Monday, August 8, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

Okay, remember what I just said about how sometimes you get a sleeper hit in August? Well, here it is! I was not expecting Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be any good. I was actually very critical of this after seeing the trailers and was kind of dreading having to watch this.

Rise is another movie where the trailer kind of lied, but here it's a good thing. The trailer really plays up on the ape uprising, but that's really only the last 15 minutes or so.

The movie itself starts with the story of James Franco as a scientist that's trying to discover a cure for Alzheimer's disease. You find that his motivation for doing this is because his father, played by a great John Lithgow, suffers from Alzheimer's and is pretty far gone.

Franco's character has developed a genetic virus and the company he works for has been experimenting the virus on apes. The virus was actually genetically mutating the apes to be smarter. This was actually something I initially had an issue with when I first saw the trailer. How would the apes continue to evolve if there's nothing being passed genetically to their descendants? Fortunately, they did a good job of explaining that in the context of the movie, so I no longer have an issue with that.

Anyway, one of the apes that had been showing increased intelligence goes nuts and they have to put her down. However they find that the reason she went nuts was that she had secretly just had a baby and was just being protective of it. Because of a cosmetic side effect of the virus, it's clear that something has been passed on to the baby. Franco's company orders all of the other apes to be put down, but instead he takes the baby home rather than kill it. They name the ape Caesar and raise it like a son.

The movie then flashes forward over the next 8 years or so showing the development of Caesar. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis (Gollum from Lord of the Rings) in another motion-capture role mixed with computer graphics. He's the go to guy for this type of role and I think he's brilliant here. I don't see how you could watch this and not call it acting. He really carries the film and gives Caesar an emotional weight that's impossible to ignore.

I'm going to stop talking about the plot at this point, as part of my normal policy about not spoiling the plots of movies I really like. I'll just bring up a few general points.

The CG is pretty great for the most part. There are a few parts here and there that look a little off, but for the most part it's pretty great. The budget of the movie was about $90 million, so they really got a lot out of that money considering I've seen many movies recently with much larger budgets that didn't look half as good.

I like James Franco, but he really seemed to be phoning it in. I'd have to say he's probably the weakest part of the movie at least from a performance standpoint. The rest of the cast is good for the most part. There's a small role played by Tom Felton, who was Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. It was funny to see him outside of a Harry Potter movie for a change.

You really get into the development of the characters. One of the reasons why I said the trailer lies is that this is heavily built up as an action film, but in reality this is much more of a character based, sci-fi drama. You get a lot of the relationship between the family of Caesar, James Franco and John Lithgow. If you saw Splice last Summer, it's actually all the things I wish Splice would have been.

I'm not hugely familiar with all of the movies in the Apes franchise, but I'm hearing this is closest to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I guess this is still both a little bit of a prequel and a reboot. I think it's a fresher take on the story that I feel is more in line with current science and where things could potentially be headed. It's a pretty smart sci-fi film as far as I'm concerned. I really have to credit the writing team and the direction of Rupert Wyatt for pulling this off.

Regardless of whether or not this a straight prequel or reboot, the movie actually works well as standalone film. It's kind of how I felt about X-Men: First Class where the movie worked so well, that I didn't really care about the liberties it took with the material or how it wasn't necessarily consistent with the other films.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a way better film than it had any right to be considering the marketing and it's release date. I was expecting a ridiculous action movie, but instead got a smart, character based drama that's probably one of the better sci-fi films I've seen in a while, and one of the best films of the Summer.

Anyway, I never thought I'd say this, but I recommend this highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment