RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
DECEMBER 18, 2011
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is an origin story based on the film “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.” But instead of ape slave labor, the apes are test subjects for a new Alzheimer’s treatment called ALZ 112. The results of the treatment are positive. But they also enhance the ape’s brain functions, allowing them to learn sign language quickly. All it takes is one out-of-control ape, and the research is over.
One of my biggest worries walking into the film was whether James Franco could pull off playing a scientist. The result was that Franco delivered an acceptable performance, and the film was good enough to cover up his faults. When a film’s cast is voiceless apes, for the most part, it is easier for an audience to latch on to the human counterparts, no matter where the performances rate. All the same, Franco comes off as believable, and his natural sincerity comes across perfectly when caring for the ape that he takes home, named Caesar.
Portrayed physically by Andy Serkis of “The Lord of the Rings” and Gollum fame, Caesar, puts on the film’s best performance. The film industry has advanced since 2001’s “Planet of the Apes.” With all the post-Avatar advances in CGI, the actors are fully enhanced shadows on the wall instead of actors in full monkey suits. The fact that Andy Serkis could win an Oscar nomination for his pseudo-performance is a testament to the technology, whether that comes to fruition or not. A CGI ape pulling off the best performance of the film (in an already great movie) is honestly saying something.
As always, the undertones of humans not fully understanding the complexity of science and nature plays wonderfully without slapping the audience in the face. Animals will be animals. As much as the scientists and zookeepers think they can mold the apes into perfect test subjects, in the words of Jeff Goldblum’s character, Malcolm, from “Jurassic Park,” “life finds a way.” Even when Franco’s character, Will, believes that finding Caesar after the revolt will somehow bring back Caesar’s compassion shows the misunderstanding between a civilized pet and a dangerous wild animal.
Not only does the film’s plot flow naturally and engulf a spectrum of emotion, but the graphics also grab you and pull you into that world seamlessly, making the world of intelligent apes a reality. The film feels like all genres, simultaneously bringing action, drama, and horror to the table. The battle scene on the Golden Gate Bridge is enough to sell the film and ends up being one of the year’s best action sequences. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is enthralling. Though the humans are set pieces compared to the complex characters of the apes (especially the under-utilized John Lithgow and Freida Pinto), the film finds a way to hold firm. A highlight film of the year, I am fully behind a reboot of this series.
August 5, 2011
“Planet of the Apes”
by Pierre Boulle
20th Century Fox
(for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence)