As the summer season for movies comes to a close it is worth noting how good of a summer it has been for films. Now that, that statement is out of the way let me turn to the film at hand. This movie does present an interesting discussion over its classification, depending on your interpretation this movie could be either a prequel or a reboot. This film is directed by Rupert Wyatt, whose only other directorial credit is The Escapist. Can the historic Planet of the Apes franchise be successfully restored?
The basic story here is you have Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) who is currently seeking a way to treat and/or cure Alzheimer’s disease. After one of the chimpanzees (Bright Eyes) shows increased intelligence Rodman wants to get the go ahead to test the new drug on humans. Rodman’s superior Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) reluctantly agrees.
On the day where Rodman is ready to show Bright Eyes increased intelligence, Bright Eyes snaps and trashes the building, this leads Jacobs to order all the chimps to be put down. However, the chimp handler Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) cannot put down the last chimp which is a baby and the son of Bright Eyes. Rodman agrees to take the chimp home in order to get him out of harm’s way.
Rodman’s father Charles (John Lithgow) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease takes a liking to the baby chimp and names him Caesar. Caesar has inherited his mother’s intelligence; Rodman chooses to keep Caesar in order to track his intelligence.
The CG on the chimps is easily the best animal CG I have ever seen. Wyatt manages to capture important facial expressions that allow for the audience to feel every scene. Caesar is also played by an actual person, actor Andy Serkis who really steals the show. Franco also turns in a great performance and this is capped off by the acting of Lithgow.
The movie also shows great creativity as to how Caesar becomes the leader of the ape revolt which is the climax of the film. Without spoiling too much let me just say that if anyone or anything wanted to lead a revolt they should gain the trust of the biggest and the strongest asset they have access to. Caesar manages to do this.
The film does a great job of developing and raising important moral questions. The idea of what the consequences can be if human beings try to control and alter nature. I compare this movie to last year’s Splice which also presented the same ethical dilemma of animal alteration and creation. This is displayed in several heartbreaking scenes where Caesar as he grows older begins to question his place among Rodman and Charles. Moreover, Wyatt manages to have several sentimental moments without going too far. Although Wyatt does not have a lot of films to his name he proves how good of a director he is with actors and with action scenes. The climax of this movie is a lot of fun and it is very entertaining. I am looking forward to seeing more of Wyatt’s work because I think he has the potential to become a real powerhouse of a director.
I have few if any issues with this movie. The only real problem I have is the ending is rather anti-climatic. It does hint at the possibility of a sequel, however, it leaves too many doors open. It is almost if the filmmakers were uncertain themselves.
The resolution with Charles I did not have a real problem with but it feels rushed. I can understand why the movie did not slow down entirely in order to solve the crisis, however, the way things wrap up with his character I felt like it did not do that character justice. This explanation might be vague but I cannot go into specifics without spoiling too much.
This is one of the best films of the summer and of the year. It is easily one of the better Science Fiction movies of the past couple of years. Franco has cemented himself with this performance following his Oscar nomination in 127 Hours. Serkis and Lithgow are easily able to capture the audience’s sympathy. I think it is safe to say we now have a juggernaut of a director on our hands in the form of Wyatt. Final rating, 4/5.