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Sunday 9 October 2011

Burl reviews Rise of the Planet of the Apes! (2011)

Hi, Burl here to review a solid summer sci-fi action spectacular! With apes! Ha ha, I’ve always enjoyed the Planet of the Apes movies, and I was always thrilled at how bitterly misanthropic Chuck Heston’s character was in the first one! He really hated people, didn’t he! Well that was until he met the apes and was shot in the throat and captured in their nets! Then he’d have been glad for a few hairless chums!

The makeup in those movies was pretty impressive too, how they layered wrinkled rubber over coconut quarters to achieve that monkey-muzzle look! In this new movie they don’t bother with the coconut quarters – it’s all digital special effects for the monkeys! Ha ha, there’s not one real ape in it, not like Project X, another anti-animal experimentation picture in which they say (well, Bob Barker says) the animals were beaten with clubs to make them do their jug-eared shenanigans with Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which originally was titled simply Rise of the Apes, and still should be, you silly, overcautious studio execs!) serves as the very beginning of the Apes saga, showing us how a simple attempt to cure Alzheimer’s can lead to Global Simian Takeover! It’s all the fault of scientist James Franco, well known from Spring Breakers, who couldn’t have performed his role as GST facilitator better if that had been his goal all along – not only does he provide the loveable creatures with a formidable new intelligence, he makes sure to create an extermination virus along the way, just as a little bonus for the chimpys! It’s hard to figure how you could create something like that by accident, but Franco manages it, ha ha!

Franco’s best buddy is his chimp friend Caesar, and their relationship takes a turn for the worse when Caesar beats up a neighbor who’s been poking John Lithgow (from Buckaroo Banzai and The Manhattan Project, here playing Franco’s senile dad) in the chest, and then gets sent to a simian storage facility operated by none other than the first Doctor Lecter, Brian Cox, well known from The Ring! Although Lecter mostly sits in his office and lets his employees do the hard work of abusing and insulting the apes! Franco also has a girlfriend, but she doesn’t do too much in the movie and at times you kind of wonder why she’s even there! (She also seems rather dim, which is more the script's fault than hers! We are to believe that, after five years of close proximity to a supra-intelligent chimp, and knowing her boyfriend is working on brain drugs the whole time, it comes as a big surprise to her that Caesar's smarts are a result of Franco's crazy science! Ha ha, maybe you could use a dose of that brain drug, lady!)

The star of the show is Caesar and his rambunctious simian pals, though, so the people don’t matter so much! (Although it’s always great when a movie starring both John Lithgow and Brian Cox comes along!) There are several fine characters of the hirsute variety, like a daggy old orangutan named Maurice, named after the actor Maurice Evans; and Buck, a giant gorilla who seems like he might be King Kong’s brother-in-law!

The movie caught a bit of heat for being in the apes’ corner rather than the humans’, and for cheering on the end of all people! But that’s a silly complaint, first because it just is – this is a movie, you people, ha ha! – and second because it’s perfectly in line with the Hestonian attitude found in the original Planet of the Apes movie, as I mentioned earlier! So we really get the feeling of these damn dirty ape events leading from this movie right through to the net-carrying apes on horseback that we know and love so well! And I have to say, there is genuine joy in seeing the apes wreak havoc with the cops, taking them out using a number of clever stratagems, or just plain bashing them when the situation calls for it!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is hardly a perfect movie or anything, but it’s entertaining, engaging and has its heart in the right place! And the special effects and performances are superb! I give it two and a half chimp bites!

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