With the possibilities of medicine today, we still have yet to find cures for some of the common diseases of our decade. But what if there lies medicine to cure Alzheimer’s disease or AD? This movie explored that possibility but not without its ethical implications and restraints. What began as a simple evolution of a chimpanzee from the jungles of Africa expands into the development of an ape culture and ultimately, an ape uprising against the humans in San Francisco.
The cast consists of both humans and apes (derived from CGI and special effects). Beginning with the humans, James Franco stars as Will Rodman, the lead scientist who raises the chimpanzee Ceasar after his mother’s, Bright Eyes’, unfortunate death at Gen-Sys Laboratories. He played Harry Osborn in the Spiderman trilogy. John Lithgow stars as his father, Charles Rodman, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Freida Pinto stars as Will’s love interest, primatologist Caroline Aranha. David Oyelowo plays as CEO of Gen-Sys and Will’s boss, Steven Jacobs. For those familiar with the television series Spooks in the UK, he played MI-5 officer Danny Hunter. David Hewlett stars as Hunsiker, Will’s hot-headed and very spiteful neighbor. For those familiar with the television series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, he starred as Rodney McKay. Tyler Labine plays as the primary chimp handler for Gen-Sys, Robert Franklin. He starred as Bert “Sock” Wysocki in the short-lived cult television series Reaper. Brian Cox plays John Landon, the head of the primate sanctuary and father of Dodge Landon. He should be immediately familiar as Colonel William Stryker in X2: X-Men United. His son, Dodge, is played by Tom Felton, and Jamie Harris plays Rodney. Both of them are the guards (in the loosest sense) of the primate sanctuary.
Now to the primates of the film, the stars of this science fiction film. Andy Serkis plays Ceasar, the intelligent chimpanzee that ultimately learns to “speak” and commands the primate army. Karin Konoval stars as Maurice, the Bornean orangutan and Caesar’s closest ally. Terry Notary stars as both Bright Eyes, Ceasar’s mother, and Rocket, the alpha chimpanzee at the sanctuary. Richard Ridings stars as Buck, the western lowland gorilla. Lastly, Christopher Gordon plays Koba, the scar-faced bonobo.
With the advent of ALZ-112 testing, Will Franco discovers that ALZ-112, a virus, speeds up rebuilding of brain cells and thus a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, it has different effects on humans and the primates. With humans, the benefits are short-lived and ultimately fatal. However, with chimpanzees and primates, it sped up their intelligence. Bright Eyes, Caesar’s mother, was the first to benefit as she developed intelligence to conquer the Tower of Hanoi test given by Will. Due to a bit of misunderstanding by the handlers at Gen-Sys, she ultimately dies protecting her baby, Caesar. Caesar inherits the intelligence and the ALZ-112 from her mother, and within a span of several years demonstrates intelligence beyond that of a “comparable human.” Caesar ultimately confronts his own kind and develops a kinship among them. He distributes ALZ-113 among the primates within the sanctuary and thus most of them gaining s0me degree of intelligence as a result. By his revolution against the humans, he frees Koba, a bonobo that was tested with ALZ-113. He, Koba, Maurice, Rocket and Buck ultimately attack the humanity in search of freedom, their freedom.
Admittedly, this is a science fiction film so it is not without its suspension of belief. Throughout the film, there were high degrees of exaggeration. The abuse at the primate sanctuary is a bit overdone and wouldn’t satisfy supporters of PETA and animal welfare. But it made the point that humans are perhaps more primal than animals. The testing of ALZ-112 and ALZ-113 by Gen-Sys with little disregard begs the question of human ethics. Are humans that driven for self-preservation that it would take significant losses to get there? The police response by the humans against the primates reflect the same question.
Throughout the film, Caesar demonstrated more humanity than his human counterparts, even during his rebellion. His humanity made viewers, including myself, more attached to him than to the Rodmans or Caroline Aranha.
There were hints and suggestions of a sequel throughout the film and some nods of previous Planet of the Apes movie series. These suggestions for the most part were subtle (somewhat), and they didn’t distract from the film. This prequel and original movie within the Planet of the Apes saga had great impact to me and other viewers.
Verdict (Out of 10)
This movie deserves a solid 8.5 out of 10 for me. The plot holes were significant in this movie. However, this movie played great homage to its past and revised the story to a satisfying degree. Andy Serkis, the actor who played Caesar, has confirmed there is a sequel in the works, and this film deserves one. Next time perhaps a more concise and fleshed-out story with less plot holes…