If we treat animals like, well, animals, then they are sure to rise up against us, bite our throats out and beat us with sticks. Monkey see, monkey do, and as this poor ape is locked in a box and taken away to do science, Rise of the Planet of the Apes kindles the fire of the revolution at the heart of its primate tribe. Through a series of truly unfortunate events, the rise of the apes comes not because of fear, but because of how we treat them. Should they have even been let out of their cages in the first place, or had Will Rodman (James Franco) not shown a bit of heart, then perhaps this series of events would never have taken place. Rupert Wyatt uses these simple blemishes to paint a bigger picture with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a film that looks into how such a planet would ever come about.
Incompetency seems to be the forte of lab technicians. One step away from screeching “the ape has escaped,” the lab is a collection of fools and emotionally attached protagonists. Rodman particularly, but that doesn’t stop Franco from giving a fantastic performance. It is far removed from his comedic work (thankfully), and he plays well with John Lithgow and Freida Pinto. Together, they form much of how the film presents its chimpanzees. They are kind and caring toward Caesar (Andy Serkis), but that is their downfall. These moments feel rather lengthy, but they are resolute and necessary to how we feel toward Caesar in the later moments of the third act. It is where Serkis is left to his own devices, and for much of it manages to perform exceptionally well without the utilisation of either dialogue or screen presence. It is his capturing of this monkey business that works so effectively, but there are times where Rise of the Planet of the Apes feels more like planting the seeds for future instalments. Rightly so, if this is how consistently enjoyable the trilogy will be.
Ripe for expansion, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has room in the modern era. Where Steven Jacobs (Oyelowo) begged Rodman not to let his emotions impede his scientific discovery, it is a tad ironic that the emotionless suits of business are the leading force behind the rise of these apes. Science of the mad and dangerous variety is what Rodman provides us with. Time flutters by rather rapidly, and there is a sense that this is necessary. We are given an insight into how we should feel not just for Rodman’s plight in caring for his father, but the ethics of ape captivity and how crucial they are to medicine. They are as feeling and emotional as us, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes soon becomes a test in asking questions it refuses to answer.
In a sense, then, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a firmly emotional piece of film. Not for the audience, but for the characters, in their senseless, good-hearted struggle to find cures for premature fatality. It is good, quality entertainment that provides good characters and bad characters, none have a mixture of both qualities. It is as primitive as the apes that take over the world, but then it is rather important to enjoy such simplicity. Still, when Tom Felton utters that “damn, dirty ape,” line, a little hope is lost. Not his fault surely, especially in a film where apes know how to utilise manhole covers as objects of destruction that deal no harm to humans but stop them in their tracks. Give a little, take a lot.