A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
There are some thought-provoking messages in the movie, especially the idea about whether it's questionable to test animals with drugs that could injure them if it's for the benefit of curing human diseases. Animal equality is brought up via both the character of Caesar, who's of superior intelligence to his human age-counterparts, and the misery of the apes held imprisoned in the animal shelter. Will's decisions to keep Caesar, give his father the experimental drug, and bribe an official show the moral ambiguity of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. The tension between the pharmaceutical industry's drive for profits versus the good of helping the sick is another major theme.
Positive Role Models
Despite keeping Caesar and giving his father drug-trial medicine illegally, Will is a hardworking visionary who wants to help cure diseases at work and comes home to take care of his ill father. He's not perfect, but he's disciplined, kind, and intelligent. Caesar himself is more "human" than some of the human characters. He's thoughtful, generous, and thinks everything through strategically. He only uses violence when threatened, as opposed to for sport.
Violence & Scariness
In the opening scene, ape poachers are shown trapping apes in nets and chasing them with machetes and guns; shortly after that, a lab ape gets very aggressive with the scientists and is eventually shot and killed. The ape-versus-human violence is usually in retaliation for human-on-ape violence, and it includes apes grabbing and nearly breaking someone's hand, Caesar biting the hand of a neighbor who's pushing his owner, and apes fighting off police officers who surround and shoot them from a helicopter and the ground. The goriest scenes are of a man who's electrocuted (he's hosed down as he turns an electric stunning device on), a police officer who's thrown off a bridge by a gorilla, and a man plummeting into the water from a falling helicopter. An ape also dies protecting his leader. An elderly man succumbs to illness in his sleep, while a contaminated human dies from a strange virus.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of sweet kisses and some flirting between Will and Caroline. They live together (it's not clear whether they're married), and they're shown in bed, but only sleeping.
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Language includes one use of "s--t," plus infrequent use of "hell," "ass," "goddamn," and "damn" (as in the famous line: "Get your damn paws off me, you damned dirty ape").
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Products & Purchases
The only brand prominently featured is an Apple MacBook/desktop computer.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A primate shelter worker and his friend are shown with drinks in their hands.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story that's less sci-fi and more relationship drama, making it a surprisingly equal-opportunity choice for teens and parents. There's not much language, sexuality, or drinking, but the animal-human violence gets intense in the second half of the movie. Humans are afraid of the apes, so they shoot and poke them, and the threatened apes react defensively by smashing cars, throwing spears, pushing police officers off a bridge, and generally wreaking havoc on the Bay Area. There are a few pivotal death scenes for both species, but the movie's focus is less on the action and more on the nuanced question of how animals and humans can co-exist once there's no intelligence barrier. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is an entertaining, well-acted origin story. Although some of its plot elements are similar to the fourth Planet of the Apes film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, this reimagining doesn't feature time travel or the widespread domestication of apes. The story is simple and, in this highly medicated culture, surprisingly easy to conceive: Medical experiments that alter animal development aren't a fantasy, they're reality. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is equal parts family drama and sci-fi-lite action, and the poignant, complicated relationship between Will, his ailing-then-improved father, and their beloved Caesar is a bona fide tearjerker in a couple of scenes. This is owed completely to the three actors: Franco, Lithgow, and Serkis, who deserves an Academy Award for his mastery of nuanced motion-capture performances.
The trio of main actors, with help from Oyelowo, who's perfectly smarmy as the profit-driven CEO, and Freida Pinto, who's a distractingly beautiful veterinarian, propels the film above the forgettable dross of raunchy comedies and formulaic remakes that fill theaters. And since they're known to chew up scenery, special mention must be made of Brian Cox and Tom Felton, both of whom are fabulous as an ambivalent primate-shelter owner and his sneering, sadistic bully of a son (Harry Potter fans may feel compelled to yell "Draco Malfoy!" at the screen). Despite all of the fine performances, there are a few missteps (like when the greedy businessman assumes that the apes will offer him mercy) but that really doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. The best part is that, unlike so many "first in a planned series" installments, this one feels complete at the end, with the final image and end credits alluding to how the apes finally rise to inherit the earth.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.