I finally got a chance to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes yesterday, and I must say that it is easily one of the best movies of this Summer blockbuster season. It may not rake in the cash like Harry Potter, or the other big name movies of the Summer, but it’ll entertain even the most casual Apes fans and sci-fi fans alike. Rise is just a fantastic franchise reboot that proves prequels can be done right unlike those that will not be named! It also proves that a fully CG lead character can carry a major motion picture as the lead actor, but to do so Andy Serkis needs to be behind the balls (mo-cap balls you sick f*ck).
Let me preface this review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes with the fact that I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, and I’ve only briefly read a Cliff’s notes version of its history. I’m not pumping this film up because I’m some sort of Ape loving fanboy. Rise is just a damn good movie that could potentially lead to the whole Apes franchise being more popular than it ever was before. This prequel unlike other franchise prequels, definitely breathes new life into an otherwise obscure and dying sci-fi franchise. Let’s just say I’ve never been more entertained by watching CG monkeys evolve into highly intelligent beings.
Without a doubt this film at its core is a story about good science gone bad, and the ethics of forced captivity of nature’s wild beasts. It’s also an interesting look at a being becoming self-aware and how things may have looked thousands of years ago when man first decided to quit flinging poo and got civilized. None of these themes would’ve been even remotely feasible if it weren’t for the fantastic performances of the CG apes, and more importantly the masterful work of Andy Serkis.
Serkis’ Caesar is What Makes this Film Work
The story of Caesar’s rise to the top of the food chain wouldn’t have been as entertaining, or believable for that matter if Serkis wasn’t the actor behind the mask. This dude has easily cemented himself as the greatest CG actor of all-time, and I’m tempted to say that he even outdid his Gollum performance for the LOTR trilogy. His dedication to the character of Caesar is what makes Rise such a believable movie even though half of the cast on screen at any one time could be computer generated. His interactions with Lithgow and Franco give his CG character a sense of realness, which is all too often lost with fully digital characters. He made you feel like he was real, and therefore the movies’ story became very personal.
Anyone that has ever owned a pet that they’d rather save over an actual person in a life or death situation will undoubtedly feel for Caesar and his adopted human family as certain events in Rise play out. You see, Rise isn’t the movie that the trailer makes it out to be. It’s not all about a bunch of damn dirty apes going bat sh*t crazy through the streets of San Francisco. In all honesty what you see in the trailer is actually the last 20-30 minutes of the film, so Rise is more about the story of Caesar and why he became the leader of the apes, and what motivated him to lead a revolt against his captors.
Rise is More About Relationships and Ethics Than Apes Gone Mad
I felt like the movie did a fine job of telling the story of Caesar and his merry band of apes, and it was done in a way that I didn’t expect. I honestly thought this flick would be nothing more than a 2 hour ape on man war, but it’s actually a great story of how the TV series apes came to be, and it isn’t what I expected at all. I’d say Rise is more similar to movies that deal with issues like slavery, or animal cruelty than a sci-fi movie about talking apes. One would think that as a human I’d want the humans in the movie to win, but that’s not the case in Rise. I found myself cheering for the apes as they made their daring escape to freedom, and I’d love to see their story continued in a sequel to this Apes reboot. This is due to the fact that Caesar is such a believable character, and by the time he does speak I totally believed in its absurdity.
Rise also sets up the fall of man perfectly, and as I mentioned before it wasn’t like I expected at all. Man’s demise as it is in any apocalyptic tale is brought on by greed and the idea that we can play God. All the apes really wanted was to be free. Contrary to what I thought they weren’t all about the destruction of man. They just wanted to be left alone in nature like they were meant to be. Due to some bad science man ends up taking care of the humans on their own. For fans of the original TV series there’s also a few easter eggs set in motion for those who pay close attention. Rise definitely tipped its hat to the Heston character from way back in the day that any fan of the series would smile at. The way this film was done it definitely could have a successful sequel, so I’m hoping to see how Caesar and his gang fair in the next one if the studio makes it.
This is not What the Entire Movie is All About
If I had to point out a negative thing about Rise I’d have to say that the last quarter of the movie felt like it was on fast forward. Once the apes escape captivity and start their charge towards freedom it just felt like everything happened too fast. Before you know it there are hundreds of apes leading organized attacks as if every ape knows how to fight a war without being exposed to the ALZ 113 gas that made Caesar and his pals intelligent in the first place. It’s like once Caesar and his posse freed more apes they magically became smart and self-aware. I mean maybe as they were freed Caesar farted in their faces to make them smart, but it just seemed like the film made the ape round up and resulting organization a little too convenient. When they started wielding spears in what felt like 10 minutes I felt like the pacing was off and that some continuity was missing, but ultimately this is a movie about smart apes, so it’s not like it was that far fetched.
In the end Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a solid summer sci-fi experience that gives the Apes franchise new legs. Even if you aren’t a die hard fan of the series this is still a great flick to see if you like to escape the confines of reality. Plus, it may even make you a fan of the series as I find it’s doing to myself. I’ve never really given a sh*t about the whole Planet of the Apes thing, but after seeing Rise I’m finding myself wanting to read up on its Wikis. Besides, anyone that has ever owned a pet will find some sort of connection to this flick. Serkis’ performance makes you feel like Caesar is real, and his connections with his human handlers will evoke memories of your own beloved pet. You will feel for Caesar in a way that doesn’t make you think about him as the bad guy, but rather as a being wanting his freedom from his captors.
Man Ultimately Pays the Price for Playing God, but not at the Hands of the Apes
There might be some pacing issues towards that end, but overall this movie about man f*cking with life is a highly entertaining experience that shouldn’t be missed by sci-fi and movie fans alike. I give it an EB 4.5 out of 5 stars! Go see it today, trust me you won’t be let down, nor will you feel like an uber geek for watching it. Forget about its sci-fi roots and just enjoy it for what it is, which oddly enough is a feel good type of movie. You’ve been commanded to get your Ape on…
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