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Average: 8.93%
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Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Oh, what a life of luxury, to be like an apeman."
5 stars

The "Planet of the Apes" movies were never really about apes. They were about the flaws of humanity, shown to us in a funhouse mirror.

In the original 1968 film, the arrogant Charlton Heston found out what it was like to be caged, silenced, treated as inferior and stupid. In other words, the white man got a taste of what it was like to be non-white. (It was 1968, and screenwriter Rod Serling never met a heavy-handed metaphor he didn't like.) This summer's new iteration, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is different in that it really is about the apes. The simians don't seem to represent anything other than themselves, the low men on the evolutionary totem pole, who through the misguided magic of science gain intelligence and sunder their chains.

Rise is a top-flight summer entertainment, beautifully photographed (Andrew Lesnie), edited (Conrad Buff, Mark Goldblatt) and scored (Patrick Doyle). It moves with heedless animal momentum towards the moment when the assorted monkeys, led by super-smart chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis), suck the air of freedom into their cavernous nostrils and bellow in triumph. It's a crackerjack fantasy, but it's also an anti-human one, and that will bother some people. Me, I felt at times that the film's PG-13 rating hindered it. The apes' revolution is largely bloodless and, with a couple of exceptions, glossed over. Given what we see them suffer in the movie, and given what we know real primates endure in experimentation labs by the hundreds, I wanted more. I wanted monkey fangs tearing the screaming faces off of soccer moms in their gas-hoarding SUVs; I wanted claws hollowing out the soft bellies of suburban dads plump with the flesh of abused livestock, with their spoiled Wii-addicted children saved for snacks. I wanted intestines coiled on the sidewalks, dangling from the well-manicured trees. But that’s just me. The monkeys are nicer.

Caesar's smarts come genetically, from his mother, a test subject for an Alzheimer's cure. The cure’s creator (James Franco) has a personal stake in it: his dad (John Lithgow) is losing his mind to the disease. Adopted by Franco and girlfriend Freida Pinto, Caesar learns a whole lot but misses out on the chest-beating glory of Being Ape. Locked in with his species peers after a protective assault on Franco's contemptible neighbor, Caesar knows what he has to do. In an earlier, poignant scene, Caesar asked Franco through sign language, "Is Caesar a pet? What is Caesar?" Now he learns what he is, or what his role will be. The scenes in which Caesar carries out his plans, showing more brains than many a human character in summer blockbusters, are gratifying. Every slice of simian pushback aggression towards cruel humans primes us for the uprising.

When it comes, the apes again rely more on strategy than on head-bashing ferocity. Their battle is exultant without being sadistic. In one legitimately great sequence, a towering gorilla faces off against a cop on horseback (I'm not sure, realistically, why there are cops on horseback here, other than a callback to the 1968 film), fells him, looks as if he's about to rip his helmeted head off, then just roars into his face, spraying spit all over his faceguard. The apes, I take it, have been discouraged by Caesar to kill men unless absolutely necessary; this gorilla, having near-definitively proven who the new boss is, senses that it's sufficient to leave it at that. I wouldn't have.

The acting here is functional (though Lithgow brings authentic heartbreak to his Caesar-in-reverse performance), with one dazzling and widely-noted exception: Andy Serkis, performing Caesar through motion capture (as he did with Gollum and King Kong), makes him a complex and emotionally accessible creature without anthropomorphizing him much. As the film goes on, and Caesar sheds some of the softness of his human upbringing and embraces the way of the ape, Serkis suggests that a fusion of homo-sapien ratiocination and powerful apehood would produce a shrewd and not remotely huggable hero. Bouncing around the confines of the colorful indoor playpen Franco has made for him in the attic, Caesar is cute. But he yearns for open air, the imposing redwoods, nature unconquered by man and his steel teeth. Standing tall and noble among his ape minions, Caesar is no longer cute.

If he were human, we would say he has become a man. But in this case, that would be a grievous insult to him.

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originally posted: 08/07/11 07:51:18
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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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