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I Belong

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Title: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Producer: Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark

Genre: Science Fiction

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Series: Reboot

Release Date: August 5, 2011

Format: Standard

Runtime: 105 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis, and Brian Cox

Synopsis (Product Description):

The Planet of the Apes franchise gets the origin treatment in this 20th Century Fox production from director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist). The script, written by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, concerns a group of American scientists whose genetic experiments lead to an uprising by a race of intelligent apes that they helped create.

The Review:

There have been many larger than life heroes of the silver screen. Kurt Douglas’ Spartacus, Russell Crowes’ Gladiator, and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Now to that august company of heroes must be added Andy Serkis’ Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But Caesar is unlike any of the others. Though he is every bit as heroic, and in many ways more complex, Caesar is a chimpanzee.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the prequel to the 1968 classic, The Planet of the Apes starring Charleton Heston. Rise tells the story of how it came to pass that our simian cousins skipped ahead of us on the evolutionary ladder. The story of Rise is told in such a way that it fits perfectly within the continuity of the original film. By the way, I highly recommend seeing the original as it really is one of the pillars of dystopian sci-fi. When you watch it, keep in mind that it was made more than 40 years ago and how cutting edge it must have seemed to that audience in terms of both story and special effects.

After seeing the trailers for Rise, I expected a good movie. What I got was a great one and it is my favorite movie of the year so far. From its opening sequence to the closing credits, Rise hits all the high points for which storytellers strive. While I thoroughly enjoyed Thor, Captain America and X-Men First Class, Rise had an emotional impact well beyond what I experienced with those other great movies.

Before the end of Rise you will come to know and love Caesar, a combination of computer generated imagery and the movements of actor, Andy Serkis, who also did the movement for King Kong in Peter Jackson’s amazing film of the same name. Serkis’ performance is all the more amazing since it’s composed almost entirely of his motion captured facial expressions and body movement. Not many actors can do their best work under such restrictions. Andy Serkis is in a class by himself in this regard.

Rise plays on our collective fascination with primates other than ourselves. Chimpanzees are eerily like us. They have personalities, live in groups and even wage war against other groups of chimpanzees. The ability of Rise to tell a story, in which apes and chimpanzees are every bit the star that their human counterparts are, is a rather amazing bit of film making. This is obviously the result of a lot of special effects, but I never once saw anything “fake” about the film’s FX. Yes, intellectually I know that chimps were not taking direction or immersing themselves in the method school of acting. But damned if every scene didn’t look as if real animals were on screen. Only King Kong and Avatar have ever made me forget I was looking at computer generated effects the way Rise did.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes has as much action as any of the blockbusters of the summer of 2011, but it has a lot more heart. Caesar is part superhero, part freedom fighter and part Moses. If that sounds ridiculous, trust me, it isn’t. Rise, by focusing on a non human character manages to explore the very essence of heroism, and our desire to be free. In many ways Caesar is as “human” as any of us. And on that somewhat corny note, the only negative thing I have heard about this movie was from a co-worker, who said he heard that it was “corny.” Well, I am as jaded as almost anyone in the concrete jungle, but I feel sorry for anyone who can’t let themselves enjoy the awesomeness that is Rise of the Planet of the Apes because it’s no longer cool to let a movie move you. For the rest of us–hail Caesar!!

FTC Advisory: We purchased our own tickets.

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4 Responses to “Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  1. PenelopeNo Gravatar

    Okay. I wasn’t going to watch this, but after reading your review, I think I’ll go ahead and see it. Thanks for being so thorough!

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  2. ScootNo Gravatar

    Awesome review! I can’t wait to see this one. I have heard mixed feelings on it, but it sounds great to me!

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  3. Kara (Reading Cause I'm Addicted)No Gravatar

    I’m surprised at how much people seem to like this movie. I’ll probably go see it this weekend.

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  4. Lisa RichardsNo Gravatar

    As a lover of the original movies(ones I saw as a teen) I’m definitely going to see this.

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