Will Rodman (James Franco) is working for Gen Sys on a revolutionary new drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease which is delivered by a genetically engineered virus. When testing his treatment on chimpanzees he finds that the treatment not only boosts the growth of brain cells it boost their intelligence. While presenting his case to the Gen Sys board to get approval to start human testing his biggest success, a chimp called Bright Eyes goes crazy, apparently for no reason, and is shot dead in the board room. The project is shut down immediately and Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) the company director gives orders for all the chimps to be killed. The chimp keeper Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) then discovers Bright Eyes was not crazy, she was protecting her baby that she had given birth to in secret in her cage. He asks Rodman to take care of the baby chimp rather than destroy it like he had to with the others.
At home Rodman’s father Charles (John Lithgow) is suffering from Alzheimer’s giving Rodman a deep personal stake in the progress of research .As he and his father take care of Caesar it become clear that Rodman’s treatment has been passed to him genetically from his mother and Caesar is brighter than human children of the same age.
Charles’ condition deteriorates and Rodman becomes desperate so he injects his father with some samples he stole from his laboratory. At first the treatment seems to work but later Charles’ immune system develops antibodies to the virus used to deliver the treatment and his condition relapses worse than ever .
Rodman tells Jacobs about using the treatment on his father and says he needs to research changing the virus to increase its virulence. Jacobs agrees and they get more chimps to restart testing right away.
Meanwhile Caesar is growing and becoming more curious about the world and his own place in it. He learns about fear and hatred from Rodman’s next door neighbour Hunsiker (David Hewlett) who attacks one day when he is out looking at the Hunsiker kids’ bikes. He also notices that he is never let loose in public and that he is always kept on a leash just like pet dogs
After an incident when Caesar attacks Hunsiker, he is taken away and placed in a primate sanctuary. This is were the film really shifts gears and it feels like a prison escape film. The place is run by John Landon (Brian Cox) who just leaves his son Dodge (Tom Felton) to mistreat and abuse the apes. Caesar has to face down the dominant chimp in the group and after being beat down gets he sympathy from friendly old circus-raised orang-utan who can sign. As he learns how humans treat apes he forms a plan to lead all the apes to freedom.
I thought that this a great film in its own right. It really does a great job of using the story as a vehicle for questioning the use of primates in drug research by making the apes sentient creatures we feel empathy with. Credit for that has to go to both the special effects teams and the motion capture actors who created the very convincing apes. There was kid in the cinema cheering for the apes at the big climax on the Golden Gate Bridge and I know how he felt.
As part of the larger franchise it does work as prequel to the original Planet of Apes too but it reboots the whole time loop thing out of existence which is probably just as well. The end begs for a sequel and going by the reviews and early box office it probably will happen.
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12A) (independent.co.uk)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (variety.com)
- the REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. (alexkessie.wordpress.com)
- Rotten Tomatoes