Or, phasing out, rather. I didn't see his name in the credits of this so-titled "Planet of the Apes" film. Anyway, I must be going around the bend now, because this film seemed to hit me somewhere deep. I tried to write it off as a mere puff piece, but I couldn't! The Chimp-pocalypse is upon us and it's practically unstoppable... even if it is just confined to the Golden Gate Bridge, and points overlooking said bridge from the lush forest a few miles away. I even found myself rooting for the evil "habitat" assistant that you just knew was going to get his just desserts... I'm assuming it was Dodge Landon. Normally, sure, he should get what's coming to him, but this is war! Monkey war. There are no atheists in foxholes, and sometimes you gotta stand with your species. Even the dicks.
That being said, this expensive film does raise some issues. Most pressing of all, why was it in extreme letterbox format on my expensive new HDTV? I'm no longer pining for the old days of watching letterbox DVDs on my old analog TVs anymore. Fill the screen, damn it! Same thing happened with Superman II. It's letterboxed, and got huge black space on the left and right. No. I want the HDTV screen totally filled up. Which might not have been a good idea with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, because the film seems to be shot on digital video of a much grainier variety than usual. Surprising, given that it's the work of Academy Award winner Andrew Lesnie of Lord of the Rings fame. Yeah, that guy! What gives? I know the future of cinema's upon us, and it really will be possible someday to make a whole movie like this on one laptop, but c'mon! Oh, right... guess I forfeit my right to complain.
I should probably delve into the labyrinthine plot. Handsome Renaissance man James Franco, who has done everything from portraying James Dean to the stoner in Pineapple Express, plays the bland protagonist that we relate to here, except that he's a super-brainy scientist who's about to create a drug that stops Alzheimer's disease. Apparently it purges the aluminum from the patient's body or something. Something goes wrong and all the chimps in his experiment have to be destroyed... but one is saved, a newborn named Caesar. And much like the dictator he's named after, Caesar's destined for great things... unlike, say, the monkey in Monkey Shines.
And, continuing the recent trend in movie protagonists, the protagonist can no longer walk away from career and salary to prove a point. Franco stays on at the international drug company where he's employed, despite them totally bitch-slapping him back into place when he gets too Hippocratic on their asses. Meanwhile, his dad (John Lithgow) is living with him and Caesar the chimpanzee. Boy, the Right Wing must be confounded by this movie with this clearly non-traditional family. Franco gets revenge on his corporate masters by sneaking some of the Alzheimer's drug out of the company labs and using it on his ailing father. Father gains clarity once again, and rises like Charly to use his newly sharpened mental faculties to their fullest capacity all the time, mostly on piano. Spoiler alert: alas, it does not last, and Franco tries to relay the bad news to his boss. The boss is only interested in profits, however, and is satisfied if the drug works over the short term. We need a stronger FDA.
While this subplot with the dad is going on, we see Caesar the chimp age over about ten years. Caesar's adolescence arrives with a mighty cinematic climb to the tallest tree in the California redwoods close to the Golden Gate bridge. As this climb occurs, we get a title card at the bottom of the screen for an unusually long time, saying ... I think it said "Caesar: five years old." The sequence also appears to be totally fake, generated by an HP laptop or something. How far we've come in this CGI revolution of ours. Needless to say, if you buy the premise of Caesar doubling as the son Franco never had, well... the filmmakers treat it as serious as a heart attack.
As for me, in addition to the evil chimp caretaker who gets his just desserts, there's also Franco's neighbor with a short fuse who runs afoul of damn, dirty Caesar a couple times. I dare not spoil his ultimate part in this plot, but I can understand his frustration, given the pay cuts in his profession in recent years. The beast is definitely getting starved, and as America slowly becomes a banana republic like its neighbours to the South, we're all too ripe for a primate takeover led by a charismatic chimp. Hell, cougars are taking over abandoned houses in Detroit, right?
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan