Reviews: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Theory of Revolution

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a franchise I always associated with campy costumes and a chiseled Charles Heston, does several things correctly from the start that makes it deep from the beginning:

1. The "smart-drug" is intended for a good purpose: curing Alzheimers. (An alternative use should be curing our idiocy in Congress.) 2. Rather than a random breakout being the spurn of the invasion, the film concerns itself with the rise of a leader: Caesar the chimp, and his goal. 3. Neither humans nor chimps are in right. Caesar's intentions are good, but he's still learning and doesn't understand how powerful he can be. James Franco's character truly does care for Caesar, but doesn't quite view him on the same level. The apes are just glad to be free, the humans view it as a rogue escape. This blurring of the separate factions does the job much better than Avatar did.

The human characters are well acted, but written on automatic. (But Tom Felton's still awesomely cruel, and even wields a wand!) But it's Andy Serkis who gives the central performance. Throughout the entire film he feels like a real, intelligent ape. The film shows some of his feats at tests and puzzles, but where it really crafts him in his relationship with people, those who love, those who fear him, and how he commands the apes he lives with. I chuckled at this at first, but I'll have to agree with Orson Scott Card's statement that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the best spiritual adaptation of his book Ender's Game.

The special effects are of WETA standard, though I've always found Industrial Light And Magic's texture effects to be better. But human characters augment them, and you'll never find yourself believing that the apes aren't really there. Subtle differences can be found between them and real ones, though, compare any image of Caesar with that of a real chimp, and look what's been changed in the eyes. A subtle complement, to make sure their human performance comes through.

Ultimately it's the intelligence and acting makes Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Hopefully the Academy will recognize motion-capture as real acting and Serkis can step up the podium to embrace "my Precious!"

A Reboot of Ape-ic Proportions

You'd have been right to assume that this movie was going to be bad. I certainly did, or at least I wasn't sure what to expect.

But this movie was exactly what the classic franchise needed. First off, it doesn't pretend to be a remake of the old Planet Of The Apes movie, which was loaded with Cold War-era sociopolitical implications; it updates its premise to the modern society it was made in, raising uncomfortable moral questions about the balance of testing on intelligent creatures and curing horrible diseases—both of their effects can be clearly seen in this movie. It also raises science questions, Project Nim-style; just how much are humans and apes alike? Could apes raised by a human family be at least partially fluent in a form of language? Can apes organize large-scale movements and operations?

Enough about the analysis of the movie's undertones, though—on to the movie itself. It was superbly acted, though the dialogue could have been improved a little. The characters are easy to relate to but are complex in nature; even Will's wife, who doesn't do much, is easy to relate to and plays a crucial role in the movie's climactic scene. You really feel Will's joy as his father recovers from his disease, and his sorrow and helplessness as the disease returns. The villain, too, is extremely well acted; you really feel that greed and callousness towards his apes, and it makes you hate him that much more.

Enough about the humans, though; this is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Like Wall E before it, this movie does a remarkable job of displaying emotion, feeling, and "dialogue" without using words ("Why cookie Rocket?" notwithstanding). The apes are the true stars of this movie, and they don't even need to use words to do it.

All in all: Two enthusiastic thumbs up.