Rarely does a film surprise me but Rise of the Planet of the Apes almost took my head off.
I am blaming this one on my wife – I ignored this film because she was very much against it from the first time she saw its trailer. She refused to watch the film because… I actually can’t remember why – something to do with the fact that she studied primates at University and she didn’t want to see the chimps hurt or something. I also ignored the film because I’m not a huge fan of the 1968 movie at all – nor the 2001 Tim Burton version.
It was a stupid mistake because this is one hell of a film.
The reason why I fell head over heels for this film is because it is first and foremost a story about sons and fathers. There are not many films out there that show a complicated yet positive relationship between a father and his son, yet this film has two examples.
Everything that James Franco’s character does in this film is because of the love he has for his father and, later on in the film, the chimp Caesar who becomes his de facto son. I am sure that Franco’s Will Rodman commits several unethical acts and he breaks a lot of laws within the film, but as an audience member I was cheering for him every step of the way. A lot of credit has to go to Franco for making me forget my morals – he is clearly a hell of an actor.
My opinion of Franco before this film was not positive at all. For me, he was an actor that stuck his hat onto the stoner film genre but there is a lot of weight to his performance in Apes. I have no doubt that Franco can have a McConaughey type revival if he picks his films right.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes also dealt with hugely controversial issues with an unexpected nuance which only made me fall in love with the film further. For example, my wife also didn’t want to watch this film because of how it would portray animal testing but I think it makes a reasoned argument for why we do such tests – to cure serious and horrifying diseases such as dementia. Even with that said, this film is far, far, far, far from pro-animal testing. In fact I got the feeling that the message the filmmakers wanted to leave audiences with was “this is what could happen if we are not careful with testing.”
I had to check with my wife that many of thing things in the films were bullshit, such as whether it is at all theoretically possible that chimps could speak – the ideas in this film scared me that much. And that is the biggest compliment I can pay to Rise of the Planet of the Apes – although I feel the premise is a silly one, the film made it feel like it was possible for monkeys to rise up and defeat humans – and that scared the crap out of me.