Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) directed by Rupert Wyatt
MPAA ratingPG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence
ZPAA ratingToo intense for the under 12 crowd for sure!
Gore level2 out of 10--while there's lots of mayhem and violence, there's relatively little gore--some blood splatters here and there, occasional bloody wounds, including one finger that's bitten off (you can sort of barely see the bloody stump).
Other offensive contentMinimal bad language, animal cruelty (mostly on the animals, but some by the animals on other animals), corporate amorality; lots of violence; one discreet bit of kissing.
How much zombie mythology/contentNo zombies here, just crazy apes.
How much funThe movie provides some laughs with references to the classic Planet of the Apes movies and other natural bits of humor.
Synopsis & ReviewAfter the disappointing Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes, my expectations were pretty low for the franchise going anywhere interesting. Along came Rise of the Planet of the Apes two years ago and I couldn't have cared less. Reviews seemed to run fairly positive though mostly they were the "it's a lot better than I expected" variety. I'm not sure that really means a movie is any good. So I passed it by until I saw it this year on Blu-Ray.
The story follows Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist working on a miracle drug that will restore and improve brain function. His motive is revealed fairly early--his father has Alzheimer's Disease and is rapidly deteriorating. Rodman's drug is tested on chimpanzees and seems to be working well. He's about to present his star chimp, Bright Eyes, to the company's board of directors to convince them to approve human trials. Her handlers have problems; she breaks free; she tries to escape. The chase through the building is exciting and ends when she crashes through a wall monitor onto the board table and is shot by security. As you might guess, the drug is not approved for human trials. The CEO orders all the trial monkeys to be put down, including the post-mortem-born son of Bright Eyes. Dr. Rodman can't bring himself to kill the baby chimp. He takes the chimp home and raises him in secret while he restarts his drug research.
This all happens in the first five or ten minutes of the film. The movie keeps up the brisk pace as the chimp (named "Caesar" by the Shakespeare-loving father) grows stronger and smarter, eventually coming into conflict with the human world which gave him his incredible abilities. As with many science fiction films, some bits of it seem a little too improbable (like the crash through the monitor onto the board room table or the number of simians living in San Francisco) but the movie moves so fast and delivers its images so well that I found it easy to go along for the ride.
On the other hand, the movie sympathizes almost exclusively with the apes. Caesar is definitely the star and the hero. He is smart but misunderstood; loyal but over-protective; loved but under-appreciated. He and the other apes are abused and downtrodden, so their rising up against their captors makes them look more like freedom fighters than a menace to us humans. Caesar is unwilling to kill humans deliberately and stops a group of apes from beating a person to death. He has more compassion than most of the humans have for the monkeys or for each other.
It will be interesting to see if future films continue this trend, seeing the apes as the good guys and the humans as bad guys. The theme of apes being better off without humans has run through all the movies, as has a cynical attitude toward humans and their behavior. It was never quite this cynical before.