Movie Review: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, August 5, 2011 at 10:00 am.

(Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Summary: Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is looking for the cure for Alzheimer’s and conducting tests on apes. Testing goes horribly wrong and the apes are sent to be killed, but Rodman saves one ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis). Caesar is highly advanced, due to drugs his mother received, and once he gets a dose of humans, he leads an ape mutiny. Think Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds but with CGI-ed apes.

Review:  By the previews, one might be fooled into thinking Rise of the Planet of the Apes will channel the original, man versus simian hybrid, or have a taste of the political twist that made the series a bit intellectual. Lower your standards now: The  Rupert Wyatt movie, which is written by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, is tw0 hours of another when-animal-testing-goes-wrong drama with the Planet of the Apes label slapped on it.

Loosely based on Conquest of the Apes from 1972, Rise of the Planet of the Apes falls flat shortly after it gets started. After a fairly engaging opener, the flick immediately slows down with James Franco’s character being daddy to his baby ape, Caesar. It’s Gorillas in the Mist (if you haven’t heard of it, Netflix it now!) with no Sigourney Weaver and set in San Francisco. Overstuffed with useless setup and the weak conflict of animal testing, which I am sure will make PETA cheer, Apes pales into comparison to other “Leave them monkeys and apes alone!” thrillers like 28 Days Later and Outbreak. This is something we have seen many times before and done much better.  Even without comparing, the film is downright boring for most of the running time.

Like most of the Hollywood flicks of today, Apes was all about the special effects, which were at times intriguing.  The extravagant CGI worked, especially when seeing the close-ups of the apes’ reactions. There was a likable human side, making you root for them and Serkis, as a digitally enhanced Caesar, had several touching moments. However, when the action sequences finally kicked in, the apes were as messy as a jungle gym, resembling animated dots scattering across the screen. I miss the days when actual sets were built and non-human characters were created from scratch.

Then, there is James Franco. He is one of this generation’s finest actors and his Oscar-nominated performance in 127 Hours is unforgettable. However, was Franco high when he signed on for this When Animals Attack!-on-CGI-steroids catastrophe?  Yes, he has made that dazed and sexy look a career, but next to ape-o-rama Franco was lethargic, bland and had no presence on screen.

It was refreshing to see the beautiful Freida Pinto, who is famous for her role in Slumdog Millionaire. But, as Franco’s girlfriend, she had a handful of lines. In one scene she had a first date, and in the next scene she was his girlfriend of five years. Nonetheless, Miss Freida was savoring every sentence of her disposable character. I hope she gets another chance to show her superb acting skills.

There is a payoff toward the end with an epic battle on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. However, the wait is long and a waste of what could’ve been a fun summer film. Instead of making this “prequel,” Wyatt should’ve shaved off the first hour, started with the last 20 minutes and created a whole new film. That said, if one final scene is enough to satisfy audiences, then this might be a hit movie.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in theaters today.

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Mr Nice Said on

I had a feeling that this movie was going to be exactly as you stated. I think the problem is that there is a tug of war between what investors are willing to risk money on insofar as a film (make it different but the same) versus the need to dumb down story telling by focusing on archetypes rather than on focusing truly providing insight into human nature through the archetypes – while at the same time providing entertainment. All you need to do is look the the advertisements for the film and you get the sense that there is nothing substantial to hold one’s attention unless you are 18 years old. Not to say that an 18 year old shouldn’t be able to enjoy a movie, but one would think that at that young age there would not be very much sophistication in movie choices – but of course I could be wrong. I will go to see the movie but I will wait until the lines are shorter…

Ceasar Said on

Some critics try to be too smart for their own good. If you didn’t enjoy this film it’s probably because you wanted it to be something that it could never be, being a prequel. How are you going to have the same “political twist” as you call it, when the movie is showing “THE RISE OF THE APES.” That’s like watching a movie where the characters are cavemen and saying, oh it just doesn’t have the same political bite as Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

Sunny888 Said on

I loved how it ended with the pilot, just after the credits started rolling… clever! Just when I was sitting there thinking, “How does it become the planet, of the Apes? There are humans everywhere!” Ahhhh… but just when everyone is leaving the theater, a final piece of the puzzle is played that explains… the REST of the story.

Don’t leave the theater when you think it’s over… it’s not!