Summer Movie Body Count: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' kills adorable apes, terrible humans

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Image Credit: WETA

Week 14 of EW’s 2011 Summer Movie Body Count continues with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which PETA has practically crowned the Citizen Kane of Animal Movies since all its simian characters are CG, thus sparing real animals unnecessary abuse. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of animal cruelty depicted — man on ape, ape on man, ape on ape, ape on Slytherin, so… Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Fan of the 1968 original and its sequels might be a little confused by the setting of the new film. No maniacs have blown Earth up, so there’s no one to damn to hell yet. Things are actually looking pretty good for the homo sapiens: present-dayish San Francisco looks like a place Mark Zuckerberg would recognize, and the chimps are in laboratory cages, guinea pigs for James Franco’s tests to cure Alzheimer’s. [Note: The actor James Franco is NOT actually working to cure Alzheimer’s at this time. I know, I had to check, too.]

Anyway, it’s sort of like Project X… until one of the chimps gets all Bradley Cooper in Limitless. Franco’s new vaccine makes Bright Eyes, so called because of the green specs that appear in her eyes after taking the drug, super smart — but there might be a side effect. She goes berserk, turns Franco’s lab upside down, and crashes his billion-dollar board meeting before she’s gunned down by security. But wait… Did the drug cause her to go all King Kong, or was she just protecting her newborn baby, which the lab technicians hadn’t even noticed? (Real nice, guys.)

Anyway, Franco’s program is shuttered — the 12 other chimps are put down off screen — and he reluctantly brings the baby chimp home. When his Alzheimer’s-suffering father (John Lithgow) takes a shine to the clever chimp, Caesar (as he’s named) becomes part of the family. Turns out he inherited his mother’s mutated intelligent DNA, making him pretty good at puzzles, chess, and stealing cookies from the top shelf of the pantry. Franco’s homelife is sort of like Frasier, though Caesar has yet to be an Entertainment Weekly coverboy.

At this point of the film, you’re sure to be curious about the amazing CGI that makes this movie possible. But as it turns out, Freida Pinto, who plays a stunning zoo vet who falls for Franco, is a real person. Her character warns Franco, “I love chimpanzees. I’m also afraid of them.” Mmmm, yes, Caesar is getting bigger, smarter, and increasingly frustrated by his place in the pecking order. He lashes out at a German Shepherd whose anti-chimp bigotry is an embarrassment to Rin-Tin-Tin fans everywhere. Finally, Caesar can take no more, and when a neighbor threatens the sick and confused Lithgow in front of their house, Caesar comes to his defense in a gruesome manner. No one dies, but let’s just say Caesar has a taste for finger food.

The brutal attack dooms Caesar to a cruel state-run primate shelter run by Brian Cox and Draco Malfoy. Wearing human clothes, he attracts immediate unwanted attention from the other inmates, but he soon is running the joint after completing the guards’ income taxes and building the best prison library in the state of California. I’m kidding, but the audience wouldn’t have blinked if Caesar spent two weeks in the hole for blasting Mozart on the prison loudspeakers.

I know what you’re thinking at this point? I’ve read 543 words and we’re still stuck on just one dead chimp. Well, it’s time for the great ape escape. Rejected by his human father, Caesar swipes a new, more potent vaccine and exposes all his imprisoned primates to it. Together, they confront the sadistic handler played by Harry Potter’s Tom Felton, who once took great joy spraying Caesar with a firehose when the brilliant ape was still a fresh fish. Ah, Draco, the tables are turning and your truly rewarding death by soaked taser had me pounding my chest in the aisles.

Meanwhile, after Franco’s dad finally dies in his sleep, one of Franco’s technicians gets sick after being exposed to the new vaccine. He dies of a bloody nose, but not before sneezing all over Franco’s belligerent nine-fingered neighbor (who happens to be a germ-spreading airline pilot.)

Caesar and the other intelligent apes free their brethren at the zoo and Franco’s lab on their way to Zihuatanejo — I mean, the redwood forest at Muir Woods National Park. But the police are waiting for them on the Golden Gate bridge, and this is where the fog of war makes things difficult. A sniper kills one ape… a cop is tossed off the bridge… about four apes are gunned down by another sniper in a helicopter… before a giant gorilla brings down the helicopter with three humans aboard… sacrificing his own life in the process.

Franco tries to stop Caesar, who’s a born leader, a brilliant strategist and a merciful adversary. But once they successfully reach the redwoods and begin swinging from branch to branch like Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it becomes clear that the Statue of Liberty’s days are numbered.

Not counting the impending plague that threatens to wipe out the human population, the body count for this Planet of the Apes is a modest 14. Since no one died in the weekend’s other major film, The Change-Up, that brings our summer corpse count up to 710.

Comments (18 total) Add your comment
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  • Regina George

    I expected more dead people. It’s advertised as an action movie, after all.

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  • HaHa

    How about a friendly spoiler-warning before the poll?

    • nirali

      agreed!

    • The Truth

      The title of the poll wasn’t enough of a warning?? Common sense goes a long way.

  • Teej

    Haven’t seen it yet but this is the funniest review I’ve read in years. On a more serious note, PETA needs to stop worrying about CG animals in movies and spend more time on decrying the death of a poor starving Polar Bear who attacked a bunch of idiot British campers.

  • jenny

    I watched this movie for James Franco a very talented actor and EPIC movie

  • Ann

    Why do people keep comparing this movie to the original Planet of the Apes? At the least, plot-wise, this movie should be compared to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which was one of the sequels to the original which told the story of how to apes rose to take over the earth…

  • Griff

    Nothing has touched Shaw’s death in my opinion

    • m

      For me, Shaw’s death is a close second behind Neville killing Nagini – but that might just be because I really hate snakes, and I have been waiting for that thing to kick-it for years.

      • Bheemisetty

        For me, I can only here your interpretation of Lawgiver. Who knows the fturue? , not the original kid in the film. Same goes for Scotty in Star Trek VI saying, No waaaaaayyyyy!!!

    • Anonymus

      I hope that death will win it all!

  • Domanion

    Thanks for the spoiler alert, but I was expecting a review, not a recap.Can’t you find some way to evaluate the movie without saying everything that happened? I think we need a more experienced reviewer.

    • Asouma

      I didn’t mind the originals for the acautl idea but not really for how they were executed. But this one looks like it’s done really well and I’ve been excited about it since I saw a trailer eons ago. With today’s technology they could really do the story justice and not make it cheesy like the first ones. I’m glad you saw it and recommend it. I just might have to get a babysitter for this weekend and get the hubby to take me for a night out.

  • Johnny

    First off, the title is wrong. It should be Rise of Some Apes. My other problem with the movie is with that title and what it implies, I was expcecting a very dark movie about apes taking power from humans mercilessly. Not to go so far as Schindler’s List, but in that ballpark. When I watched the trailer a few months back I felt a certain dread. The movie had none. It had scenes that were filmed only so the trailer could have dread.

  • SunDancer

    I agree with Johnny. I saw the movie yesterday and felt that, too, the title should have been different. Should have been “Rise of the Apes”. This movie should NOT have been preceived and/or associated with the original movies. Though I believe this was a ploy to lure people in to watch this movie. I had seen ALL of the original “Planet of the Apes” whereas the apes had their own (assumed futuristic Earth) planet and humans happened to come upon. After watching this movie, it reminded me of the ROBIN COOK novel, “Chromosome 6″. Comparisons are unbelievable! (Though the movie context had a more modern setting.) Great read! I wonder if Robin Cook has seen this movie. The lead into the climax of the story was very slow. But all in all it was a pretty good movie. Can’t say I would see it again.

  • Livingyeah

    Speaking of Chromosome 6… Both that novel and this movie feature a greedy medical megacorporation known as GenSys.
    …is there a connection there??

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