Posted on 8/05/11 01:02 PM
by Kyle Coleman
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the best summer movie I've seen in 2011. Not to be confused with the best movie I've seen this summer, which is either Harry Potter 7.2 or Super 8 depending on how specific you are about when summer officially starts. I say that Apes is the best "summer movie" because it nails every element of what a summer flick is supposed to have: fun plot, compelling characters, cool special effects, fast action and a touch of emotional depth.
James Franco plays a biological researcher developing a drug that allows regeneration of brain cells for the ultimate purpose of curing human diseases like Alzheimer's (from which is father, John Lithgow, suffers). He tests his drug on a lady chimp with great results, higher intelligence and great learning capabilities.
Unfortunately, she feels that her newborn baby is being threatened in the facility, has a violent reaction and is put down by the business suits in charge. Franco adopts the baby chimp, who has inherited the intelligence genes from his mother, and the two live together for years. I never like to give too much away plot-wise, so I'll keep this short: the chimp misbehaves and is put in captivity with other apes. One thing leads to another, and the planet of the apes is officially rising.
I must admit, I didn't think from the trailers that this movie was going to be worth the price of admission, and I was very, very wrong. Right from the start, we get immersed with the developing relationship between Franco and his baby monkey, Caesar. We end up caring about the little fella, being proud of his intelligence, and sympathizing with him even when he misbehaves. Because of this attachment, I found myself betraying my own human race and rooting for Caesar once the two sides were at odds. This was probably abetted by Tom Felton, better known as Draco Malfoy, who plays an abusive chimp handler that I couldn't help but hate (I wonder if I'll hate him forever because of Draco).
At the same time, there is a nice juxtaposition between Franco, who is developing the drug to make a positive difference in the world, and the CEO of the company, who cares about nothing but the money he'll make from the successful drug. The CEO rushing the development of the drug not only allows a quicker spread of intelligence in the apes, but also sets up a potential epidemic that will be a major focus of the sequel (stay seated for the closing credits scene).
The capture animation in Apes is absolutely stunning. I couldn't believe how perfect they look, and how great the movement and feel of all the chimps was in every scene. The chimps were awesome without being distracting (like 3D would have been) and the animation allowed for close-ups of faces and eyes that wonderfully conveyed emotions during key scenes. If nothing else, this film is worth seeing just for this aspect.
After we saw the development, captivity and jailbreak of the apes, it is time for a dramatic climax that was just flat out cool. The movie takes place in San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge was a perfect stomping ground for the apes to show off their talents: running, climbing, swinging and fighting while facing heavy human opposition. I'd like to commend director Rupert Wyatt, because this scene could not have been better.
So, believe the advertising, believe the hype. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great summer film and I can't wait to see it again.
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