Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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I'll confess: I have only hazy memories of watching the original Planet of the Apes films as a kid on some Saturday matinee and I've blocked nearly all of Tim Burton's monstrosity out of my mind. As such, going into Rise of the Planet of the Apes without too many expectations of what an Apes movie should be allowed me to end up enjoying it based on its own merits, rather than some fanboy devotion.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of Caesar (Andy Serkis), a genetically modified chimp who is saved from the labs by his scientist 'father' (James Franco). As Caesar’s intelligence grows, he begins to see that he does not belong in the world of Man and seeks out a way of life for himself and his fellow apes. Rise is a story of both triumph and tragedy; a story of how well-meaning intentions and misunderstandings lead to the downfall of one species and the prosperity of another. But, more than anything, it is the story of Caesar's journey from his humble beginnings in a lab, to a prisoner of the State to prophet and leader of his people.

It isn't just the story of Caesar, though. James Franco plays the doctor who is gave Caesar super-intelligence while trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Freida Pinto plays his love interest and Caesar's veterinarian, and John Lithgow plays Franco's Alzheimer's-stricken father. Despite James Franco and the rest of his human costars getting top billing, the human in Rise really play second banana (ba dam chssssh) to Caesar. The human actors do a fine job, especially Lithgow who plays his part with charm and pathos without it feeling cliched or offensive. At the same time, however, their importance feels incredibly limited and secondary to the story of Caesar.

It's an interesting choice to have your summer blockbuster dominated by digital characters as more than a cheap laugh or flashy special effect. Even the Transformers films rely predominantly on the human actors rather than the titular robots to drive the story.

But maybe that's what makes Rise so different from (and more enjoyable than) other special-effects-heavy films. In Transformers, the robots are little more than special effects and plot devices, and, as such, they were used primarily to be flashy. In Rise, Caesar is the protagonist and the special effects used to create him are intended only to make him more believable. Despite being an ape and computer generated, Caesar is a very "human" character, one with whom the audience can sympathize and even root for, despite what fate might befall the human race if Caesar succeeds.

Rise has its flaws, but most of them can be overlooked.  As good as most of the actors were, Brian Cox was a complete waste. He barely reacts to anything in his scenes and spits out his bland dialog until his character is eventually forgotten completely. Oh, and will Tom Felton ever get to play a role that isn't Draco Malfoy?

There is also a lot of bad science done in this film. While you can argue about just how scientifically valid a film about super-intelligent monkeys should or should not be, anyone with a high school level of science education can see how most tragedies in the film could have prevented if anyone had bothered to follow the scientific method.

Rise is the summer blockbuster we needed: It's fun, it's entertaining and it uses its special effects to create memorable, interesting characters rather than just explosions or space aliens. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting for the damn, dirty apes.

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Posted by Jacob

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  1. W. Somerset Maugham: “Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.” Bev

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