August 6, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
Yup, it’s yet another reboot/origin story of a historically popular franchise. But rather than fling feces at numbed audiences or crap on previous Planet of the Apes films for the sake of some easy green, Rise will surprise. Loaded with plenty of references to its predecessors, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a more-than-worthy reboot of its ancestor films and should satisfy fans of the franchise while fostering new ones. Because the origin story isn’t necessarily tied into previous franchise films (much like X-Men: First Class), the allusions could be the foreshadowing foundation for future Planet of the Apes movies, whose potential looks very promising.
Unfortunately, the trailers and TV spots (and even the title) of Rise of the Planet of the Apes spoil a lot of the film, but like Titanic, the Project Nim-meets-Deep Blue Sea storyline is engaging and touching enough to keep you interested during every minute. The human cast includes James Franco (merely an interchangeable part of the monkey machine), John Lithgow, Tom Felton (Harry Pot-heads rejoice), Brian Cox, and that one girl from Slumdog Millionaire (the hottest Indian chick alive). However, the main attraction, of course, are the titular apes, led by primary primate Caesar, played (or rather, motion-captured) by Andy Serkis.
Working again with WETA Digital (Peter Jackson’s visual effects company that won Oscars for Avatar, the King Kong remake, and all three Lord of the Rings films), Serkis really shows off WETA’s technology and his prior work experience as Kong and Gollum. My biggest gripe with Rise though is that the apes look less like King Kong and more like Gollum… so basically, kind of fake. However, the facial close-ups can be disturbingly stirring and are the most impressive aspect of the special effects.
I really wanted to see some limb-ripping, face-tearing action (just Google some real-life stories of when chimps go bad and prepare yourself for some of the most gruesome and horrifying things you’ll ever read and maybe see if you’re especially brave), but the cautionary tale’s PG-13 rating severely limits how truly frightening Rise of the Planet of the Apes could have been. This is one of those movies that badly needs an unrated cut on video but probably and sadly won’t get one. Instead, it sometimes passes off Tarzan-style swinging as action sequences.
Like for many sci-fi movies, audiences are required to hold a sizable suspension of belief because Rise of the Planet of the Apes definitely has its BS moments. While covering E3 a couple months ago, Paul and I wondered how in the hell could monkeys put up a fight against humans… with guns. Well, I’m glad to report that only San Francisco’s unique geography can make Rise‘s story work. I didn’t go apeshit, and I didn’t go bananas, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes earned a spot as one of my favorite movies of the year. Make sure you stay for the early credits stinger, which provides the ultimate connection to previous Apes films and an explanation that sets up sequels for this well-made reboot. Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets 4 out of 5 stars or B+ or Great.