RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

(2011)
With Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto, David Oyelowo, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Karin Konoval, Terry  Notary
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Reviewed by JB

"Hey!  Move your damn car!"     Call it a reboot, a prequel or a reimagining.  Whatever you call it, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is, by far, the best "Apes" film since 1973's ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES.  There are plot holes, questionable plot points and leaps of logic aplenty in the film, but then again, what Apes film doesn't have those?  Put those things aside and just enjoy the performance of Caesar the Ape by this generation's Charles Gemora, Andy Serkis. 1

    Serkis turn as Caesar is aided, of course, by performance capture technology, which layers computer generated effects - essentially, CG-makeup - over Serkis to create the look of Caesar.  The look is all CGI, the performance is mostly Serkis's, and, as with his creation of Kong in the Peter Jackson KING KONG, it is the most compelling and fully realized performance in the film.  With the possible exception of John Lithgow as a man cured of Alzheimer's by a drug first tested on apes (see where this is going?), nobody else comes close to being as interesting as Serkis/Caesar in the film.  James Franco plays the standard Paul Rudd / Steve Guttenberg /Mr. Nice Guy role as Caesar's caretaker, while Freida Pinto is competent in the thankless Mr. Nice Guy's Girlfriend role. Tom Felton's work as the oily Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films make him a good choice for the role of Evil Guy Who Enjoys Mistreating Apes, but aside from that, the humans are simply not intriguing enough to compete against Caesar and his gallery of ape buddies who eventually break out of captivity and stage an assault on San Francisco.

    If, when and where the film fits into the standard Planet of the Apes mythology is all up to the individual viewer.  It has elements of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, made obvious by naming the chimp Caesar, and his utterance of "No!" late in the film, but the film is set up to go in a number of alternate directions should there be a sequel (and you know there will be).  And please, don't be stupid like me and shut off the DVD player as soon as the credits start, or you will miss a scene that would obviously set the sequel in motion.

    One final note: when remaking or rebooting a popular movie or series, could we please stop homaging classic lines from the originals?  It almost never works and usually just points out how much better the original films were.  Get your stinkin' paws off those classic lines! 4 - JB

1. Charles Gemora (1903-1961) was a makeup artist and actor who carved out a memorable career playing gorillas in horror movies and comedies in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The "Apes" Films     The Secret Vortex