Rise of the Planet of the Apes delivers and then some
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See apes rise. Rise apes, rise.
Or, more specifically, Go Caesar!
Now, if you've read my previous hubs, you know I enjoy the Planet of the Apes series. I definitely like some better than others, and that includes Tim Burton's 2001 re-imagining.
So, as a fan-boy, there were definite concerns I had going into this new beginning. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had a long list of "hope-they-do"s, "would-like-to-see"s and "wonder-if-they-will"s.
And the movie did not disappoint.
First off, let me say, for my fellow fan-boys out there: This definitely can't be a prequel to the series that we've already seen. There are changes in the mythology of the world and such. That being said, it's still absolutely satisfying.
The movie follows a scientist named Will Rodman (James Franco) who is using chimpanzees to test out a specially designed virus that is supposed to repair damaged brain matter. He has a personal reason for doing this. His father, Charles (John Lithgow), suffers from alzheimer's.
One of the test subjects--a female named Bright Eyes (*nudge* *nudge*)--shows tremendous improvement, but suddenly turns violent. Will discovers that she was just trying to protect her baby, but the project has already been scrapped. He takes the baby chimp home to prevent it from being destroyed. He raises the chimp (Andy Serkis) and calls him Caesar.
Things progress from there but let me just take a moment here to point out how amazingly the apes are done. Caesar isn't the only CG ape here. And you can sort of tell that they're not exactly real, but it never gets in the way of anything. It's close enough that you quickly learn to overlook that fact.
And a large portion of the credit here has to go to Andy Serkis--a name now synonymous with performance captured CG characters. He's given us Gollum, King Kong, and now Caesar. They were able to film him in the real world, interacting with the rest of the cast, and the reality of the performance really shows the benefits of that technique.
There's one brief moment, as the movie is building toward its climax, where Caesar causes the accidental death of a human. There's a brief moment where you can really see the impact that has on Caesar. When he realizes what just happened, he's shocked and horrified. And you can feel a little piece within him die, and another perk up. It's less than a second, but the performance is very real.
Anyway, some of you may be wondering about how this one fares in comparison to the other Apes movies. To be fair, I will probably hold off on seriously comparing it to the others for right now. Largely that's because this one is still so new in my mind (I literally just got back from the theater) and I'll probably need time to mull this one around in my head. But I can safely say that I left the theater very satisfied.
There's real heart in this one. There are characters--human and ape--that you really come to know and love (or hate in a couple appropriate circumstances).
Of the humans, there are some good performances here. Lithgow is very sympathetic and always wonderful. Franco is good as the sincere scientist who allows his heart to inadvertently let the situation grow beyond his ability to control it. Tom Felton gives a good performance as a sadistic little twerp in charge of "caring" for the apes that eventually do the titular rising.
Now, as a fan-boy, I had several lines in mind from the original, and I was wondering if they'd put them in. Two of my big ones were definitely used, though one of them felt a little bit forced. However, it is at a critical moment and, even looking back on it, I don't think I would have changed it a bit. In fact, both of the lines I'm thinking about were delivered by Tom Felton's character, Dodge Landon (both names from the original movie).
I won't tell you everywhere that they reference the original movies, but there are many. Some a little clunky and obvious, and others very well hidden and fun to discover. But that doesn't mean you have to like or even to have seen the originals. It's just an added layer of fun for those who have.
Seriously, I could talk for a good long while regarding impressions of the movie and parts I liked, but I'm just going to leave it with this:
For me, as a first impression (because this movie leaves you with a fair amount to think about) I give it 8 / 10.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 for violence, some language, brief sexuality and moments of terror.
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