movie based on a series based on a line of toys.

        Had Bay ever realized that a movie doesn’t need effin’ comic relief nearly as much as he thinks, the series could have been REALLY good.

  29. Kinda looks like the news from Wisconsin’s state fair last night after the MC HAMMER SHOW..go check that little story out googling one of these …

    ‘Mob’ beatings at WI state fair…

    ‘Hundreds of young black people beating white people’…

  30. Frieda Pinto’s character isn’t as essential as John Lithgow’s as Franco’s father, but she is important in that Ceasar is shown navigating his enhanced ape versions of various developmental issues (jealousy, separation anxiety). At various points when he is coming into his super-human chimp strength we wonder how he will exercise self-control as Pinto competes with him for Franco’s time and affection.

    I was struck by Ceasar’s use of the fasce (bundle of sticks) to illustrate how a group of apes together would be stronger than an ape alone. I don’t think this movie really has politics exactly, but it was an odd and somewhat chilling moment, that made me think of how an oppressed, impoverished or uninformed group can be used as shock troops by oppressors who claim to be liberators.

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