The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a glossy re-imagining of how the world of the seventies Sci-Fi tv series – where talking chimps rule the world and humans are dumb slave labor – comes about. This time, a crumply scientist (James Franco) tries to cure Alzheimers and creates a brain potion that’s tested on chimps in a slick, impersonal animal testing facility. This new potion heals chimps with damaged brains, but does even more remarkable stuff to apes with healthy brains, advancing their intelligence and reasoning exponentially. And when one of the test subjects begins to object to his cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of impersonal scientists and sadistic welfare workers alike, it’s the dramatic turning point in simian-human relations….
The film is set in San Franscisco, and several city landmarks, notably the zoo and the Golden Gate Bridge, are front-and-center visual icons in the film. However, the film mostly filmed in Canada – the domed roof of the chimp rehabilitation facility is actually the Pacific National Exhibition Center sports facility.
But is it any good? Well, yes, actually – it’s compelling and entertaining and engaging, mostly due to the efforts of CGI-enhanced performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar the chimp. Rise in fact pulls off quite a remarkable feat; for the first time I can ever remember, the movie concludes at the threshold of the humiliation of vicious, kak-handedly brutal and thoughtless mankind, and it feels completely right and proper to celebrate the end of the world as we know it. Having created such sympathy for Caesar, it will be interesting to see how future films (and believe me, there will be more films) turn these apes into the human-like monsters of the original series.