Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Okay, confession time- this is my first "Planet of the Apes" movie. I have never seen the Charlton Heston original. Hell, I haven't even seen the crappily reviewed Tim Burton film with Helena Bonham Carter and Mark Wahlberg.

But I have to say, despite my lack of experience with the "Apes" franchise, this one grabbed my attention right away. This is up there with Neill Blomkamp's "District 9" as science fiction at its most emotionally charged, tinged with social commentary.

This is a star-studded cast -- James Franco, John Lithgow, Tom Felton of the "Harry Potter" films -- and yet the film belongs to the apes. These CGI wonders are incredibly realistic, and through the magic of modern technology, given the facial expressions of actors.

The plot: Will (James Franco) works for a scientific research facility, where he is trying to create a serum that will help the brain repair itself, curing maladies such as Alzheimer's and other mental disorders. His heartache and his inspiration is his father Charles (John Lithgow) whose mind is in the grip of the disease.

For reasons I will not go into here, Will is put in charge of raising Caesar, a highly intelligent ape. Caesar's expressions are contributed by Andy Serkis, the face behind Peter Jackson's Gollum and King Kong. Will quickly gets attached to Caesar, but Will's veterinarian girlfriend, Caroline (Frieda Pinto) wisely advises him that Caesar will not be young and cute forever.

  Caesar's presumed of abandonment at the hands of Will and abuse perpetrated by cruel ape handler Dodge (Tom Felton, mustering every bit of his meanness from his Draco Malfoy days) is upsetting but crucial to Caesar's development as a character. But rather than make Will (Franco) into a villain, the film makes him a essentially good character who grows to care for Caesar deeply, but cannot take charge of his fate.

It hurt me to see Caesar abandoned and abused by the humans, so watching him break free and command a legion of primates in the ape revolution is gratifying. Most of the time, the movie makes you believe in its characters and happenings 100% percent, which is hard to do in a super-intelligent-apes-take-over-the-world movie. Caesar is an amazing character who grows so much throughout the movie, reaching a peak of development that some human film characters never even aspire to.

You don't have to be a "Planet of the Apes" fan to see there is some kind of genius at work here, and this timely and relevant film will thrill and engross you. See it. Trust me.


  1. Completely with you here. I was shocked by how much I cared for a CGI ape, and how natural his progression unfolded. Very well done.

  2. I've never seen the Charlton Heston original either, and can't remember hardly anything from the Mark Wahlberg version, must not be all that memorable then. I quite like this one though, Andy Serkis is amazing once again, his mo-cap performance should've been nominated IMO. I'm with you, I feel for Caesar to be treated this way... especially the scenes of him being bullied. It's quite a heart-wrenching film that is both heartfelt and terrifying.

  3. My brother and I saw the original, in the theater, during summer vacation. It was campy bad, but we loved it -- it definitely beat hanging around the house. :-) "Take your hands off me, you damn ape!" Egads.

  4. I saw the original, but only after seeing this one. I liked both, but this one obviously in terms of special effects was the clear the story was a good one too.

  5. This came in for some criticism with people but I loved it. It completely engrossed me and was one of the biggest surprises of that year. Nice review!


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