Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Posted: August 15, 2011 by Micah in Movie Reviews
Tags: , , ,

Micah Reviews: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

There have been WAY more planet of the apes movies then I thought. WAY more. After some extensive research (Editor’s note: Twenty bucks says Micah typed “Planet of the Apes” into wikepedia and scanned through it. Twenty bucks. Anyone taking that?) I learned that we’re looking at about four “original” movies, two attempts at a TV show, two “re-inventions”, comic books, toys for creepy kids, and a huge debate with Charlton Heston over whether his character would die in the second movie of the first movie series (he does).

Here’s the thing though: there has only really been one good Planet of the Apes. And that was the first one. I’m as big a fan of Tim Burton as anyone but the one that he directed in 2001 was terrible. The sequel was just as bad and the sequels/TV shows/children’s lunch boxes spawned by the original were all fairly miserable as well. In fact (and watch out here cause I’m about to drop a bomb on ya) the original wasn’t really all that awesome either.

I’ll give it props for one thing that really makes it stick out: the big reveal. You spend most of the original movie thinking that you’ve crash landed on some alien planet a kajillion miles from earth and it isn’t till the end that you realize that you’ve been on earth the entire time!! And that the statue ofLibertyhas been decapitated… again. I’m pretty sure every film maker with a budget surplus is required by law to decapitate the Statue of Liberty. I guess once upon a time it was all cool and edgy and things but nowadays it’s just boring.

“Honey can you take out the trash?”

“I would dear but someone decapitated the Statue of Liberty and its disembodied left eye landed on the trash can.”

“Again? Oh dash and blast.”

“Dash and blast indeed… cause that’s totally something we say inAmerica… where the Statue of Liberty is.”

I mean what did the Statue of Liberty ever do to Hollywood? Anyway, I have now used a huge chunk of this column to talk about things that aren’t Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So…. let’s do that.

The Plot:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes start off with apes (appropriately enough). Several of said monkeys (I am fully aware that a monkey and an ape are different things. Let it be noted here: that I do not care) are captured and brought to a totally not evil corporation called Gen-sys where they will be experimented on because all of the rats are already being experimented on by other totally not evil corporations.

Anyway we’re next shown an ape who they’ve named “Bright Eyes” but who I named “Ape Who Will Die to Advance the Plot.” Predictably enough, the ape escapes, swings on some drapes, puts on a cape, and… sorry… whoa… got a little carried away there. So the Ape esc… I mean… eludes its captors…  meanwhile Scientist Will Rodman (played by James Franco) is telling everyone what a kind ape Bright Eyes is and how she would never go insane and break into a boardroom and then get shot by an over zealous security guard. Wouldn’t you know it though; Bright Eyes goes insane, breaks into the boardroom and is shot by an overzealous security guard. Dag it.

It seems that Bright Eyes had a child before she lost it though (“it” being her sanity… not the child. Though she is dead now so I guess she lost all the “it” didn’t she?). Post pregnancy anger I guess. “What? Look at these stretch marks on my hairy ape side? That’s it!” And what should we do with the baby of a crazy ape woman that was obviously tampered with by science? Take it home of course! And that’s just what Will does! Aptly demonstrating the kind of blatant stupidity that makes our planet so easily taken over, and our prominent statues so easy to break.

Anyway, the monkey that was adopted by Will grows up to become Caesar. An ape with super intelligence and a knack for world domination. Apes Rise, Planet’s fall, and that guy who played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter continues to act like a complete jerk.

The positives:

(Editors note: Just so there’s fair warning you should know Micah goes a little pun crazy in the below paragraphs. If you stop reading now, no one will blame you.)

Okay this was somehow a good movie. I went in with some obvious hesitation about it for a number of reasons but one of the biggest was I’ve never really seen apes well done before. Generally in the “Planet of the Apes” series we’ve gone for dressing up people in costumes that made them look only very vaguely ape like. This was all great and good in the seventies but nowadays we expect a little bit more. Fortunately Weta Digital (the folks behind Avatar’s special effects) have risen (pun) to the challenge. The apes in this movie are brilliantly done and every motion/gesture/desperate bashing of skulls looks believable. “Believable” being the key word there. Avatar had great special effects but they weren’t really believable. You watched Avatar and you thought “man these special effects are awesome!” You watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes and you don’t even really notice the special effects are there. Everything blends perfectly together and a spot on performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar is allowed to shine without taking the magic out of the characters. Very very well done.

James Franco actually does very well for himself acting-wise. After hosting the Oscars this year (and I’m stretching “hosting” to its fullest extent their. James Franco “hosted” the Oscars like a piece of pepperoni “hosts” my pizza. Both of them are just sort of there. And stare blankly into space while Anne Hathaway tries to be funny… yeah the analogy sort of breaks down… also I want pizza). Franco was so bad at the Oscars that it caused various unfeeling sarcastic movie review people to openly wonder if he had died. As if to spite us all though, Franco has come back to life and turns in a great performance as Will Rogers… I mean Rodman.

Believability. A movie that starts out with the premise: “Science experiments lead to super smart apes taking over the world”; has a bit of an uphill climb towards being believable. And while, occasionally, the movie falls prey to its own story it manages to rise above (pun) it’s obstacles and make itself into a believable film. A film that pulls off the extremely difficult trick of making you care about both sides of its central conflict. You hope Caesar finds freedom and happiness, and you hope Will and the rest of humanity don’t get savagely beat to death with sticks. A very well directed, well acted film, whose central storyline (while already very well known) stays absolutely riveting.

The negatrons:

Some nit picky things about the storyline didn’t make sense but the biggest one for me was that Bright Eyes (the original super ape) somehow managed to conceal the fact that she was with child, going into labor, and nurturing her un-swaddled babe from the super smart scientist lab people who are supposedly cataloging her every move. I mean I’m not crazy observant but if my job description boiled down to “Watch this ape” I would probably notice when she went into LABOR! I’m just saying.

Secondly there’s this whole “this virus helps apes but kills humans” storyline that gets introduced about mid way through things and it’s just… bad. If the “apes vs. humans” storyline is a delicately made ice sculpture, then the “virus vs. humans” storyline is an ice cube that fell out of the fridge and gets stuck to the bottom of your sock. I didn’t really think it was necessary and it’s just handled with such lack of concern that it seriously makes it feel like it should have been in a different movie. One that was written by mutant chickens dancing on a keyboard.

In Conclusion:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great movie that overcomes two huge obstacles (the fact that it has a fairly unbelievable premise, and the fact that everyone knows what’s going to happen) and makes itself into a really great movie that makes you care about its main characters. It’s a tribute to Andy Serkis’ acting skills and to the digital wizards at Weta Digital that Caesar is so easy to cheer for despite the fact that he’s fighting against humanity for most of the movie. A virus storyline that fails miserably and a couple weird moments don’t stop Rise of the Planet of the Apes from rising (pun).

I give it 4 screaming monkeys out of 5.

 

 

Comments
  1. Cassie says:

    And I would just like to give props to Buck — the horrifying but somehow endearing gorilla/monkey/ape.
    Also, there were lots of mean people — whom I hated.
    But good movie all around!

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