Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes: A New Breath Of Fresh Air For The Franchise

The year is 2011, and the Planet of the Apes franchise has been given a new lease of life with the first movie in the new series called “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.  A complete reboot of the original series, this movie took new turns to tell the story of Planet of the Apes, helped by Special effects and film production the original series could never produce, a side effect of the time it was filmed in.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Warning: if you haven’t seen the Planet of the Apes films, there will be spoilers ahead.

This movie indeed has an immense advantage over the original movies, although that is the result of the ever-changing film industry, something moving at incredible speeds to make the next best thing.  Although Rise of the Planet of the Apes didn’t do anything revolutionary for the industry, it did wonders in bringing in new fans and retaining hardcore fans back into the world of Planet of the Apes.

The Refreshing Plot In Question

Will Rodman (Played by James Franco) works as a scientist in San Francisco, where he works on a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.  An antivirus called ALZ-112 is being developed, an experimental drug, so the use of animal testing is in question.  Several chimpanzees are tested, with the results showing the drug repairs brain cells like wanted but also enhances them, so much that the chimpanzees were able to rise to human intelligence. 

A female chimpanzee called “Bright Eyes” escapes testing and goes on a rampage in the facility, initially thought by the higher-ups to be a result of the drugs, but eventually, it was shown to be a mother protecting her children instead.  For testing purposes these children were ordered to be killed, however, a handler named Robert Franklin (Played by Tyler Labine) was unable to undertake the order upon seeing the youngest chimpanzee child.

As soon as possible, the chimpanzee now shown to be called “Caesar” is brought into Will’s home and becomes family for the next few years where Caesar learns to be civilised and learn sign language.  Will decides to give a dosage of ALZ-112 to his father, called Charles Rodman (Played by John Lithgow), the reason Will is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  For 5 years it seemed to be working, but then the symptoms of the disease started to crawl back, eventually causing Charles to be in a scuffle with Will’s neighbour Douglas Hunsiker (Played by David Hewlett).  Caesars see this fight and in defence of Charles, he attacks Hunsiker and eventually bites his finger off.

Incidentally, Caesar was sent to the San Bruno primate shelter, run by John Landon (Played by Brian Cox).  It is evident that the primates are treated cruelly in the shelter by the handler called Dodge (Played by Tom Felton), something Caesar witnesses and experiences himself.  In defence, Caesar decides to make allies with the other primates in the facility to create resistance against the shelter employees.  One night Dodge decided to invite some friends to the shelter in which one friend got too close to Caesar’s enclosure in which his pocket knife was stolen from him, something Caesar uses to open his cell and free the other primates.  

Will, in his continuous find for a cure, creates a new drug called ALZ-113, which is found to enhance the intelligence of primates but has the opposite effect on humans.  Robert Franklin is exposed to the drug, and airborne transmission, and is later found dead in his apartment, a likely result of inhaling the new drug.  

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Caesar escapes the facility to go home to Will, on finding the canisters of ALZ-113, he steals them and gives them to his fellow primates in the shelter.  This in turn creates “Evolved Apes” just like Caesar.  The primates split into two groups, one group steals more ALZ-113 and the other frees all the primates from the San Francisco Zoo.  With all the newly Evolved apes in tow, the primates head to the city.

The Apes rampage into the city making their way to Caesar’s final destination “Muir Wood”, a fond memory in which Caesars felt finally free.  The Golden Gate bridge is the climax of the movie, a fight between the cops and the apes.  Through casualties on both sides, the Apes pull through and escape to Muir woods.  Will catches up with the Apes in the forest and he has a final conversation with Caesar in which Caesar says to him “Caesar is home”.  This is an amazing moment of Caesar becoming free and becoming independent.  The final moments see Caesar climb a tree in the background establishing a home for his new family.

A mid-credit scene shows the neighbour Hunsiker to be infected with the virus, coughing up blood.  This is due to Robert, patient zero, meeting Hunsiker when he was still alive and coughing blood onto him, transmitting the virus over to him.  Hunsiker is now a pilot, foreshadowing a future where the virus has infected globally, a sickening future for the human race.

Why Was This Movie A Success?

It is safe to say that the first edition of the new series in the franchise was a booming success, a compelling reminder being the reception behind it.  On IMDB, the movie scored an overall 7.6/10, nothing spectacular, but for this franchise a move in the right direction.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie scored an 82% critic score and a 77% audience score, an overwhelming success for the franchise as a whole.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacle with a kick: the transcendence of the normal in creatures so like ourselves is both an entertainment and a needling rebuke to human vanity.” – David Denby, The New Yorker.

“Weta Digital’s effects work on the apes, especially Caesar’s face, is unobtrusively marvellous, laying icky memories of the Tim Burton one to merciful rest.” – Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

“Rises above its dramatic deficits, boosts the collective IQ of this summer’s movies and swings into flights of kinetic fantasy that blow the collective mind.” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

It was a thrilling experience to watch Caesar in his fight against the people who used him and the other primates for personal gain.  A powerful moment is his first word: “No”.  This moment, backed by the trappings of modern film, felt immensely different to the words spoken by General Aldo back in the original series.  Another crucial moment was the incident where Caesars bites the finger of Hunsiker.  A brilliant moment where blood was smeared on an almost feral animal, compared to the civilised Caesar we saw moments ago, a grave reminder that Caesar is fundamentally an animal, no matter the treatment he had received from Will and Charles.  

Swinging Into An Action Packed Climax

Unmistakeably, the Golden Gate bridge battle is the scene with the most action and suspense.  It wouldn’t be wrong to say Caesars’s first words were one of the most goose-bump-stricken moments in the movie, but the climax scene provides a new significance to the movie, filled with both poignancy and suspense alike.   Here are  a few key points picked up from the Golden Gate battle:
  • The Battle commences with the Apes on one side and cops and soldiers on the other.  The soldiers are there to emphasise the apes’ strength as one instead of being a force to be reckoned with.  Mainly because the soldiers are never seen to be a villainous party in the movie, and so are used more as fodder for the Apes to swing through.  Some critics say the lack of focus on humans is a defect of the movie, but focusing on the making of Caesar’s new family is far more rewarding.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge is a perfect setting for the final fight for several points:
    • The bridge itself is a limited space for a battle, it forced the humans to be on defence will the Apes push the offensive
    • The grand scale and limited function of the bridge allowed us to pinpoint the advantage the primates had, the ability to swing or climb around the bridge was both effective and thrilling to watch.  This made the audience question what they would have done in that situation.
    • There was a mist/fog over the bridge,  a brilliant use of suspense but also parallels the lack of knowledge the soldiers had of what the primates were capable of.
    • The bridge itself is very important because it was the only way for Caesar to reach Muir woods, his ultimate goal.
  • Caesar is a passive leader.  We see at many points Caesar’s reluctance to kill the humans, commanding the other apes to stop what they are doing if it looks like they are about the kill someone.  This ties in with the fact that humans do not have any remorse, using choppers with turrets there are points where it was almost harrowing the anger that they were shooting the primates.
  • A shot which struck the eye of many audience members was the scene where the primates overtake the police car blockade, it has a striking resemblance to some engulfing the humans, foreboding the upcoming virus that will engulf the human population globally.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fresh new take on the franchise, an almost coming-of-age story with a fulfilling climax battle and ending.  The CGI for the movie was a must-have and it begs the question, would the original series be better received with these enhancements?  Ultimately, the decision to create the 2011 edition of the franchise brought new fans and old fans back into the world of Planet of the Apes.

How about you?  What was your favourite moment of Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know about…

What is the meaning behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes?

Rise of the Planets of the Apes explores ideas of freedom and family, a lot less political than the point spread out through the original series.  It covers the big argument about animal captivity and whether it is justified.  Caesars had been tested on and captivated in shelters for parts of his life, but when in a civil home, he became as human as the next person.   However, it is when Caesar first enters Muir woods that he experiences true freedom, a goal for Caesar for the rest of the movie. 

Where can I watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes UK?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is available to rent/buy on sites such as Youtube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Amazon prime TV.  It is also available using Disney plus, a subscription-based streaming site.

Will there be a 4th Planet of the Apes movie?

5 years after “War for the Planet of the Apes”, the new film in the reboot series will be aired on the big screen in spring 2024.  Titled “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”, the classic trope of the apes taking over from the humans is still in full effect, however, lacking the ROFPOTA Caeser.  Plot points beyond that are still up for grabs.

When it comes to the actors playing in the film, the cast will include; Kevin Durand, Freya Allen, Neil Sandilands, and Lydia Peckham with even more on the lineup.  Actors like Freya Allen have already struck well in series like “The Witcher”, so her role in this new film should be undeniable.

If you are interested Disney has announced a release date of May 24, 2024.