Have you ever cried in an action movie that involved an army of apes with superhuman intelligence seeking vengeance on their human counterparts in the middle of the Golden Gate bridge? Umm, well I have. So let me lay out a broad disclaimer, before you get much further into this review. I’m a vegetarian (which I guess I need to say, according to Jonny Green). But really, I have a hard time watching animal abuse on the screen. Further, I hate scenes involving death. And finally, I have nightmares about random people and things staring at me while I’m sleeping. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the hot movie of summer 2011 and prequel to the classic Planet of the Apes, had elements of all the aforementioned. Also, I knew nothing about the Planet of the Apes story line before I walked in the theater, because I live under a movie rock. What does all this mean? Well, for sure it means I’m highly qualified to review this film.
At first I said that in jest; however, upon further reflection there is some truth to the statement that I am qualified to review this film.
When I first gave Jonny my initial review of the film, it was, “I HATED IT.” Then after giving my explanation, which was nearly verbatim the list contained in the disclaimer above, and still in that movie twilight where the effects of the film are working their way through your system, I jokingly volunteered to write the review for this film (expecting it to get shot down faster than a rogue recreational plane circling the area when Obama is in town). However, his all too eager response to have me as a guest reviewer forced me to look at the actual elements of the film and get over my wacky emotional baggage.
This film is worth seeing.
The animation is incredible. In fact, the apes look more life-like than the humans do. Perhaps, because the wonders of technology in animation are able to overcome what is usually lost in a 2D film. If for nothing else, you movie buffs should check out this film for that reason. At least, that’s what my brother-in-law said, and he’s a movie buff.
The characters are endearing. The terror I experienced watching some of the violence in the film involving the animals (it’s actually pretty minimal… oh, and they’re digital so no animals were actually harmed in the making of this film), was because the director had done an excellent job carving out a place in my heart for them. There’s a scene that’s really well done, where the viewer joins Cesar, the main monkey character and leader of the Ape revolution, in his existential dilemma. The viewer has watched the extraordinary leaps in intelligence he has made as he has grown inside the safe harbors of his home, however we also watch as he still has to be leashed when he leaves the house on his little field trips. This scene juxtaposes an angry German Sheppard on a leash (the anger showing a classic animalistic reaction and not the emotion that can sometimes be read into dogs’ actions) with Cesar walking upright next to his human pals, in human clothing, but still on a leash. The camera hones in on Cesar’s facial expressions as he has to deal with the reality that he is caught somewhere between the animal kingdom and the human world.
The acting is better than you would expect. James Franco, the sympathetic scientist trying to find a cure for his ailing father / adoptive father of Cesar the genius ape, plays the role pretty well. His lady friend and fellow primate ally is Freida Pinto, best known for her role in Slumdog Millionare. Their romance is kindled over their interest in the cuddly little Cesar, and he plays a role in fixing them up. The Apes are sympathetic characters. Cesar quickly becomes your friend on the screen, as do some of the other primates he rallies up, particularly an orangutan that can communicate with him in sign language.
Additionally, the film does a good job prequelling. While I didn’t know much about the plot of the Planet of the Apes, the foreshadowing was done well enough that I could tell where the story may go. There are several references to space shuttles and a good set-up with a pilot that may have a suspicious virus.
This one gets two stars on my rating system, but I would probably give it 3.5 for y’all.
Have you seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.