Monday, August 8, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Review

I am a fan of the original Planet of the Apes - a movie made in the 60s, with an amazing story and effects that were good for the 60s. So, with much anticipation, I walked into the movie hall today.

Well in a big nutshell - this is how the movie went: There is this advanced genetic/bio research facility called Gen Sys which has no control systems in place. They test this drug (ALZ-112) on a chimp called Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes shows cognitive development, and could be the clue to a drug for Alzheimer's. However, this chimp goes ballistic and crashes into a strategic management meeting convened to decide the fate of the drug, and promptly gets shot. All the other test chimps are shot, and the project gets scrapped. Then comes the twist. Bright Eyes, apparently was pregnant, and that's why she went ballistic.

And I'm like uh oh, this is wrong at so many levels. First of all, you don't crash into management meetings like that, without the risk of getting shot. Second, this advanced facility had no clue that there was a life form inside their test chimp. The movie would have ended in 6 minutes. Thirdly, our hero (the drug maker) secretly gets out of the facility with a baby chimp. Fourth, in the next half an hour, and after three years of scrapping the project, the hero goes in to the office and we can see freshly packed cartons of ALZ-112 lying all around. Hello, expiry date, anyone? It was like, well, they show the Microsoft building during 2011, with brand new Windows XP or Longhorn packages all around.

Hero's (James Franco's) dad has Alzheimer's, just as a coincidence. Baby chimp (named Ceaser) is amazing, because mom had genetically passed on the cognitive skills. Some good trapeze skills follow. Ceaser gets injured and goes to the doc. Frieda Pinto is a doctor who loves chimps. Ceaser suggests that she and his mentor go out on a date. And the most natural thing when propositioned that way is to say is yes. Later they take him to Red Woods (forest stuff) and all of them are having a great time.

And then we have the only human to human kissing scene in the movie. Rest is all ape kissing full blooded grown men. [I’m sure Freida might have been thinking – “back in Bollywood, this is the scene, where they show yeh haseen wadiya kind of song. Damn them Yankees.] Upon seeing James's body at right angle above Freido's from above, (and Freido's face not visible) Ceaser calculates accurately that they must have been kissing, jumps down and shows symptoms of attention deficit disorder. By then, I looked around and found that half the theatre was also not paying enough attention to the movie. The theater was only half full, by the way.

In the mean time, our hero administers the drug (yes, ALZ-112) to his dad (who is down completely with Alzheimer’s, remember?) one night, and the next morning dad is playing the Mozart or something on his piano. Things go well for a while.

To make the long story short, Ceaser messes up the neighborhood big time and is sent to a primate rehab facility, something like the Tihar jail. A stereotypical villain is the junior warden of sorts. To make the villain more villainous (so that we, the audience, can hate him enough, when the time for reckoning comes), they get him to bring his girlfriend, his friend, and his friend’s girlfriend to hangout and make fun of the poor apes stuck in a shithole. And just in case, you still liked him, he played Draco Malfoy in his earlier avatar.

Ceaser gets roughed up by his inmates too, who happen to be apes.

I think the interval somewhere there - not that it mattered. Well, yawn, dad’s illness just got worse, because his body develops antibodies (something which happens only to humans, not to apes) to the serum, so sonny boy Franco is at it again. He develops a better version of ALZ-112, and creatively names it – guess what? – ALZ-113. He gets permission to test it on chimps again, and the whole process starts. Just in case we did not believe their intentions, they test it on the most hideous chimp alive. (Yeah, the one with scars, the ugly proboscis, and the works). I guess they could have given him a tattoo, to increase the subtlety.

Meanwhile, in the primate facility, Ceaser shows dexterity, and manages to become the king of apes. Ceaser goes to hero’s house and gets enough ALZ-113 to vitalize his colleagues. That’s when the action starts, and Ceaser says “NO” to the villain who asks him to let go of his hands. Honest to God, I felt like an ape and was all goosebumps. But then again, they overdid it. Villain gets killed, and a good sidekick is spared the same fate to feed us the righteousness of the apes. Ceaser escapes with inmates. Attacks Gen Sys lab facility. Apes break and jump out of every glass window available in San Francisco, mayhem, chaos, and we are left to wonder - what’s the big idea?

Well, the big idea is that Ceaser wants to lead all the chimps (some rescued from the zoo) to Red Woods and have some sort of a gig there. And they jump on to the Golden Gate bridge, and there’s violence, but very little bloodshed. BTW, if you’re the sort of person who will get affected by scenes of men on horseback hitting fake chimpanzees on their backs for the crime of getting on top of cars, these scenes are not for you. There’s a bit of violence, when the tattoo ape pushes a helicopter down, in a benign gesture to kill a Gen Sys top honcho, but you can ignore that. He deserved it for getting into lab operations. He should have stayed with his strategic marketing.

Well, spare a thought for our hero who keeps running on the bridge. He has to save Ceasar. And he is about to save Ceaser, when Freida Pinto holds him back, and you can almost sense him saying “WHAT?” And she delivers her 11th and 12th words in the 90 minute movie – “Be Careful”.

Anyway, cops get plastered, chimps reach the Red Woods, and Ceaser tells our hero quite articulately “Ceaser is home”. And a voice in my head boomed “you idiot, Ceaser is home. YOU are not. You have to drive through Bangalore traffic for an hour to reach home. Get out.” Thankfully, in another minute the chimps climbed some tall trees, and rested their bums there. Get the fat idea? Well, the idea is called freedom, if I may say so.

Verdict: Watch it on DVD if you cannot wait for a month. Disable the rewind button, if possible. Trust me – you won’t need it.
If you can wait for a month, it may come on HBO.

PS: The movie had subtitles throughout for English dialogues. Wonder what happened to them, when serious conversations were being held in monkeyspeak. (yeah, animal rights activists, I know you hate that, but ask Maneka Gandhi, if she would have been polite in her response if she found a stranger 6 foot ape in her kids play area.)

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