Movie Recap

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' recap: Gorilla Warfare

The seventh film in the franchise goes back to where it all started, with a cast that includes a lovable chimpanzee, a horribly ineffective scientist, and an extremely unlucky pilot-next-door

ME CAESAR, YOU LAME The scene-stealing breakout star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes consoles his fleshy human pal
ME CAESAR, YOU LAME The scene-stealing breakout star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes consoles his fleshy human pal

Fellow moviegoers, do you find yourself feeling faintly annoyed by the overfranchised cinematic landscape of summer 2011 — a blockbuster season ruled by sequels and threequels and fourquels and prequels, by spin-offs and reboots and remakes and rip-offs, in which the most widely beloved film was a ''Part 8'' that claimed to be a ''Part 2,'' and in which the most quote-unquote ''original'' project came embroidered with the kindergarten-ready title Cowboys & Aliens? Then you should know that, for better or for worse, all the essential moves in the film-franchise playbook come straight from one single source: The Planet of the Apes series, a fascinatingly overcomplicated cycle of films which has lasted for over 40 years.

The pretzel-logic narrative physics of the franchise would take hours to explain and years to understand — io9.com created a helpful chrono-map that helps a little bit — and can probably best be summed up by this hilariously mindbending sequence from Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which a brilliant scientist attempts to explain time travel and fails spectacularly. Note: If you are easily hypnotized, do not watch this video.

Suffice it to say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes — this weekend's surprisingly not-terrible surprise box office champ — is simultaneously a prequel to the original Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the franchise's entire timeline, and a semi-remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in which an intelligent ape named Caesar led a primate uprising against goony humans.

Rise begins in the jungle, with a cartload of chimpanzees frolicking the forests. The fun is quickly ruined by a blast of hunters — aren't collective nouns fun? — who capture an adorable-looking chimpanzee. Flash-forward in time: The chimpanzee has developed super-smarts thanks to a new brain-expanding anti-Alzheimer's drug. As a side effect, the ape's eyes have also developed a pleasant glow. Her scientist wardens have given her the nickname ''Bright Eyes,'' which proves decisively that primatologists love their early-00s emo music.

At this point, we meet the film's main human character: Will Rodman, played by James Franco. Upon realizing that his Alzheimer's cure has turned Bright Eyes into the smartest primate this side of Beppo the Super-Monkey, Will runs straight to a character who I will henceforth refer to as Evil Boss. Now there are three things you have to understand about Evil Boss:

1. He is always impeccably dressed.
2. He is played by David Oyelowo, the only actor in the film with a British accent.
3. Every line of dialogue he has in the film can be summed up thus: ''Money! Money! Money! I love money! Now can someone kill this adorable chimpanzee? I want to swim through my money, but first I need to grease myself up with the blood of an adorable animal.''

In short, he's the second-most fun human character in the film. Will, conversely, is one of the worst scientists in human history. We see him explain his fantastic cure for Alzheimer's to a group of investors. During his speech, the film gloriously crosscuts to Bright Eyes, who gets loose in the laboratory and goes on a rampage. It plays out kind of like this:

Will: As you can see from this glossy Power-Point presentation, Bright Eyes has become super-smart, while remaining fantastically lovable.
Chimp Handler: No Bright Eyes, no! Don't kill me!
Will: We should put this cure on the market immediately.
Chimp Handler: She's been driven insane by the cure!
Will: This plan can't fail.
Chimp Handler: The plan is failing!

NEXT: Hail Caesar!

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