Sequel, prequel, re-imagining or reboot, it is difficult these days to actually know what the blockbuster movie you are about to see is, or where it fits into any franchise.
Here I believe we are safe to call the film an origin story, which attempts to reboot and integrate with what has gone before, excluding Tim Burton’s more recent effort.
The film starts with scenes depicting the capture of Chimps destined to be experimented on, in the hope that a cure for Alzheimer’s can be found (ALZ112). Laudable work, especially if your father (John Lithgow) has the disease and you happen to be a noted scientist in that field of science, Will Rodman (James Franco).
When an over protective chimp interrupts a PowerPoint presentation in spectacular fashion, this confirms the first batch of the ALZ112 drug is perhaps not quite as stable as the team would have liked.
The lab boss Steven Jacobs (Jacob Oyelowo), takes ruthless steps once he realizes that avenue of research is not paying off, despite the keepers mild protests.
Taking the remaining just born chimp Caeser home, Will realizes that Caeser has benefited from the drug being passed from his mother. Subsequent noteworthy intellect far beyond what they would have expected is the result, with Caeser’s signing ability and understanding that far exceeds the norm.
Bringing up Caeser appears somewhat idyllic, until an event causes a chain reaction that impacts Will’s relationship with Caeser and ultimately the future of mankind.
The movie obviously has a lot of story to tie into and it quietly lays the foundations for further movies that the studio plan to make. As the events unfold, man is shown blasting off to Mars on flickering TV screens in the background. The astronauts will be gone some time and it is safe to say that earth may be a less crowded place with lower property prices, when they eventually return.
Of course the film will never work without fully believable chimps. Weta workshops the New Zealand based SFX company, have done a superb job in creating believable characters. Motion captured acting (Andy Serkis is Caeser) with a digitally created chimp or Orangutan “skin”, the actors performances remain intact. The eyes, expressions and many movements transcend the simple term “special effect” and create living breathing creations.
True, there are a few dodgy shots that pull you out of the action, baby Caeser being a case in point, but 80% of the time we are dealing with seemingly living characters born out of a computer. The scenes with the chimp clearly thinking and his eyes moving knowingly from side to side, are both exciting and disturbing at the same time.
With these very special effects, it does mean that living actors have their work cut out. James Franco is rather bland and his boss is rather a crude stereotype. Freida Pinto as Wills love interest and live in Veterinarian, is as beautiful as she appeared in Slumdog Millionaire but gets relatively little to do. John Lithgow creates a great character and his portrayal of Alzheimer’s and his relationship with Caeser are a standout for the film.
There is a feeling that the film pushes as far as it can with the ethical dilemmas inherent with such experimentation. Whether the ends justify the means and are we any more entitled to be saved than the mammals tested upon.
Interesting and thought provoking, the film has built up enough intelligence credits to see it over the line, before it throws in the towel and remembers it’s a summer event movie. The film ending with a spectacular Golden Gate bridge set action finale.
It is unlikely that this will be the last we will see of Caesar and his many friends.
Good fun and may have you wondering whose side you are on and whether empathy or sympathy is the emotion you should be feeling.