Viva le ape

"Incredible" is the one word to describe Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  The other two words are "Andy Serkis."  Let there be no doubt that this Andy Serkis' film.  Despite the obvious formula: corporate science gone wild, abused lab animals, disastrous consequences for human kind, the film is impressive, due in no small part to Andy Serkis.  Serkis' motion capture performance as Caesar is Oscar-worthy.  Best-known for his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis is a master physical actor.  The emotions Serkis brings with just his eyes and body language, speak volumes.
The film itself is a prequel rather than an actual remake.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the tale of what happened before the apes came to rule and how they did it. No other Planet of the Apes film has told this story before.  Coincidentally, Rise of the Planet of the Apes gives us just enough of the origins story to set the stage for future sequels.

The film starts with Will Rodman played by James Franco.  Will is a good-natured scientist working for the stereotypical "greedy" corporation.  Will is particularly passionate about developing a cure for Alzheimer's, as this disease afflicts his own father, played by John Lithgow.  Due to their similarities to humans and their resistance to disease, Will's drug is first tested on chimpanzees.  These unfortunate chimps have been illegally captured from the wild.
At first everything is gravy and the chimps develop increased intelligence and problem solving skills.  However, an unexpected setback shelves the program.  When a baby chimp (Caesar) is left in the aftermath, kind-hearted Will takes Caesar home to raise him.  Will and his father, Charles, raise Caesar as a member of their family.  Due to the drug-treatments performed on Caesar's mother, Caesar develops remarkable intelligence.  Even though Caesar is a super-intelligent chimp, he's still a chimp and behaves as such.  When Caesar zealously defends his pseudo-grandfather against an aggressive neighbor, Caesar is separated from the only family he knows and sent to a chimp sanctuary.  The sanctuary is run by the oh-so-stereotypical wicked caretakers played by the Brian Cox and Tom Felton (Draco in Harry Potter).
It doesn't take long for Caesar to stand out among regular chimps.  Caesar soon becomes the alpha chimp of the sanctuary and that's just the beginning.  Caesar has plans for a mini-revolution.  Thankfully, director Rupert Wyatt is smart enough not to overplay his hand.  Wyatt and the screenwriters wisely focus on the emotion of the story--not just dramatic cgi-laden action sequences.  The heart of the story and the solid performances make the climatic battle between humans and apes on the Golden Gate Bridge that much more effective.  

There are certainly a few weak links to the story.  Beautiful Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), who plays Will's love interest, is one of them.  Poor Frieda doesn't add much to the story and has very few lines.  Ultimately she's placed in the film to look pretty, add a little romance to the film, and perhaps attract a female audience.  The mean-spirited caretakers of Caesar's chimp sanctuary are a little too "stereotypical" as well.  


I would note that as extraordinary as Serkis' performance was, something should be said for Franco. Franco played this role with great subtlety.  Another actor could have over-acted it.  Franco's conscientious acting style illustrates why pop stars and former male models should never replace 'real' actors.  Justin Timberlake and beautiful Jason Momoa come to mind.  Mind you I adore, Jason Momoa (new Conan the Barbarian).  When Jason doesn't talk he's great.  That's why he was picture perfect as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.
Despite the formula, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a compelling piece of summer entertainment and worth watching.  For Planet of the Apes franchise fans, there were several nods, one-liners, and homages to the original film.  In a summer filed with special-effects-driven stories, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a welcome and entertaining relief.


Alvaro Cipagauta - 2000

11 comments:

  1. I really want to see this movie...

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  2. This really looks like a good movie though. Personally the other remakes were horrible soooo i will be watching this :)

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  3. I can't wait to check this out! It looks like its going to be awesome.

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  4. I've seen this. It's a very good film. Yes, Andy Serkis was amazing but I did think the human characters were a bit underwritten.

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  5. I really didn't expect to like it, but it was excellent. (I'm reviewing it on Monday.) And Serkis was amazing. He really deserves an Oscar nomination. His performance sold the idea.

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  6. Looking forward to this one, it's not out in the UK until next week.

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  7. @Sinclair-- I think you'll really enjoy it.

    @Justin-- It was good. This is more of a prequel. A true prequel, which is great.

    @Real Queen-- It's great. You'll enjoy it.

    @Film Geek-- So true the human characters were underwritten. Poor Frieda hardly had any lines. Diane Fossey she was not.

    @Alex-- I didn't expect to like it either. I enjoyed much more than I expected. I'll have to check out your review on Monday.

    @Ricky-- You'll enjoy it. Can't wait for your review.

    @Harry Goaz-- Thanks Harry. I appreciate you checking the blog out!

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  8. I can't wait to see this film. Thank you for the awesome review!

    Ellie Garratt

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  9. Watched this film and loved it.
    Completely agree with most points in your review.

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  10. Great Review! I wasn't actually expecting to be as moved as I did from this material but Serkis just really channeled the inner ape within him, and nails this perfect motion-capture performance as Caesar. I also sure as hell hope that he doesn't get snubbed as well. He already did for LOTR!

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