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Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

By Scott Tibbs, February 6, 2012

Warning: There are spoilers in this review.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fun movie, but it would have been a lot better if not for the completely nonsensical plot and the series of villainous actions by the human characters that made it natural to root for the apes that will eventually take over the world and oppress humanity. With one lonely exception, every human character in the movie is a villain to some degree or another.

We start off with a chimp captured in the wild and sent to a research lab. When it is time for the chimp to be presented to the board as an example of the successful experiments to increase brain function, she becomes infuriated and goes on a rampage through the lab and the public area before being shot to death by security.

These have got to be the worst scientists ever. Do you mean to tell me that there is no safe manner of restraining the captive chimp other than two scientists trying to put it on a leash? Do you expect me to believe that there are not multiple layers of security to bring a chimp under control if she becomes angry and lashes out? Having the chimp crash through the window into the board of directors meeting was completely forced and strains believability.

When all of the chimps are ordered to be put down, lead researcher Will Rodman smuggles a baby chimp out in a cardboard box to care for at home. No, you can't do that. There is not one single reputable research laboratory in the world that would not have multiple layers of security that would prevent the theft of one of the animals, especially a primate. There is no way in any realistic setting that this happens, and is another example of lazy writing to set up the next scene.

As Rodman's father gets worse, he steals samples of the highly experimental anti-Alzheimer's drug to treat his father at home. This is stupid. This makes Rodman a mad scientist on the level of Dr. Wily in the Mega Man games, not a reputable researcher for a major pharmaceutical company. In addition to the incredible lack of ethics Rodman displays here, there is no way in any realistic setting that a scientist can smuggle highly experimental drugs out of the lab in his pocket past multiple layers of security.

After Rodman raises Ceasar the chimp as a "son" for several years, Ceasar attacks a neighbor who is assaulting Rodman's father. Ceasar is taken to a primate sanctuary. This is also stupid. Even if we are to believe that Rodman is so unethical he would steal a research animal and take it home, no reasonable person would allow a super-intelligent research animal to live unsupervised in an uncontrolled environment without exposing the truth to prevent harm.

As Ceasar languishes in the primate sanctuary, Rodman tells his boss that he is illegally treating his father with the experimental drug that has not even been cleared for human trials, and it is working. Any reasonable person would not only immediately terminate this mad scientist, he would call the police. But that's not what Steven Jacobs does, because every human in this movie is a villain and/or stupid and/or certifiably insane. Jacobs orders the tests to continue. Again, that is just stupid and another example of lazy writing.

The highly experimental anti-Alzheimer's drug is actually a virus that spurs the brain to repair itself, but when the virus is modified to become more aggressive, it becomes lethal to humans while it drastically increases the intelligence of non-human primates. So this leads to yet another example of a stupid and/or evil character behaving in a way no normal person would behave.

A lab worker becomes exposed to the virus and gets sick, and instead of immediately notifying the lab of the situation and seeking treatment, he seeks out Rodman at home to ask for help. Again, this is lazy writing. You have been exposed to a highly experimental virus that has not been cleared for human trials, and you are sick and getting worse. A normal person's reaction is not to go back to your apartment and wait for death.

Ceasar the chimp escapes from the primate sanctuary and steals samples of the aerosolized drug which are being kept in Rodman's refrigerator in his home. Again, who does that? I know I am repeating myself, but there is not one respectable research lab in the world that would allow this kind of behavior. How is this company still in business? How have they not been shut down by the government for their sloppiness and complete lack of ethics? I am repeating myself again, but this is lazy writing to set up the next scene as opposed to coming up with a plausible explanation.

I can suspend my disbelief and accept the premise of science fiction for the purpose of enjoying a movie. What I have a problem with is completely nonsensical behavior by characters and a series of coincidences that would never take place in any kind of realistic setting. It is as if the writers of this script simply did not care about the story making any kind of sense, rushing through the setup to get to the payoff in the final scene. This could have been so much better.

Final grade: C