The quality of the Planet of the Apes remake franchise may mostly be attributed to the vision of Matt Reeves, but people forget the one who started it all, Rupert Wyatt. The Planet of the Apes remake films have been one of the most substantial blockbuster entries of all time, but one thing we can learn from them is that substantial cinema can be born even from a highly commercial film that happens to at least be good.
Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is such an example, the film that developed most of the things that franchise masterpieces like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes would thrive on. And even though it isn’t extremely substantial, it kick-started one of the most well-written franchise film protagonists of the modern age and still remains a very enjoyable commercial film.
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The Movie Review
The film begins with the POV of William Rodman, a pharmaceutical chemist who tests a drug named ALZ-112 on chimpanzees and bonobos, which seems to make them more intelligent. His goal, however, is not to tamper with the great apes, but to find out a cure for Alzheimer’s, which his father suffers from. One of the tested chimpanzees goes berserk and is killed, but she leaves behind a son, who is adopted by Rodman and is named Caesar.
Caesar inherits his mother’s intelligence, and is a surprisingly quick learner, learning to speak in sign language at a very young age.
The chimp tries imitating human behavior and seeks to be seen as a human. Caesar grows into an adolescent and begins to question his place in the world. At one point he ends up aggressively defending William’s father and is seen as a threat by every neighbor of the Rodmen.
The animal control gets to the scene and puts him into a living hell of a primate center, a place where he feels completely lost due to his company entirely being wild in nature. On the other side, a bonobo named Koba is experimented with in extremely intense ways, his growing hatred for humans is reflected greatly too.
Alongside, the drug has been causing a contagious and lethal virus among humans, which a bunch of slightly prominent characters ends up catching. Then begins Caesar’s journey to uniting all the apes and showing them the light. Their path to intelligence, as well as Caesar’s iconic stance against the human brutality on apes.
The film may play out like a typical blockbuster film in terms of pacing, but it features some of the most memorable scenes and sequences from modern commercial cinema and has some very well-written characters in Caesar and Koba. The human characters may not be likable enough, but it’s all about the rise of the apes, which is where it succeeds.
Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s script is paced very conventionally but features a well-written protagonist, as well as monumental moments. Rupert Wyatt’s direction gets the job done nicely despite not being anything out of the ordinary. Reeves would later take the franchise in a more substantial direction, but Wyatt’s work is quite appreciable for what he’s given too.
Patrick Doyle’s original score also does not compare much with Michael Giacchino’s work for the later two films, but it fits the nature of the film a lot, same goes for Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography, that despite being commercial and conventional has its moments.
The Bottom Line
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good blockbuster film and is something that would incept some of the best franchise films of modern cinema. It’s nothing highly original, but with the kind of writing and direction that mostly work positively, it’s among the kind of films that are enjoyable yet also carry some substance.