Back in 2011, someone had the bright idea to trample on the grave of science fiction classic, Planet of the Apes. The Charlton Heston original featured an astronaut landing on a strange planet inhabited by apes who spoke English for some reason. Long story short, due to time dilation, he’d been gone for centuries and this was just Earth (sorry for spoiling a 1968 movie).
Fast forward to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which begins a prequel trilogy connecting the dots from then to now.
Our main character is Caesar. He’s an orphaned chimp whose mother had been dosed with a super intelligence serum. Raised by humans, he sees a society that views him as either a pet or a monster. Of course, some of these humans are minor characters in the story, but our hero is a chimp who manages all of four words of dialogue throughout the movie (granted, 4 is still pretty solid for a chimp).
The company experimenting on primates has profit goals and a loose ethical control system in place. The noble scientist looking for a cure for his father’s Alzheimer’s will stop at nothing to find it.
Through a series of vaguely plausible events and science that you must come to the movie willing to disbelieve, Caesar breaks out of captivity, rescues a number of other captive primates (of varying species), and exposes them all to an even more potent version of the viral brain gas that makes lower primates hyper-intelligent.
Oh, and this new virus is also lethal to humans.
Actually, “oops” is a pretty good plot summary, from a human perspective in this one.
Now, from the classic version, we have the line: YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! AH, DAMN YOU! GOD! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!
Contextually, at the time, it was meant to be clear that nuclear war had wiped out mankind. But just because the world ended in a nuclear disaster doesn’t mean that a nice man-made mutagen meant to make mentally mighty monkeys couldn’t soften us up first.
All told, the plot is solid if you’re willing to accept the premise that we can make a virus that regrows brain cells. Honestly, with advances in CRISPR technology, that part actually feels more plausible than it did 12 years ago.
The action is … a little hokey. While no one ever comes out and says it, the virus also seems to make the apes CRAZY strong and bouncy. Like, throw a manhole cover like a frisbee and jump off a five-story building unharmed amounts of strong and bouncy. Also, despite being smart enough to use squad tactics and projectile weapons, they seem to randomly crash through windows and glass walls a lot instead of just using doors.
Overall though, it’s a fun exploration of the backstory that led to the 1968 Planet of the Apes. Observant viewers will pick up on Easter eggs referencing the original sprinkled throughout, as well. Newspaper articles and news programs talk about a manned mission to Mars and astronauts going missing. You get a reprise of the iconic “damn dirty apes” lines from the original as well.
Also, for any Black Ocean fans who might be wondering, the character Cornelius in the original (one of the apes) was played by Roddy McDowall. He was the ape archeologist who became friends with the human.
So check out Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s streaming somewhere.