The kids and I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes today. I have wanted to see it since I saw the first preview because it combines a lot of my favorite things: CGI animals acting like people, a dangerous virus that plagues humanity, Parkour! (chimps invented it), and John Lithgow.
About half the movie was very enjoyable. (Spoiler alert!) James Franco is a scientist who is researching a cure for Alzheimer's disease that his father, John Lithgow, suffers from. He thinks he has done it and the drug has gone through animal testing and they are giving a big meeting with some important people and the test monkey, who is not only not suffering from Alzheimer's, but has shown improved brain function overall and is super smart; goes completely ballistic and tears the hell out of the lab. This causes the money-grubbing pharmaceutical boss-type character to cut the funding for the project and destroy all the chimp test subjects. Well, it turns out that the crazy chimp went crazy because she just had a baby that nobody knew about, (apparently nobody looks at them from the shoulders down in captivity because how can anyone in a laboratory, medical-testing facility miss a pregnant primate?)
So James took the baby chimp to live with him and his dad. They discover that the chimp is VERY smart and name him Caesar. Apparently the drug they gave the mother somehow (?), mysteriously (?) passed the genes (?) for smartness (?) down to the baby and he is a super monkey. He learns sign language, he practices Parkour all over the house, he makes models of the Statue of Liberty, he cheers up John Lithgow and all is fabulous until one day when Caesar spots the douchey neighbor being mean to a bumbling John Lithgow in the street. Caesar freaks out and bites the neighbor's finger off and then is court ordered to go to the local primate house that is run by a mean guy with a striking resemblance to Colonel Striker from the first X-Men movie, and his sneering son, Draco Malfoy.
Caesar is way smarter than Malfoy and wants to rally the chimps so they work together to make their lives better, but the chimps, omg, they're so stupid that Caesar finds it frustrating. We know all this from the sign-language conversations between Caesar and an Orangutan who is constantly ripping on the lacking intelligence of his primate house-mates. RAAAARRRRRR!!!! So Caesar does the only thing a super intelligent chimp can do in a situation like this; he steals the drug from the pharmaceutical company and gives it to all the primates in the primate house. Then they wake up smart, they gel, they train, and they escape. This is where the movie lost me. One minute I'm watching Caesar and his 50 or so friends leaving the primate house, and in the very next scene I'm watching hundreds and hundreds of monkeys ravaging the landscape, and they run amok all over San Francisco freeing captive primates to join their monkey army. San Francisco has a shocking number of chimps, gorillas and orangutans. Seriously, thousands.
The movie ends with a stand-off between the Parkour-loving monkeys and the gun-wielding humans on the Golden Gate Bridge. All the monkeys want is to get to Muir Woods so they can practice Parkour in the redwoods, which as everyone knows, is every Parkour enthusiast's dream. Do they make it? Of course they do, this is a prequel, you know. Does a monkey ride a horse? You'll have to go yourself to see. Does a monkey develop the power of speech with a deep resonating voice even though that would be stupid, not to mention physiologically impossible considering humans are the only primates with a voice box?* Again, pay your own hard-earned eight dollars to find out.
I enjoyed the movie, loved the CGI, really loved Andy Serkis's performance (as CGI Caesar), but the ending was not nearly as good as the beginning. It's like they gave up about two thirds of the way in and just said, "I'm tired, let's finish this shit," like I do when I paint, and did a really crappy, slapdash job at the end.