The film's CGI simians are a marvel; it's too bad their human counterparts are so lousy
20th Century Fox
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.”
Those words, memorably uttered by Charlton Heston in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, began a contentious interspecies dialogue that was to persist through four cinematic sequels, two short-lived TV series, one attempted (and best forgotten) 2001 reboot, and now another, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Heston’s iconic line recurs in this movie, though with the context largely reversed: This time out, the human speaker is a brutal jailer (Tom Felton) and the insulted ape, his sympathetic captive.
Though Rise of the Planet of the Apes does not fit directly into the mythos of the earlier films, it takes its cues from the third and fourth installments (Escape from and Conquest of, respectively). In them, advanced chimps from the far future, played by Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, time-warped to the present, where they gave birth to a baby, Caesar, who would eventually grow up to lead the ape rebellion—a variation of the self-contained time loop later adopted by the Terminator franchise.
In the new film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, Caesar is again the protagonist and head-ape-to-be, though his origins are somewhat more humble. A pharmaceutical chemist named Will Rodman (James Franco) has been testing a new anti-Alzheimer’s gene therapy on chimpanzees, who undergo astonishing cognitive enhancements as a result. Alas, just as he is selling his corporate board of directors on the need to conduct human trials, his star subject, a chimp named “Bright Eyes,” rampages violently into the boardroom and is shot dead by security. The board, needless to say, is not amused, and Will’s project is canceled. He soon discovers, though, that Bright Eyes has left behind a newborn son, whom he takes home and names Caesar.