Planet of the Apes is an official entertainment franchise. Originally a novel by Pierre Boulle who also penned The Bridge on the River Kwai, (which won the Oscar as Best Film in 1957) POTA was a wildly successful film released in 1968. Among many fine attributes the original film contained a ground-breaking and brilliant score by Jerry Goldsmith. The film spawned four sequels, two TV series, numerous appearances in novel and comic book form and a full but terrible remake in 2001.
Many of the questions raised in the original film are finally answered brilliantly in ROTPOTA. The story takes place in current day San Francisco but other than minor background shots it was filmed almost entirely in Canada with extra opening scenes in Hawaii.
James Franco plays a young scientist out to cure Alzheimer’s by using an experimental drug on Cchimpanzees. He has an extra motive in that his dad, played by John Lithgow, is an Alzheimer’s victim. The main chimp in the story is played by Andy Serkis who also played King Kong in the most recent remake and Golum in The Lord of the Rings series. Although he tends to monkey around a lot, he is superb as an ape. Maybe the best ever. Maybe even better than Cheetah from the Tarzan movies. And Cheetah was, and still is, a real monkey. For those keeping count Cheetah will be celebrating his 80th birthday next year.
Shades of other films pop up during the many ensuing complications JF’s drug produces. Dad gets better but it is a lot like the Cliff Robertson Charly (also from 1968) improvement. It doesn’t last. The main monkey, known as Cesar, gets smarter by the minute. He resents being put in a cage. He resents being hosed down when he rebels. He resents bad monkey food and monkey poop in the community monkey cage. His resentment spills over into revolution. The Golden Gate Bridge will never be the same. Neither will mankind when the apes get done with them. See Planet of the Apes from ’68 first. Then you will be able to appreciate the witty script tie-ins and inside jokes.
This may well be the best of the 2011 summer season movies. All aspects make for riveting entertainment. Patrick Doyle’s score is also exactly what the mood of the film needs for an extra emotional boost. I hope Cheetah gets a chance to see it.
Rated 3.5 out of 4.0 big yellow bananas.