Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Director: Rupert Wyatt
James Franco in a scientist overcoat is trying to cure Alzheimer and he’s of course testing his cocktail on chimps. Side effect? Chimps become very smart, wise enough to know that they’ve had it with humans man-handling their asses. Are you ready for an apevolution!
The original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) is still one of my favorite sci-fi flicks of all time. That baby is like wine, it gets better and better with age. Its sequels BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970), ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971) CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972) and BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973) didn’t stay with me (may have to re-visit them) while I don’t remember squat about the TV Show PLANET OF THE APES (1974) or the cartoon RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES (1975) other that I used to watch re-runs as an Arrow-Brat. And the less said about Tim Burton’s sad-sack 2001 re-imagining of the original, the better. And now here we are with a reboot, prequel, origin story, whatever the f*ck they’re calling it; RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. So did I go bananas over it?
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES had a lot going for it. It put out a slick script which ably chronicled the growth and rise of hero-chimp Caesar (Serkis). Being that this was the “beginning”, the story took its sweet ass time (never boring though) with its set-up, really getting us to know and care for the lead chimp and eventually his primate homies. Now that I think of it, this was Caesar’s story first and foremost, told from his perspective. Yes James Franco took a back-seat to a monkey, just like he does on General Hospital. And hey, it was all good! I was mucho involved in Caesar’s plight, felt for the poor little dude and during the finale; I was rooting for the monkeys to monkey the world up. Yup, I came out of the theatre a Pro Ape Man! Take over the planet already! You can’t do a worse job than what we’ve been doing with it! What about the VFX you may ask? Well it made the movie. It was BEYOND tops; simply jaw dropping. The CGI and the motion capture really sold these crazy monkeys, the hairs on their backs, the expression in their faces, their eyes conveying all feelings, their organic movements… the works! Simply incredible. WETA DIGITAL has outdone itself! Is that Oscar I hear? It better be!
And having performers of the likes of Andy Serkis and his crew behind Caesar and company just amplified the Ape characters. Not sure if they give Awards for dudes that act under VFX… but if they don’t, they should! Human wise; well James Franco did fine with what he was given, not much meat to his role, just James Franco being James Franco…all good. John “I stopped aging at Raising Cane” Lithgow and Brian Cox classed the joint up in small yet pivotal roles while Freida Pinto was basically eye candy...again a Slim Fast part. Nope at the end of the day this movie belonged to the monkeys through and through. Who knew VFX could come off as more human than the actual humans! Moreover, I was impressed by Rupert Wyatt’s appealing directing. He showcased lots of energetic camera movements and handled the ape gone wild stuff with mad skills. Actually, I sometimes got shades of GREMLINS while clocking this one; the sight of all these Apes running a muck in the city did that to me. Do with that what you will. Add to all that, a handful of visceral actions scenes, enough winks-winks to the original PLANET OF THE APES to please the hardcore fans and some tender moments that tugged at my Jock Strap and you get a fine 2 hours of entertainment.
So what held the movie back? Well my main qualm with it was that when it ended, I wanted more! The flick was like 80% build-up and 20% percent pay-off; I would have leveled that a tad more evenly. I also loathed the one note characters who were just evil for evil’s sake; with that, people like that do exist in real life, insecure, projecting their inadequacies on fellow humans (or chimps in this case) so I can’t piss on the flick too much for it. They were still annoying though. Finally; the James Franco character needed some beefing up and his love interest subplot kind of felt forced and too convenient. The narrative didn’t really need it or the dame for that matter…I had Caesar to hold on to…to pet and hug… all I needed. On the whole RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES made for a very cool sit down. I’d be up for a follow up, but being that we all know what’s gonna happen next (via PLANET OF THE APES and its remake), I am curious to see if they do their own thing or just remake PLANET OF THE APES again... I hope for the former. So you gonna go ape shit for this one or what?
Not much. We get fingers bit off and light blood. You can bring your kids to this one!
T & A
All of the apes (Caesar aside, he wears Jeans, that trendy bastard) were buck naked!
Well written, gripping throughout, with stand out VFX, money action scenes, some touching bits and Andy Serkis owning all as Caesar, the Ape with the most; RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES wound up being a freaking groovy ride! Not only that, it also acted as a solid base to what can be a new Apes franchise, succeeding where Tim Burton failed with his remake. Granted the flick didn't have enough payoff for my liking, the human characters were pretty shallow and that useless love interest spiel felt forced, but overall; I had a blast and I’m all for a follow up! Bring it!
The flick was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, San Francisco, California, and in O'ahu, Hawaii.
Rupert Wyatt also wrote and directed the British thriller The Escapist (2008), starring Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Dominic Cooper and Joseph Fiennes.
The flick was written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver