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5 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
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by Daniel Kelly

"Those maniacs haven’t blown it up yet."
4 stars

After Tim Burton’s limp remake ten years ago, I felt pretty sure the "Planet of the Apes” franchise was dead for good. When news trickled through about an impending prequel I wasn’t titillated, the whole thing reeking of a creatively bankrupt studio lunging at a long drained cash cow. The marketing didn’t help much either, poor trailers and uninspired posters popping up at multiplexes earlier this year, further hammering home my fear that the picture would be an irrelevant blockbusting nightmare. So imagine my surprise to find that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is actually a very fine piece of work. Crafted with surprising social and emotional awareness, the film honours the thoughtful vibe of its predecessors, whilst also delivering a manic and thoroughly thrilling FX driven adventure.

After his attempts to cure Alzheimer’s disease come to a disappointing end, scientist Will (James Franco) steals away one of his test subjects to nurture as his own. The creature in question in an ape named Caesar, a young chimp who quickly showcases extreme intelligence and a thirst for exploration. After five years in Will’s care, Caesar eventually becomes a safety concern, the law forcing Will to separate from his beloved buddy after a particularly nasty suburban episode. Caesar is thusly placed into the care of John Landon (Brian Cox) and his despicable son Dodge (Tom Felton, proving he can exist in a post-“Harry Potter” landscape) at the local Primate Care facility. Forced to endure imprisonment and daily abuse, Caesar quickly grows to loathe humanity, the ape itching to form a plan that will help his species overthrow their oppressors.

The most remarkable thing about “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is the amazing special effects work, Andy Serkis once again on hand to deliver an astounding motion-capture performance as Caesar. After his similarly pitched work in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”, Serkis has become an old pro at this stuff, but his turn here probably ranks as his best. The actor successful conveys the inner turmoil that pollutes Caesar, turning the CGI chimp into one of the year’s most distinctive and memorable anti-heroes. It’s a marvelous thespian contribution, which is supplemented beautifully by a legion of equally well animated apes in support. The human characters are decidedly more mixed. James Franco is adequate as Will, connecting believably with his digital co-stars. Unfortunately his rapport with romantic interest Freida Pinto is disastrously unconvincing, this facet of the picture feeling absolutely inconsequential. The actress delivers an unforgivably wooden performance, making no effort to concoct any chemistry with a flailing Franco. Brian Cox rounds out the preliminary participants, lending the film an extra dose of gravitas during his few brief scenes.

Director Rupert Wyatt places his sympathies firmly in the ape camp. From an opening sequence of the animals being ambushed in the wild, to the horrible treatment Caesar receives at the facility; the filmmaker makes it obvious he’s a monkey lover. For a director with such limited experience, Wyatt handles “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” confidently, balancing the film’s deeper meanings with the right amount of frantic chaos. The uprising is charted carefully, Wyatt building up Caesar’s motivations skillfully and organically, before unleashing a bombastic ape attack on San Francisco during the movie’s exciting climax. The finish is coherently stitched together and more importantly feels earned within the context of the narrative, the fierce assault led by Caesar being a natural progression for these smart but unfairly brutalized primates. It’s also fabulous fun; I mean who doesn’t want to see a gorilla tackle a helicopter? I know I do.

The screenplay is basic, but it definitely hits the required notes. The actual story is exceedingly ordinary, the monkey rage born of miserable captivity, something most audience members will probably anticipate. The character of Will also stems from a pretty formulaic place, namely that he wants to save his sick father (John Lithgow doing proficient work). It’s serviceable plotting at best, the film’s real strength coming from the apes and the phenomenal depiction of Caesar. The humans are more or less devices to get the ball rolling; the real meat of the thing resting in Serkis’s accomplished hands.

Wyatt’s inexperience doesn’t betray him, the filmmaker piecing together the picture stylishly and with a strong editorial sensibility. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is an unexpected summer triumph, worthy of your time and money. It’s genuinely flabbergasting, but I guess those damn dirty apes still have a future on the silver screen after all.

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originally posted: 08/09/11 22:04:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell killer prequel 4 stars
1/31/14 Charles Tatum A good entry in the resurrected series 4 stars
8/27/12 David Pollastrini The best ape movie since '68 5 stars
8/24/12 roscoe caesar only good character, movie's hollow, feels like only 2/3 a movie 3 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Tim Burton take note, this is how the Planet of the Apes should have been brought back. 5 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC The abrupt ending only sets the film up for a sequel. Thats a gimmick, not good movie-makin 3 stars
11/27/11 AEB What every action movie aspires to be. 5 stars
10/25/11 Annie G Best of all the PotA movies! Although the virus-pocalypse is getting old. 4 stars
10/20/11 Magic A prequel that actually does not suck. And it's short! Serkis' acting is unbelievable. 4 stars
10/01/11 mr.mike Is "No Bad". 4 stars
9/27/11 sake02mo five stars 5 stars
9/24/11 Trina Lufkin More than one reviewer needed to listen better when movie said Apes AREN'T Monkeys! 4 stars
9/15/11 ALICE WOW ! Finaly a grande movie, been a long time... 5 stars
9/15/11 Nick Frigging loved the movie! Saw it yesterday evening, and woke up with it this morning. 5 stars
9/05/11 Koitus I liked it. Skeptical of the lock picking and know-how to release the drug, however. 4 stars
8/28/11 Heather Purplethorn Tangled web of political correctness(inadvertently?)makes mad-scientist figure animal lover 3 stars
8/28/11 Get a life, Ron Gonsalves! Many a soccer mom, suburban dad,&"Wii addicted" kid is nicer than you! &apesAREN'Tmonkeys! 4 stars
8/27/11 The Big D Well-meaning scientist unleashes marginally sympethetic monster--fun but nothing new. 3 stars
8/12/11 Eric Ivins Perfect Summer Popcorn flick 5 stars
8/11/11 Jon Going to see this soon, can't wait! 4 stars
8/11/11 Quang Thịnh What a great movie! James was pretty good. Everything is fine! 4 stars
8/10/11 Rick A wonderful surprise. Good strory, good acting, and great makeup and digital work. 5 stars
8/09/11 Mishyana Great reboot to a series hindered by hokey acting and dialogue. Well done. 5 stars
8/08/11 Spencer Great origin story infused with a ton of soul and a nice ramp up to the action 4 stars
8/08/11 Erica Cant they come up w/ a new story, why always the same thing. It was ok nevertheless. 3 stars
8/07/11 Man Out Six Bucks Anarchical apes overrunning the Gay Area and Indian Valley. What's to hate? 4 stars
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  05-Aug-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Dec-2011


  DVD: 13-Dec-2011

Directed by
  Rupert Wyatt

Written by
  Rick Jaffa
  Amanda Silver

  James Franco
  Freida Pinto
  John Lithgow
  Brian Cox
  Andy Serkis
  Tom Felton

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