Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

August 23, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

The original Planet of the Apes is a Sci-Fi classic with several sequels and a remake coming after it that never really came close to the power or essence of the original. Director Rupert Wyatt, James Franco and company attempt to break the string of sub-par efforts and inject some new life into the franchise with this bold prequel. Setting the film way before the original, the audience gets to experience the very beginning of the ape revolution.

Director Wyatt does a great job of pacing the film, and the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver is very tightly written, as well as smart. The two hour run-time is a breeze because the film totally absorbs you into the life of Will Rodman and his intelligent ape named Caesar. I’m a big believer that when CGI is used, it shouldn’t make the audience go “hey that’s amazing CGI,” but instead they shouldn’t notice; the CGI should be seamlessly integrated into the scenes  (of course, that’s the ideal, but we’re not quite there yet). You know that the apes are all done with CGI, but there are moments where you forget because of the authenticity of the movements and expressions. The special effects are some of the best I have ever seen in a long time. The action scenes were pretty breathtaking, mostly due to that fact that the apes are shown from a sympathetic viewpoint, so there’s emotional weight behind the action.

This was Andy Serkis’ film, hands down. Serkis plays Caesar mostly through facial expressions and mannerisms, and he makes the audience feel his agony, his depression, his love, and it comes through to touch you in a much deeper way than mere words. Caesar’s intelligence fuels his yearning to be more than a pet or an object of experiment, it guides him to lead a revolution. We can almost cheer for him, because he’s fighting for freedom in a world that wants to enslave him, but it’s never that clear because we know what this freedom will lead to. James Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist looking for the cure his father’s Alzheimer’s disease, and his character becomes a man that tries to battle death. Franco, as Will, is very sincere in his love for Caesar and their relationship is what we can relate to very well. It’s as much a father and son relationship as it is a pet and owner one. The film spends its time building their relationship, only to tear it apart, and we feel every seam rip.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best major summer movies of 2011. It brings us to ponder that we’re just animals with better brains, but animals nonetheless,  enslaving what we believe is beneath us. On the flip side, it’s an action-packed, emotional piece of film-making that will not be soon forgotten. I don’t know of Serkis deserves an Oscar nomination, but I wouldn’t complain if he got one.

Potential Drawbacks:

Some may just take this as another film protesting the evils of animal testing, and might not care for it much because of that. Other might be drawn into it because it’s a bid-budget summer movie, but at it’s heart it’s a  Sci-Fi film, so some may find it ridiculous.

There are some missteps here and there, and some may also feel disappointed by the “revolution,” thinking that it wasn’t big enough. In addition, Freida Pinto was underused, and was pretty much there as eye-candy where she could’ve been more than that.

Film Recommendations:

Planet of the Apes (1968)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes (2001)

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