Entertainment Magazine

Review #2371: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Posted on the 21 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Warning: There be spoilers to follow, ya damn dirty apes!

I had absolutely no inclination towards seeing this film. The only “Planet of The Apes” film I’ve seen before this one was the original 1968 classic that starred Charlton Heston. I have never seen the other “Planet of The Apes” films nor the 2001 remake directed by Tim Burton. The trailer for “Rise of The Planet of The Apes” (a wordy title, if ever there was one) did not do the film any favors. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan. So entering this film with virtually no expectations, I had faint hope of being entertained. I came out at the end of this impressed. It got me to take what might initially seem like a silly concept somewhat seriously. Honestly, that’s an impressive achievement given some of the bland feature films that populated this summer.

Review #2371: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

“Rise of The Planet of The Apes” is a prequel to the original 1968 film I mentioned earlier. If you aren’t familiar with how that original film played out, this film might not work for you. It does tell a story — albeit an incomplete one that rushes the ending and sets up a sequel — and adequately sets up how humanity falls and the “apes” take over. The allegorical aspects, about how humans accidentally create their own destruction and mistreating animals, aren’t subtle, but do give the story a lot more gravity than one might expect. The film develops the character of Caesar (motion captured Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains super intelligence through chemical testing, much better than they do with any of the human characters in the story.

Will Rodman (James Franco) may be billed as the lead character, but the most compelling individual is actually Caesar. Will wants to create a drug that can cure his Alzheimer’s-addled father (John Lithgow) and that’s how Caesar gains his intelligence. They have to move on with Caesar’s story, sticking him into confinement at an animal shelter run by evil John Landon (Brian Cox) and his son, Dodge (Tom Felton) so that he can build an animal army that eventually takes over San Francisco. This unfortunately leaves Lithgow and Franco and Will’s girlfriend Caroline (Frieda Pinto) behind and makes them plot devices. It’s curious that the filmmakers would choose to develop the CGI characters over the human characters.

I did like how the film took its time to build its story. Nearly everything works. Caesar connects with the human characters and it’s painful when he gets separated from them and mistreated, mainly by Dodge. Felton is particularly loathsome here as the sadistic Dodge. Fans of Draco Malfoy might find it hard to cheer for him here. A curious plot hole does exist, however: It’s told in the film that Caesar takes up to five years to develop his super-intelligence. It’s implied that the rest of his “ape” army gains super-intelligence within days of exposure to the aerosolized drugs. The fact that the film takes the idea of a chimpanzee possessing super intelligence seriously does make the sight of said chimpanzee confidently riding a horse at the end (in a superb action sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge) easier to swallow. That could have been really goofy and brought about snickers, but instead the audience I saw the film with cheered.

There is also a sequence where Caesar says a single word and it has more impact than anyone would have ever expected. I actually heard audible gasps in the audience when that occurred. It built to that moment by depriving Caesar of any speech (though they deftly use sign language) beforehand so it’s actually quite shocking when it does happen. It also helps that the CGI animals look more real than in any film I’ve ever seen. A large percentage of the budget must have been spent on the CGI so that you couldn’t really question the realism of the animals.

It’s not a perfect film, though. Aside from not fully developing any of the human characters, the story is incomplete and the end feels more like a jumping off point for a sequel than an actual ending. Will does something at the end that defies all logic and forced me to throw up my hands in frustration. But those would qualify as nitpicks. The ending does come abruptly. However, I would heartily recommend this film as time well-spent in the theater. There are great, subtle nods to the previous films, but the film never feels like it’s beholden to the old franchise. A classic line from the 1968 film is said in this one and that did feel staged, but it got a huge cheer from the audience. The possibility of a sequel is strong now that the film has earned surprising box office returns. It looks like the revival of the classic “Planet of The Apes” movie series has just begun. If the next film as entertaining as this one, there will be no complaint from me.

Grade: 8/10

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