Originally Posted 8/3/10
Rather than rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise with a do-over of Tim Burton's dreadful 2001 film, 20th Century Fox has opted to have its cake and eat it too. It's jumping right into the middle of the original franchise and, in the twisted timeline of the film series, gets to tell an origin story. Avoiding the self-fulfilling timeline of the original franchise (the rise of the apes would not have happened had not an ape from the future come back to the past), screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver turn the story of Caesar into a genetic thriller similar to Splice by way of Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon (with a dash of Michael Crichton's Next).
Dr. Will Rodman works to improve the brain functions of chimpanzees with hopes of curing his father of Alzheimer's. Apparently he's never seen Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea in which sharks are genetically modified to fight Alzheimer's. Sure, chimps are a little less violent but they get around on land a lot easier. And, most folks would think they're cuter, too.
When a turn of events leads to the apes going... well... apeshit, Will's program gets scrapped and all of the apes euthanized with the exception of a second generation chimp, the titular Caesar. He's raised by Will and his father (who gets a good dose of drugs that cures him of his Alzheimer's. Meanwhile, Will goes back to the drawing board at work, trying a new compound on mice. Things start to fall apart when the drugs lose their potency -- the mice start forgetting how to run their mazes as Will's father begins to lose his marbles again. When he's nearly hit by a car while wandering through his neighborhood, Caesar springs into action. His defense of Will's father goes too far and he ends up in an animal sanctuary along with a few more chimps, a trio of orangutans, and a gorilla.
While Caesar learns the intricacies of social interaction amongst apes, Will strikes up a relationship with Caesar's vet, Dr. Stewart. Fans of Planet of the Apes will remember Dr. Stewart as the lone female passenger of the Icarus, the ship that brings the human astronauts to the Planet of the Apes. This is just one of a dozen-odd nods to the original film. The sadistic guard of the animal sanctuary bears the name "Dodge" while there are characters named "Landon", "Maurice", "Evans", etc. At one point in the story Dr. Stewart goes missing and, shortly afterward, an announcement of the Icarus's launch (the mission led by a man named "Taylor") can be heard. This might lead viewers to believe that Dr. Stewart has left the planet but, nope, she only changed jobs. Wouldn't you know that she's working at that same animal sanctuary? Woah.
Back at Will's lab, a new batch of chimps has been brought in. A new compound makes the chimps highly intelligent, especially one sinister simian, but has one tricky side-effect. It kills any human unlucky to come into contact with it and spreads like the flu, especially after a carrier takes an international flight (Cough-Twelve Monkeys-cough).
Caesar unites the apes, locks up his keepers, and learns to speak. The apes make their way across San Francisco, releasing the chimps from the lab and at the city zoo. When he sees that another ape that bit him has started to get smarter he deduces that his blood is the key. In a scene that should be shot like The Last Supper, Caesar shares his blood amongst the apes.
They're pursued across the Golden Gate bridge, escaping into the woods. The power dynamics amongst the apes as well as the impending doom of the human race leave the film wide open for the next chapter.
Though fairly derivative (I haven't even mentioned Project X), the script has some clever allusions and makes for a quick read, though doesn't leave that great of a taste in one's mouth after it's all over.