Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

When you look back on the summer of 2011, the idea of a Planet of the Apes sequel was well laughable let alone it becoming a franchise. You had bonafided franchises like Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and Transformers.

A Planet of the Apes sequel starring James Franco was as unlikely a hit as say Forbidden Planet starring Zac Efron. But I have to say I was wrong.

The movie jumped out of the gate at $54 million opening weekend and went on to make over $175 million domestic.

Why? Because for once the marketing people got it right.

They focused the campaign not on marketing a melba-toast actor like Franco but on the unreal effects within the film and a performance from “the master of mo-cap” Andy Serkis.

Back when Paul Dehn was working on concluding the Apes series in the mid-70s, he wrote a concept for the final film entitled “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

When Dehn walked away from the series, due to an illness, his concept was all but abandoned when new screenwriters were brought on board. It really is nice that his title became the title for the movie that would finally redeem the series after Tim Burton’s disastrous remake.

This new sequel or even reboot takes place in modern day. It tells the tale of the ape child Caesar (Andy Serkis) who is born within a genetics lab and adopted by a desperate scientist (James Franco) after his mother is killed. Will Rodman (Franco) takes Caesar home and raises him as a member of his family. Will’s father (John Lithgow) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Caesar’s mother was one of the apes experimented on as they are trying to find a cure.

The drug that was used on Caesar’s mother was genetically passed on to Caesar and the drug enhanced Caesar’s IQ.

Before you know it, Caesar was outsmarting Will’s father.

Caesar has trouble fitting into man’s world and eventually ends up in a holding facility for his kind. It is here that he hatches his plans to overthrow his captors.

From the opening sequence, this film really has impressive direction, pacing and special effects. Think about the wow factor when we all witnessed the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park but here it is just how real the apes look and feel. There are no actual apes in the film.

The hair, facial ticks, wrinkles, eyes, mouths and movement are absolutely flawless. Yes there is always that CGI echo, as I call it, but here you barely ever notice it.

It is always hard to tell how much Andy Serkis puts into his performances when encased in mo-cap.

This was his second time playing an ape. He was King Kong in Peter Jackson’s exhaustively long remake. But he seems to have taken that performance and gone one step further.

I have to say that this performance ranks right up there with his landmark achievement in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is an amazing performance.

Serkis hands down steals the movie from Franco and love interest Freida Pinto. The human actors really just have to sit back and hang on much like the audience.

This is probably the best possible modern day reboot of the Apes franchise we could have hoped for. It builds on the concept, reintroduces us and begins the journey again. This is best since the 1968 original and one of the best film of 2011. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

Note: The movie arrives on Blu-Ray on December 13.

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