August 8, 2011
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis
Release Date: August 5, 2011
Hey, Hey We’re the Monkeys
I’ve seen the original Planet of the Apes (as well as the Tim Burton remake), but I’ve never really been that “invested” in the franchise as a whole. Though they were entertaining movies, something about them just seems… well… a little too hokey.
With that in mind, I went into Rise of the Planet of the Apes with skepticism. Origin stories are all the rage lately, and this one strives to live up to the likes of Batman Begins, X-Men: First Class, insert-your-preference-of-how-it-all-started film here. And though the movie straddles a very fine line that sees it both exploring thought-provoking matters of ethical responsibility and teetering on the verge of unbridled stupidity, it does work surprisingly well.
My main problem with Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that it doesn’t—for lack of a better term—pull any unexpected punches. It’s the typical tale of a greedy corporation who pushes a wonder drug into development far too early and suffers unimaginable consequences as a result. There’s the token scientist who realizes the danger inherent in rushing the product to mark, the tycoon who’s only interest is collecting mounds of cash, and the hippie love interest who warns everyone about everything all the time. In that sense, the whole film feels somewhat stagnant.
But then there’s Andy Serkis and the scenes where CGI apes are interacting solely with one another. These are numerous, and they’re breathtaking. To see how effectively WETA managed to blend the behavior of primates and emotionally-engaged humans is awe-inspiring, and it adds a notably tangible sense of poignancy to the “evolution” of Caesar (our protagonist chimp) and his relationship with Will Rodman (Franco).
The inevitable battle sequences are nicely staged, too. Of particular note is a brawl that unfolds on a foggy Golden Gate bridge. Gorillas scale the heights of the structure, and all hell breaks loose when they finally come into contact with a contingency of San Francisco police officers who are bound and determined to stop their advance into the redwood forests beyond.
In all fairness, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is just about as good as we could have hoped for in a story meant to add depth to its sci-fi ancestry. And the fact that it’s not all “spectacle” is a welcome thing.
out of 5