Movie Review: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Posted: August 15, 2011 in movie reviews, movies
Tags: , , , , , ,

Other movies take note! Sometimes an actor can convey an entire story by just a look and a grunt. If I had to guess, about 50% of this did not contain any dialogue and I think that is partly what makes it so successful.

 

The Rise Of The Planet of The Apes

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton

Premise: Will (James Franco), is a scientist developing a drug to cure Alzheimer’s by testing the effects of the drug on apes. This research is very close to Will as his father (John Lithgow) is rapidly deteriorating from the disease. One formula in particular seems to be enhancing brain function in its ape host, however before Will and his fellow scientists have a chance to start human trials, the ape goes on a violent rampage throughout the lab forcing its eventual execution and a shutdown of the program. While examining the ape’s quarters he finds her baby, Caesar (Andy Serkis), who has inherited the intelligence of a human, and he takes in that ape to raise it. This story is about Caesar and how, through one act of compassion, he is allowed to develop into an amazingly smart and curious “child” into a fully grown ape intent on taking over the world.

My Review:  Doing this movie with motion capture apes was a huge risk. Even in the trailer the apes looked completely CGI, and that can be distracting. But it didn’t matter. The way Andy Serkis played Caesar was just right. Caesar WAS the star in this movie, leaving every other actor in the dust. There were portions of the movie where there was no dialogue at all and still it worked. Many actors out there, without being a mo-cap monkey can even achieve that.

Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

That’s not to say Caesar’s human counterparts weren’t important. John Lithgow was heartbreaking as being both a father to Will and a “grandfather” to Caesar, all the while slowly deteriorating health wise. He’s such an amazing actor that he can be absolutely terrifying one minute, to completely fragile the other. James Franco did a solid job, but he wasn’t memorable and the beautiful Freida Pinto, as his girlfriend, could have been played by anyone, frankly.

Aside from the amazing CGI, this movie also stood out for two other reasons. 1) 50% of the movie had no dialogue at all, relying on the smarts of the audience to figure out what was going on. It chose to show rather than tell, which is how I like my movies. 2) The last act was strong. Really strong. The action sequence was thrilling, terrifying, and emotional at the same time. It was the proper climax to something the movie had been building and building towards and it definitely wasn’t a letdown.

However, this movie didn’t work all the time. For example, the sign language scene between the Caesar and his orangutan friend? Not believable. I understand how Caesar was able to obtain those advanced skills but how would a circus monkey be able to do that? As well as the other apes and chimps Caesar inducted into his uprising, surely not all of them were dosed with the drug, yet they followed him and fought with the skill and precision he had? Director oversight? Forgotten detail? There were a bunch of these things, but maybe I’m just too nitpicky?

Overall, this movie was a good summer movie. It was something different from the endless supply of superhero movies. Plus, we were rooting for Caesar, even if he ends up being the “bad guy” we rooted for him. Or was it just me?

Rating: 3 ½ stars.

 

Random Thought:

Will Draco Malfoy Tom Felton always play a punk?

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