Witness the beginning to prepare for the end.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the second reboot of the franchise and the first in the ongoing series. Rise tells the story of how Caesar (Andy Serkis) grew up and came to lead an army of highly intelligent apes.
When this movie was released in 2011, it was one of the most pleasant movie surprises at the time, and it still holds up as one of the best reboots today. Given the quality of Tim Burton’s failed reboot in 2001 (the one with Mark Whalberg), expectations were low for Rise, and it ended up exceeding them to an immense extent. However, six years later, it doesn’t hold up as well as back then, despite still being an entertaining movie.
Andy Serkis is just as great as he’s ever been since he shone in all his glory in The Lord of the Rings. He continues to deliver Oscar-worthy motion-capture performances as he brings Caesar to life. Whether Serkis acts as a skulking creature, a giant ape, or in this case, a smart chimpanzee, it’s as if he has virtually transformed into whatever the computers turn him into. If anything, his work demonstrates how committed he is to his craft, for he must have studied or been taught in how his characters act, their mannerisms, facial expressions, movement, and how they would think. A main role of visual effects is to make the audience forget they are looking at something that came out of a computer, and Serkis’s performance achieves that.
Although the special effects are not as impressive today, they have aged quite well. The shots in which the visuals don’t look entirely seamless are when Caesar is interacting with humans. Part of his figure, such as his arm, only appear slightly fake. Other than that, like when all the apes are together in the sanctuary or storming the Golden Gate Bridge, the computer effects remain stunning.
To no surprise, the humans are the weakest aspect of Rise. However, that is a given in movies that have apes or giant robots at the forefront. Few of the humans and their stories are compelling enough for most viewers to care. James Franco as Will brings an average performance like he does in most of his works, and he makes a man trying to develop a formula to cure his father’s Alzheimer’s as good as it can be given that his story is secondary. David Oyelowo as Will’s boss, Frieda Pinto as Franco’s girlfriend, Tom Felton as the cruel caretaker at the ape shelter, and Brian Cox as the manager of said shelter have very little character to any of them, and although none of them are acting badly in this movie, they come across as generic and one-dimensional.
As uninteresting as the humans are, their story is necessary to tell how the apes came to be the more powerful species. There may be too much time devoted to the humans leading up to Caesar’s conflict of escaping the shelter, but the buildup is worth it. When we aren’t focusing on Caesar, we wish the movie would go back to him and his plight. The last 40 minutes of the film are devoted to him, and it is a thrilling, suspenseful, action-packed, escape-from-the-city type of sequence. Caesar takes his place as the apes’ leader and leads them out of the shelter and frees more apes from the local zoo and the lab Will worked at. Did you ever think watching a legion of primates charge through a metropolis and fight the local police could be one of the coolest things you’d see in a movie in the early 2010s? I bet you didn’t.
Although it may not be as good as it was in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is still a delightful reenergizing of once-worn out franchise led by a powerful performance by Andy Serkis.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets a B+
“Be magnificent. Life’s short. Get out there. You can do it. Everyone can do it. Everyone.”-Andy Serkis
Stay updated this week for my reviews of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes!
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