Rise of the Planet of the Apes Reviews
Where did this come from? Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the biggest surprise of 2011.
The effects are great, but what really connects with you is Andy Serkis' performance as the ape Caesar. You feel as emotionally attached to Caesar as any of the human characters, and I believe that's exactly how the filmmakers wanted you to feel.
This is a film that concentrates heavily on its story. Boasting remarkable acting, and truly mesmerizing moments (some only involving CGI apes communicating in sign language), make sure you seek this film out by any means necessary!
The visual effects on the apes during the character build up and introduction of 'Caesar' was slightly off in my opinion, it was good but there wasn't much of a wow factor going on. The faces did look a bit plastic and too obviously CGI, but as the film progresses and the apes become more aware with Caesar growing in intelligence, it seems the CGI gets better at the same time. By the time Caesar is really plotting his escape and takeover the CGI on his face and entire overall body movement is really quite impressive. This goes for all the other chimps and apes too, especially the gorilla and orangutan which really look fantastic up close along with their body and hand movements.
The plot is decent and a good ride, it starts off slow no doubting that, and there is a lot of character and story building with the experiments and slow evolution of Caesar. At first I was getting a little twitchy I must admit but the story does eventually get a hold of you and I did find myself really getting into it quite quickly. What is nice is the fact they have tried for a clean reboot with a fresh new plot, sort of. Instead of just remaking the original films they have gone with a new approach that has ties with the original films (mainly the fourth one), thus giving a relatively new and fresh aspect to the franchise which was important.
Honestly the human side of the film is rather boring with Franco and Pinto not really gelling whilst Cox and Lithgow are merely background props (good props I might add) which disappear very quickly. Its all about the apes and for most of the run time your just itching for those apes to break free and kick some homosapien ass! When they eventually do its well worth your money as the finale will get your heart pounding as you cheer for the apes to reach freedom. Those damn dirty humans are in their way but luckily we see some great man stomping...but with intelligent action.
What was impressive was how Caesar would not let his fellow primates kill humans needlessly, of course a few do bite the dust but if Caesar was around he didn't want it. Whether that is to show he has evolved and won't sink to that level or the creators just wanted a family friendly film rating I don't know, but it worked well as a character development for the main ape.
The finale is really the cherry on the icing on the cake! a full blown Hominidae rampage through San Francisco with lots of very well realised chimps, one gorilla and an orangutan. It is good that the film doesn't resort to lots of guns and masses of apes being killed, there is a small element of that but it doesn't get over blown with silliness which is good to see. One or two moments of Hollywood craziness perhaps, when the gorilla leaps onto a chopper from the Golden Gate Bridge, and the use of that certain iconic piece of dialog (again!), does that really need to be used again simply because its a 'Planet of the Apes' franchise film?
One of the best films of the year so far for sure, its actually been constructed with some level of intelligence behind it creating a solid foundation. Fits in well with the original franchise films, a decent musical score to evoke emotion with heights of achievement and it has a good ending...although slightly leaning towards a roaring iconic '2001: Space Odyssey' grandiose type finish. kinda manages it too believe it or not!
There is a certain shorthand to filmmaking; a way in which a certain character is portrayed so that you know instantly, without much dialog, who that person is and how he plays into the script. The secret to a good film is masking this shorthand so that, while we understand what we need to know we aren't hit over the head with the signs and portents. Sadly, the shorthand is all too obvious here - from the money grabbing company exec to the "bad example of humanity" dude who mistreats the apes in his charge. We've seen it all before and yes it gets the point across, but you get the feeling that the writers were taking that easy shortcut. Same thing with the female/love interest - a totally superfluous part that only adds irritation - boy meets girl, boy of course has relationship with girl - all film shorthand.
But then there's the real story - that of an experiment that goes sideways, leading to apes with increased intelligence. I'm not going to reveal all that goes on, but I will say that this part of the film is true and realistic, and the CGI, especially where it involves Gollum is well done, it's just unfortunate that the film spins off the rails in the last 3rd, becoming the huge spectacle that I'm sure the studio bosses asked for. Too bad, for there was a nice little morality tale before all the violence and confrontation, and frankly, a quite silly ending where the hero (a luke warm Franco) follows the apes to Muir Woods (ok kiddies, I grew up in SF, and hey, it's like a 30 minute drive from GG Bridge to Muir Woods), just so there can be this odd moment that sets up a really bad bit of CGI (not that there wasn't bad CGI from the point that the film switched gears and went all battlemania on us).
It was a nice touch that the action took place in and around SF, but there were quite a few liberties taken as well as a huge gaff in the continuity department. The young ape, Caesar, has a birthmark on his left shoulder - for the last half of the film that birthmark is on his right shoulder - oopsy.
I did enjoy the dovetailing reverences to the original film (including calling one ape "bright eyes"), however the film never resolves the issue presented in the first film, where all the buildings are gone except for the statue of liberty, which is now across dry land instead of in the middle of the New York waterway - so, while explaining much of what "could have happened", they chose to ignore this one, as there was no way to make the post apocryphal message of the first film fit into this genetic engineering gone bad premise.