Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A Flickcharter’s Movie Review
My hopes weren’t exactly high going into Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’ve never seen the original, nor is it one of those films I’ve been dying to see, but just haven’t gotten around to. The trailers didn’t do anything to elevate my desires to see it, as there was a certain fake aspect of the CG apes that was impossible to ignore. Also, after seeing roughly three different trailers, I’d felt like I’d seen the majority of the film already. My doubts were apparently shared by most of the people I know, because no one I asked seemed remotely interested in seeing this flick. Even the theater I went to was only a quarter full, with mostly older people who I assume were fans of the original films. As the house lights dimmed, I was no more confident in my potential enjoyment of this film as I was when I first heard about it.
The film opens up on a scene with some chimpanzees in the wild and I immediately started critiquing them. Not only did they have the noticeably fake quality to them – especially when some humans came to trap them – but they all looked too similar as well. It was as if they made one chimpanzee model for all the background chimps while making slight differences to the ones they were going to show up close. This turned out to be a recurrent theme whenever they were showing a long shot with a large number apes on the screen. Shortly after this first scene they started to individualize the apes and I became less aware of the fact that I was looking at CG, and more forgiving when it was apparent. Much of the praise for this should go to Andy Serkis, who is essentially the star of the film and “played” – via motion capture – the adult chimpanzee named Caesar. His performance never felt like a human was portraying Caesar’s movements and facial expressions, even while Caesar was adopting very human like attributes such as sign language, offering a handshake, and walking upright. I never would have thought I would go through the emotional wringer like I did in this film, and the vast majority of those emotions can be linked with Serkis. It would be great to see him get an award for this film, as no one could say he didn’t deliver a stellar acting performance.
Both John Lithgow and Tom Felton also deserve mentions for their performances. Lithgow plays James Franco‘s father who is suffering from a form of Alzheimer’s. The injections that made Caesar as smart as he is are the same things Franco is using to treat his father, and they have a distinct bond because of it. Felton plays a worker at an animal control area specifically for primates and he is one of the two truly “bad guys” in the film. He abuses the chimps and enjoys the power he thinks he has over them. Like his character in the Harry Potter films he plays the cliched bully. He does do an admirable job, but I hope he will one day get a chance to play a character whose sole purpose isn’t to be the secondary hardship for the main character.
There are some unnecessary scenes and characters. Frieda Pinto was only there to be an awkward and forced love interest for Franco, and Brian Cox was underused as Felton’s dad as the man who runs the animal control center. As an audience, we feel like he’s going to be one of the more sinister characters, but nothing ever comes of it. He was used as a vessel to establish other character’s arcs more than his own. Most of his scenes could have been done by Felton and achieved the same effect. One less character would have been good for this film, because every scene that was focused on humans was considerably less interesting than the scenes that focused on the primates. I cared less about David Oyelowo being a greedy guy who wants to make money instead of helping people than I did about Caesar’s rise to be the leader of the primates in the animal control center.
I would definitely recommend for people to give this film a chance. It’s not the best movie of the year, but it’s the best film of the summer, and a nice change of pace from what has become the norm for the past few summers: super hero movie, Twilight or Harry Potter film, alien movie, remake/reboot, or average sequels. Yes, this is a prequel, and there have also been plenty of those, but it definitely paves it’s own path within the Planet of the Apes mythology and gives us a fresh look at the series.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently ranked #240 on my Flickchart