What if there was a research drug in the laboratory right now that had a good chance of curing Alzheimer's but it needed more testing on animals before it could be released for human trials? And what if that same neurogenesis drug made its research subjects smarter? That's the premise of the exciting and surprisingly thoughtful Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Will Rodman (James Franco) is the lead genetic researcher working on the miracle drug for Gen Sys Corporation, but he has a driving motivation of his own: his father (John Lithgow) is rapidly descending into dementia.
Clinical trials for the ALZ-112 drug go well, but when they inadvertently treat a pregnant chimpanzee then separate her from her newborn, she goes on a rampage and the project is shut down. Except for Caesar, the baby chimp who Rodman takes home to prevent it being killed. Caesar turns out to be an extraordinarily intelligent chimp but after an incident where he attacks a neighbor who was assaulting the now-cured father he's sent to monkey jail, the San Bruno Primate Shelter.
Not only does Caesar not like the primate shelter, but is also constantly taunted by malevolent employee Dodge Landon (Tom Felton). Enough is enough, and he escapes, steals some of the more powerful ALZ-113 from Rodman's house then goes back and exposes the hundred or so primates at the Shelter to the drug. The stage is set and the monkeys break out en masse.
The original 1968 Planet of the Apes is an iconic science fiction film, with imagery notably including Colonel Taylor (Charlton Heston) finding a half-buried Statue of Liberty on a beach in the monkey-dominated future Earth. I'd always wondered what happened for that to transpire and Rise of the Planet of the Apes does a good job of explaining, even through some vital information the happens in the last two or three minutes of the film.
I really enjoyed the new film and found it mostly plausible. Director Rupert Wyatt has captured the essence of the San Francisco setting and produced many iconic images of his own, including when the angry simians encounter SFPD on the Golden Gate Bridge. It's fun. Go see it.