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.
Will Rodman is a researcher working towards a cure for Alzheimer's disease. While it does help human test subjects, the effect it has on primates is utterly remarkable, leading to some really unexpected developments. When circumstances get out of hand, Will finds himself the adopted father of a baby chimp called Caesar who, thanks to exposure to the experimental drug, begins to evolve at an accelerated rate and develop a vast sense of intelligence.
After a misunderstanding, Caesar is taken away and imprisoned in a primate sanctuary run by some ruthless and cruel humans who display no regard for the well being of the animals. Thanks to his intelligence, Caesar begins to form a rebellion which, given the film's title, though not surprising, is really exciting and well done.
Given the reputation of the three sequels to the original, and how people feel about the Tim Burton remake, I was a little iffy on this one at first. As I started to hear more about it, and see some footage, I started to change my mind, but decided to remain open-minded and wait until finally seeing it before giving a full judgment call.
Now that I have seen it, I must say, I am quite impressed. Storywise, this isn't groundbreaking, but it is really well done and pretty compelling at times. I was surprised by how much I found myself emotionally involved and connected to the characters, mostly the non-human ones. With the visuals and effects though, this is where the film is really brilliant. The motion capture effects and the way the CG is used is quite cutting edge, and the results are remarkably realistic and mind blowing. Thanks to the superb performance by the unseen Andy Serkis, Caesar is really brought to life and is a real character instead of just a visual effect. That I got emotionall stirred by a special effect the way I did really says something. Hell, the humans are the least identifiable and hardest to care for (for the most part) characters.
I love Franco, but I don't know if he was right for this. He's okay though, but not really that great. The characters played by Brian Cox but especially Tom Felton didn't surprise me in terms of where they fit into things, but they both do fine. Lithgow is good, but the weakest link here is Pinto, who isn't given anything interesting to do, and doesn't bring much to the table.
The drama is compelling, and, as I said, this is a pretty smart and thoughtful affair. There's tons of references and Easter eggs, most of which are fine, but there are two big thigns that really bug me, and that's what's really keeping me from giving this the extra half star it deserves. The first is the use of a line, rather THE line, the most famous quote from the original film. First off, why? Was it just for recognition purposes, or did they feel they couldn't make the film without it? Whatever the case, I could have done without it, mostly because I felt it was forced in. Not only that, but right after it comes a major payoff, and probably the most important moment in the film, a moment that is lessened because of how the line is used and the fact that it kind of made me groan whe nit was said. The other big issue was the end. Not how the story ended, but the fact that a really important scene plays a bit after the end credits started rolling. I think they should have just had that scene right before the credits instead. Also, the pacing felt rather uneven overall. There's some great build up and development, but then the final act feels really rushed, and this problem could have been fixed by either increasing the film's running time, or not charging to the conclusion, leaving a bit more for a sequel or something.
All of that aside, this was a fantastic film. It looks incredible, the effects are top notch, the action is great, and this was overall a hell of a lot better than I think anyone could have anticipated, and that's definitely a great thing.
Definitely give this one a watch, because it's awesome.