Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2011. Twentieth Century Fox, Dune Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment, Ingenious Media, Big Screen Productions, Ingenious Film Partners. Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, suggested by the novel La Planete des Singes by Pierre Boulle. Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie. Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver. Music by Patrick Doyle. Production Design by Claude Pare. Costume Design by Renee April. Film Editing by Conrad Buff IV, Mark Goldblatt. Academy Awards 2011. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
It’s always the mad scientists who ruin everything, isn’t it? Brainy geneticist James Franco is working on a drug to cure Alzheimers that he has been testing on chimpanzees in the lab to very successful effect, announcing at the beginning of this wonderful adventure that the medicine is ready and that investors should pony up the cash. Sadly, this happens on the day that his star pupil chimp goes completely nuts and destroys the lab, prompting the research company to scrap the entire project and put all their test subjects down. One infant ape survives, however, whom Franco takes home, names Caesar and raises as his own child, realizing that the surprisingly sharp primate has appropriated characteristics from his genetically-enhanced mother. It all spins out of control from there when Caesar grows up (played superbly by Andy Serkis), is taken in by animal control, meets others of his ilk, and begins to realize that he wants more from life than just to be someone’s pet. This is a perfect companion piece for those who are huge fans of Franklin J. Schaffner’s wondrous original, as committed to fitting in with the B-movie nature of its sequels as Tim Burton was anxious to get away from them. Despite a penny serial-style plot, which focuses on captivating character development over pyrotechnic effects, the film does have a lot of technical wonder to recommend it, including outstanding visual effects (the apes are mostly computer graphically created or actors in suits who have been enhanced by the film’s artists). The human element does not suffer, though, and Franco has a gleeful time holding his own against his scene-stealing companions, with Freida Pinto as his girlfriend, Brian Cox as the cruel dictator of the primate preserve and John Lithgow as Franco’s ailing father who has inspired his son’s research in the first place.