Rise of the Planet of the Apes--A Review by Robwrite

You'll be bananas for this remake


RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (3 & a half Stars out of 5)

Good remakes are so rare that when one as well-done as Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes along, it deserves a round of applause. Most remakes retain only the cosmetics of their predecessor, but a good remake retains the heart of it. This is a good one.

The original “Apes” franchise included five films, starting with the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. This film is a reimagining of the fourth film in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which starred Roddy McDowell as Caesar the simian messiah. Caesar is back in Rise and once again, the humans had better look out, because the apes are mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it anymore! The main difference between this new Caesar and the original is that the old McDowell version was the offspring of evolved ape time-travelers from the future, whereas the new Caesar is the product of a mother who was genetically enhanced by modern science.

Caesar the cerebral chimp and all the apes in Rise are done by Motion Capture technology, as opposed to the masks worn by McDowell and company in the old franchise. Andy Serkis—the Lawrence Olivier of Motion Capture—performs the body motions for Caesar. Serkis has some Ape in his resume already, since he did the motions for the titular Gorilla in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake. Serkis is probably better known for a different Peter Jackson project, since he did the motions and voice for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Motion Capture here even outdoes what we saw in Avatar, because it so seamlessly blends real footage with the Motion Captured characters. Caesar and his fellow primates interact with the human actors perfectly.

The plot begins with neurologist Will Rodman (James Franco) who is obsessed with curing Alzheimer’s disease because his once brilliant father is stricken with it. He creates formula ALZ112 which he tests on chimps. The formula spectacularly increases the intelligence of an ape called “Bright Eyes” (A nod to the original films). Will is about to announce his big discovery when Bright Eyes goes on a rampage and has to be put down. Will’s corporate masters order the project discontinued and all the “contaminated” apes destroyed. But Will saves one chimp…Caesar, the new-born son of “Bright Eyes” who he brings home and keeps as a pet, because his ailing father Charles (John Lithgow) responds so well to the chimp’s presence.

It doesn’t take Will long to realize that Caesar has not only inherited his mother’s genetically enhanced intelligence, but has surpassed her, equaling human intelligence. Caesar learns to understand English and to communicate with Will via sign-language. Over the course of eight years, Caesar graduates from pet to surrogate child for Will, and even helps Will get a girlfriend in the form of pretty veterinarian Caroline (Frieda Pinto). All is well until a nasty neighbor gets rough with old Charles for damaging his car, and Caesar rushes to the rescue, savaging the bully and even chomping off a finger for good measure. This leads animal control to take Caesar away from Will.

Caesar is sent to a primate house which seems like a fun playground at first, but secretly is a brutal animal prison camp, run by uncaring supervisor John Landon (Brian Cox) and his cruel, abusive son Dodge Landon (Played by Tom Felton, still in his evil Drago Malfoy persona.) Dodge is so mean to the Apes that he might as well be wearing a shirt that says “First Victim”, because you know what’s in store for this guy.

The most stylistic part of the film is the long, wordless sequences when Caesar uses his brains to establish himself as the Alpha-Ape in the primate habitat, and begins to organize his simian soldiers. His “generals” are a clever orangutan from the circus, and a particularly large and powerful gorilla. When Caesar realizes that his ape army needs to be smarter, he breaks out and returns later with some of the ALZ112 formula to turn his primate pals into a clever company of chimps.

When the inevitable break-out and the revolt occurs, its non-stop action for the rest of the film. Caesar uses literal guerrilla tactics (no pun intended) to take on the police. They even stage a type of recruitment drive at the zoo, picking up some reinforcements there. The climactic battle on the Golden Gate Bridge is exciting and well done.

The early section of the film, where Caesar lives and learns with his human family, is a bit like Born Free, with a would-be wild animal enjoying the comforts of civilization. Franco’s well-intentioned Will is the Dr. Frankenstein of the piece, who must learn a lesson about hubris and playing God. The part of the film where Caesar first gets to climb trees and swing free in the Redwood forest plays out like a segment from Disney’s Tarzan. Later, when Caesar is locked up and abused, it becomes akin to one of those prison films, like Cool Hand Luke or the Shawshank Redemption.

James Franco—still trying to shake off his disastrous turn at the Oscars—is top billed but this film belongs totally to Caesar/Serkis. When he isn’t on the screen, you’ll find yourself wishing he was. In fact, none of the humans in this film come across as anything other than semi-realized, stock characters, and that’s the biggest weakness of this movie. The human characters are just dull. Even the circus orangutan has more depth than any of the humans.

There are numerous winks to the original films. Felton’s character is named Dodge Landon, and fans of the original film will remember that Dodge and Landon were the two astronauts who accompanied Heston’s Taylor to the Planet of the Apes. “Bright eyes” was the name the Apes gave to Taylor in the first movie. At one point, we see one of the characters watching a Charlton Heston film on TV. There is a chimp here named Cornelia (Similar to Cornelius, from the first film) and the orangutan is named Maurice, after actor Maurice Evans who played orangutan scientist Dr. Zaius in the Heston film. Even some of the iconic lines are used. I won’t say which ones but you’ll recognize them when you hear them.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is cleverly reimaged by director Rupert Wyatt but it retains the social commentary of the source material. The 1963 novel “La Planete des Singes” by French author Pierre Boulle (which The Planet of the Apes was based on) was a Vietnam allegory, commenting on the oppression of one group by another. The 1968 film with Charlton Heston was made during the civil rights era, as well as the cold war and had the dual morals of racial prejudice and warnings of nuclear annihilation. This new film also has two messages. One is clearly about animal cruelty, and the other is a timely warning to our leaders that you can only step on people for so long before even the lowest-of-the-low strike back.

The conclusion of the film clearly sets up a sequel (there’s also a very minor subplot about a mars probe and its pilot being lost in space, which could be important to a sequel. I reckon that pilot is going to find some changes when he finally gets back) and I hope one gets made. I’d love to see a good remake of the first Planet of the Apes, in order to erase the memory of Tim Burton’s lamentable 2001 snooze-fest.

This is one of the most entertaining action films of the year and a does the original Apes series proud. Recommended.




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Comments 33 comments

Asp52 profile image

Asp52 5 years ago from England

Good review here, i have never really followed the Apes franchise. But i will take a look at it eventually. Have to admit the last Planet of the Apes film was dire!!!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi; Even if you aren't familiar with the old "Apes" franchise from the 60s and 70s, you should still enjoy this. You'll miss some of the references and inside jokes, but it's still fun without those.

And I agree the 2001 remake was dreadful!

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

Thanks for the review Rob. I might go and see this when it opens here next week. I've heard the famous "stinking paws" quote gets an airing in this one.

I recently bought the box set of the 5 Apes films on Blu-ray, they might get me in the mood to watch the reboot.

Voted Up and Useful.


Mistyvermin969 profile image

Mistyvermin969 5 years ago from Los Angeles

Great review!!!

I am seeing this all over the commercials and it looks sick!!!

haha great review keep the great work up


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Steve; Yeah, the infamous "Dirty paws" quote does find it's way in there. It doesn't sound the same without Charlton Heston saying it, though. I think the boxed set will get you in the mood for it, especially "Conquest" which this one is based on.

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Misty; It's good. I recommend it.

Rob


marellen 5 years ago

Thanks for the review. I wondered if this movie would be good or not. Three and a half stars isn't bad.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Marellen; It's a pretty good movie.

Thanks for reading,

Rob


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State

I may be in the minority but I actually kinda liked the Tim Burton film, however this one looks way better. Nice review, voted up.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi FatFreddysCat; Thanks for commenting. I think you may be in the minority as far as liking the Burton version, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. This one is way better, though.

Rob


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State

It's been awhile since I've seen the Burton film but I may have been more impressed with the makeup than the actual movie. Haha. Either way, I'm definitely interested in seeing this new one.


twilightnera profile image

twilightnera 5 years ago

I just published my review of the film as well this morning and really enjoyed reading yours right now. Only difference is I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Great review :)


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi twilightnera; I'll be sure to look up your review. My biggest problem with the film is that the human characters are one-dimensional and their performances are bland. But the apes are amazing.

Thanks for reading;

Rob


twilightnera profile image

twilightnera 5 years ago

I really enjoyed John Lithgows character and the performance was really great. I think the director might have dulled the human characters down a little bit because the movie really was about the apes and not them. The only dull performance for me was the women who played James Franco's girlfriend. The character could have totally been left out!


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

This was not only a good review, but an excellent piece of writing. Enjoyed reading it.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Thanks Silver Poet. I appreciate that. Glad you enjoyed it.

Rob


andrewwilliams63 profile image

andrewwilliams63 5 years ago

Good review thanks, looking forward to seeing this as i loved the original films...hope this one isn't too disappointing!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi; I don't think you'll be disappointed. If you liked "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" I think you should like this one.

Rob


JBeadle profile image

JBeadle 5 years ago from Midwest

Nice review. I was a fan of the original series and still like to do a few Heston impersonations from the films. I'm interested to see this film but probably will wait for the DVD.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi JBeadle; Who doesn't love a good Heston impression? When you see this on DVD, I hope you enjoy it as much as i did.

rob


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for bringing this review. Since I hubbing and a few other sides I have lost all tought to the outside world. Great review.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Thank you, H.H., good to hear from you.

Rob


Anonymous 5 years ago

I learned 2 things from this movie:

1. I don't like apes.

2. I don't like scientists.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

I saw the film recently, it reminded me more of Project X, an 80's film starring Matthew Broderick than the original Ape movies. I enjoyed the reboot but much of the fun of the original Ape movies, including Tim Burtons muddled remake, is seeing famous actors play talking apes. This new movie has photo real CG apes, it's a different animal. I give it 3 out of 5.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Steve; I don't think I've seen Project X. I see your point about famous actors playing the Apes. I loved Roddy McDowell's version of Caesar (And Cornelius) and Maurice Evans as Zaius. But the new film is very well made and Serkis brings out a lot of emotion even via Motion Caption imaging.

Thanks for stopping by,

Rob


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Juicy break down on a movie with the hottest buzz a flicks had in a while Rob. Like your comparisons with scenes and the older films for example. So the Apes have it all over the Humans in the portrayals eh, it figures.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Alastar; Yeah, this film belongs to the apes. There are no interesting human characters like Taylor here to compete with the apes for dominance of the movie.

Thanks for reading,

Rob


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

One thing I noticed on the reviews was that they used real apes, not actors in masks. I also noticed the apes had spears and attacked with their fists, the human's had guns, cars and helicopters. How long would the fighting actually last?


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi ruffridyer; They dispensed with the masks this time, in favor of Motion Capture FX, which look much more realistic than the costumes of the original. I was surprised how much emotion Andy Serkis was able to convey via a computer image.

The whole battle at the end was supposed to highlight Caesar's intelligence and superior strategies. He uses ambush tactics and manuevers like hiding in the fog to pick off the cops. The climactic battle on the bridge is actually well-done, utilizing the apes speed and agility. It's very entertaining.

Robert


James E. profile image

James E. 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

Well Done! I agree in every aspect you have shared. Could have been better in areas, but the heart of the story was totally there!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

HI James; Yeah, there were flaws here and there, but overall, it's a very good remake.

Thanks for reading,

Rob


CarltheCritic1291 profile image

CarltheCritic1291 4 years ago

3.5 Stars is about right. I watched this film a few weeks ago, and thought that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I have my own issues with it. But I agree, overall it's a good remake. Voted Up, Useful, and Interesting :) Keep us the great work as usual.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Carl. It was better than I thought it would be, too. Thanks for checking out my hub.

Rob

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