By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 9 out of 10
The word “reboot” is a bittersweet term in regards to recent Hollywood trends. It has come to the point of near overexposure, as fans continue expecting to see the re-imagination of their favorite film franchises. The trend that started with 2005’s Batman Begins has turned into a cautious and questionable direction for a franchise.
After 2001’s Planet of the Apes, the classic franchise that originated in the 1960s needed a re-imagination. That job has been completed to a wide amount of success with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Using the best technology to supplement a very strong story, Rise of the Planet of the Apes emerges as the summer’s best surprise, due largely to Andy Serkis’ mesmerizing performance as Caesar.
Will Rodman (James Franco) is attempting to develop a drug that will cure Alzheimer’s, testing this experimental antidote on chimpanzees. When a chimp that showed increased intelligence becomes the victim of an unfortunate accident, Will discovers the secret child that the ape was hiding and defending. When this chimp, named Caesar (Andy Serkis), shows increased and unfathomable intelligence, a series of events takes place that no one could see coming.
When Rise of the Planet of the Apes was first announced, the film was widely panned before it even began production. Casting long-time disappointment James Franco in the lead and focusing mainly on the special effects the film would harvest caused many fans to curse the film and vow that it would too disappoint. Imagine the surprise when the first 15 minutes of the film blow any other film this summer out of the water, and kick off an imaginative and epic adventure spanning many fundamental questions surrounding power, greed, and science.
Although the special effects are incredible (more detail at a later point), the main focus and power of this film comes from the actors in the film. James Franco is able to play the lead human role well, keeping his convictions throughout and not derailing the picture by over-acting or delaying the story. He has a great dimension of character with his father, played by John Lithgow. Will’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s, showing the true devotion behind Will’s action. Lithgow shows the frustration of an individual stricken with the disease, and properly shows the determination behind Will to find a cure for the illness.
But the real star here is Serkis. The man who is unquestionably at the forefront of the development of the human-acted CGI character after his roles as Gollum (Lord of the Rings) and King Kong delivers his best performance ever as Caesar.
In every scene, the true power of Caesar’s character is seen, from the slightest emotions in his face and eyes to the physical and vocal outbursts that mark many of the key moments of the film. By the mid-way point of the film, you are no longer rooting for the humans, you find yourself pulling for the Apes as Caesar changes your opinion. That is the testament of true ability.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes has much more action than it seems on the surface and the film progresses well from beginning to end. The final siege of the apes is handled perfectly, and has enough breath-taking moments to keep fans glued to the screen for the last 20 minutes of the film.
This brings me to the special effects of the film. They are absolutely flawless. Although quips will be made about the beginning of the film and how Caesar is obviously CGI during his childhood, the baby chimp still looks incredibly realistic throughout.
As the film goes on, there are several points in which you will find a disconnect between what you think is CGI and what looks damn close to being real. To say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes has the best visuals since Avatar isn’t a stretch.
If you can, you should attempt to avoid as many previews or commercials for the film as possible. The commercials give a great deal of information on the plot away, although there are still many surprises hidden in the film (especially several hints to the original film).
Although Franco and Serkis do a great job in their roles, some of the other actors fall flat. Tom Felton portrays the cardboard-cut cruel handler in his first major film role since the Harry Potter series. Frieda Pinto is completely wasted and does not even get a redemptive chance with her role as Will’s love interest. Even Brian Cox, usually a great character actor, does not get a chance to shine due to poor writing for his part. These mishandled roles cause those scenes to lack staying power, as fans are going to want to get back to the monkey-magic as quick as possible.
Despite its small issues, the truth is that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fully entertaining package and one of the best films of the summer. With a brilliant performance (dare I say Oscar-worthy?) from Andy Serkis, amazing visuals and a story that will not only entertain but provide moral conversation at dinner parties, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is great summer entertainment.