I had fairly low expectations for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’ve watched each of the films before, the original more than the rest, and this is similar to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but it’s a stronger, tighter film that is more conscious and adept at the themes it puts forth. In addition, Andy Serkis gives a performance that rivals that of Gollum.
James Franco plays a scientist, Will Rodman, who is desperately working toward a cure for Alzheimer’s by creating a serum which allows the brain to repair itself. He’s testing it on chimpanzees, but it has some unforeseen side effects which causes his program to be shut down. Rodman takes one of the remaining specimens home in secret and eventually realizes that the formula has worked on the ape; he has begun to learn exponentially.
First, the film is a solid prequel to the film we all know and sort of love. It delves into the origins of the setting into which both Charlton Heston and Mark Wahlberg find themselves. There are some really great moments for fans of the original, including some familiar quotes. I’m hoping that it’s the beginning of a new film series, and even that we don’t jump all the way ahead to where Chuck Heston‘s character enters the scene, but look a bit further into the way in which the world transforms.
Second, this is not an animal rights film, but a civil rights film. While Conquest of the Planet of the Apes explores the themes of slavery, this portrays a species (or a race) rising up against its oppressors. It’s not so much about evolution as it’s about the consequences of man attempting to play God.
I was really surprised by this film, expecting a lackluster addendum to an overstretched franchise. To my surprise, it’s well-paced, solidly acted throughout, and despite some odd, minor plot holes at the beginning, it’s got a compelling plot.
Through the art of motion capture (the technology used to create Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Andy Serkis plays Caesar, the chimp taken in by Franco. His performance is subtle and thoughtful, yet intense and emotional. The CGI is really exceptional as well, never overdone, and exquisitely detailed. Patrick Doyle’s score does not disappoint, adding emotional depth to the movie.
This is well worth it. After you watch it, dust of those old, cheesy DVDs and reminisce about those “damned dirty apes” and their “stinkin’ paws.”
4 out of 5 stars
P.S. It would have made my year if this film would have ended with Mark Wahlberg’s ship crashing at the Lincoln Monument.