RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
By Gary ‘Monkey Man’ Murray
Starring James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto and Andy Serkis
Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Running time 113 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
As a kid, I adored The Planet of the Apes films. No only were they a compelling bit of storytelling, but the make-up effects were notches above anything ever seen before. Though each film was a bit of a downer at the end, with sad twisted endings, the nihilism was just a part of the charm. I wasn’t very happy with the remake done by Tim Burton. There was nothing in the re-imaging of the first film that happened to be neither that original nor that impressive. There was much trepidation before the first reel of Rise of the Planet of the Apes spooled upon the silver screen. After it was over, the film was more than a pleasant surprise.
The story is of a scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. It is a disease that his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers. The newest formula ALZ-112 shows promise but the ape with the serum (called Bright Eyes) goes on a rampage. It is discovered that she was just protecting her young. The gorilla handler doesn’t want to put down the baby ape and pushes Will to do it. Instead, he decides to take the hairy fur-ball home.
Very soon, the little beast now named Caesar (Andy Serkis) begins to show signs of super intelligence. Will believes that the ALZ-112 serum can be passed through generations. He also uses the formula on his father and it reverses the disease and increases the man’s intelligence. Will also meets Caroline (Freida Pinto) a local zoo vet who warns him that very soon Caesar will be a very strong adult male. They begin a relationship pushed by sign language using Caesar.
An accident happens and Caesar is taken into custody and animal control, a place where there are a whole lot of apes. (Aside: Why does San Francisco have so many apes?) Caesar soon discovers the cruelty that some men so toward their evolutionary cousins. With Caesar’s first exposure with other apes, he discovers that intelligence can rule over brute strength. He also begins to understand that will a little ALZ-112 push, his brothers could be a dominate species. All this leads to epic battles scenes.
Andy Serkis is one again perfect playing a CGI ape. He is the actor behind both King Kong and Gollum in Lord of the Rings. With this role, Andy is proving to be one of the best actors in Hollywood. Though his performance is overlaid with computer 0 & 1’s, he still shines through the effects and gives a motion capture performance that works on so many different levels. He is the major force of the film and one of the reasons to see this film.
The CGI ape effects are amazing to behold. In scene after scene, the computer generated primates are perfectly crafted on the computer. Out of every bit in the film, only once did it feel like it wasn’t real and that was just for a fleeting moment.
The human cast was all adequate with John Lithgow showing both the most range and that spark one wants from the role. Both James Franco and Freida Pinto were more reactionary characters that acting ones. Neither brought much to the roles other than pretty faces. It is the apes that rule in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and they do so to an impressive degree.
For those who are Ape-fanatics, there are layers upon layers of in-jokes with character names and lines from the original films. The screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver must be fans of the series. Peppered within the story are both lines from the other films and character references to the old series of films. For those who know the original films by heart, this is a treasure trove of ‘Easter Eggs’ and future ‘Pop-up video’ moments.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great August movie and a roaring good time at the theater. It has action, adventure and all those ‘fan boy’ moments one would hope for. It is one of the best movies of the Summer of 2011.