Commonsensemedia.org: 3 out of 5 Stars
Metacritic.com: 68 out of 100
The Movie Man Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the 2001 Tim Burton remake Planet of the Apes, is a violent but surprisingly good reboot to the classic series. The first film, directed by Burton and starring Mark Whalberg and Helena Bonham Carter, had stellar cinematic promise, but turned out to be a let down, which is why this one’s success was probably such a surprise. There are many things done right with this film that Burton’s’ failed to accomplished- for one thing, this one helmed just the right amount of human touch- even within its numerous amount of chimp characters. The film holds a generally fast pace and manages to keep the viewer glued to the screen at all times- there’s never a dull moment. Rupert Wyatt (who debuted with the prison breakout film, The Escapist) directs the film with a visual flair and expertly crafts an intelligent and action packed piece.
The movie chronicles Will Rodman, (James Franco) a San Francisco scientist who has been trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's disease by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus on chimpanzees. The virus quickly mutates the chimps, enabling them with human-level intelligence. Will presents the study to the board, and just as they are about to gain approval, one of the subjects goes berserk and the operation is shut down. They learn that the chimp that went out of control was just a mother giving birth—she was simply being protective. They find the baby chimp under the table, and while the other apes are sentenced to death, Will sneaks the chimp home and names him Caesar.
Over the years, Caesar’s mental development increases rapidly and has near-human intelligence. Through further secret studies, Will learns that the retrovirus was passed down through his mother- seeing the renewed effects of the retrovirus, he gives some to his ailing father, who is suffering severely from Alzheimer’s and is danger of being put in a home. The effect is immediate- Will discovers that his father is not only recovering, but improving. He presents his finds to his greedy boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), who immediately starts up the project again, and seeing the results, increasing the studies to dangerous levels.
The effects begin to dwindle on Will’s father and his condition grows worse- in an act of defense, Caesar brutally hurts a neighbor, and is soon put under the care of animal control until a court date is set. Will tries all he can to get Caesar back home with him, as well as trying to get his boss to see reason. But soon, Caesar begins, for the first time, to inhabit with his own kind- he finds the weaknesses of the world he lives in and through his new intelligence, begins a rebellion.
As I said before, the film’s greatest strength was Wyatt’s strong direction- I felt that one of the biggest faults of last film was the fact that it centered around the chimps completely- and even when it did do that, it didn’t properly manage good character development. In this film, the chimps have characters, personalities, and a certain human touch; the human characters are equally complex and believable.
The script is smart and well written; its plot (which would sound ridiculous in the wrong hands) makes sense here, and I’m sure scientists everywhere will be very pleased in the careful research done here. However, the scientific details are not so complicated that the average moviegoer wouldn’t be able to comprehend- it’s conveyed quite simply.
The acting here is excellent all around- James Franco, who plays the lead (I still haven’t gotten over his terrible hosting at the Oscars) is excellent here- not award worthy, but certainly notable. He and Frieda Pinto (who plays Caroline, his veterinarian girlfriend) are both very honest in the portrayals, but the true star here is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar. Most commonly remembered as Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis delivers an enthralling performance as the lead chimp. Well covered by visual effects, he may be mistaken for CGI, but he is brilliant, deserving an Academy Award for his mastery of
the nuanced motion- capture performance.
The visual effects here are excellent (as they should be, because it is vital for the chimps to look real), done by the guys who did Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Captain America: The First Avenger, and the upcoming Uglies adaption. They are the most impressive I’ve seen this year, (with the definite exception of the last Harry Potter installment) and just nearly overtake the
great story and characters.
The greatest achievement this film manages to make is its heart. It is greatly felt and emotional, the scenes between Caesar and Will definite contenders for guaranteed tearjerker. It is the amount of heart that separates this film from other sci-fi/fantasy types and effects-heavy Summer Blockbusters, and perhaps that’s what makes it this season’s biggest surprise. This is a fun, fast paced film that manages to rise above convention-
so just pass the bananas and enjoy the ride.
Review also on: Booleanflix.com