FlixChatter Review: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

As I said in my weekend roundup post, this film was such a pleasant surprise as I really wasn’t that interested in seeing it. In fact, when the trailer came out a few months ago, I quickly dismissed it, saying that it looked ridiculous and so darn obvious that the apes will go y’know, ape-sh*t if they were made to be intelligent, I mean, we’re talking about wild animals here.

But I’m glad my husband persuaded me to see this film as I ended up really enjoying it!

You’re probably already familiar with the story when man’s experiments with genetic engineering gone wrong as the intelligent apes end up embarking in a war to gain dominance in society. This latest version is an origin story of how the apes got to be ultra smart to begin with, thus a prequel to the 1968 version with Charlton Heston where humans in the Planet of the Apes have become inferior beings.

The star of the film is no doubt the Ape itself, Caesar, played by the motion-capture virtuoso, Andy Serkis. This is not the first time he played one on film, having portrayed the king of all cinematic primate, King Kong, in 2005. Caesar is raised from the time he was an infant by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), who is working on a cure for Alzheimer at Gene Sys Corporation. By taking home baby Caesar, he defies orders from his boss to shut down the drug project after one of the apes injected with the drug wreak havoc inside the company’s headquarter.

Will’s dad Charles, who’s suffering from Alzheimer (John Lithgow) welcomes Caesar wholeheartedly and he soon became part of their family. The first act of the film shows the bond between the ultra intelligent chimpanzee growing up in the attic, treated more like a child instead of a pet, but sheltered from the outside world. The movie moves along at a proper pace, allowing us to sympathize with Caesar but there is always this unsettling atmosphere that things will eventually go awry. As you perhaps have seen in the trailer/clips, things did go wrong… and we’re treated to one of the most disturbing yet emotional scenes in the film.

The film’s mood grows more sinister as Caesar is moved to a primate shelter owned by the Landon family. Right away we’re shown that the place is no haven for these apes, and Caesar is definitely having a hard time from both his fellow apes and the mistreatment of the caretaker (Tom Felton, taking on another ‘villainous’ role after playing Draco in Harry Potter series).

From this moment on, the apes pretty much dominate the screen, led by the ever so expressive and capable Caesar. To say he steals scenes is putting it mildly, Caesar was mesmerizing and there are moments where he literally took my breath away. Those who’ve seen this film know which part I’m talking about. The apes’ eventual escape is predictable of course, but Caesar’s brilliantly calculated plan was great to watch.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an impressive movie that it kept me engaged from start to finish, there’s no slow or ho-hum second act, or unnecessary ‘fillers’… I feel that every single scene in this film is worthy to be included. The special effects are as impressive as Serkis’ affecting motion-captured performance, I’d love to see both the SFX wizards and the English actor get some nods come award season. The movie also has nice balance between fast-paced action and emotional moments throughout, even the bombastic third act still offers plenty of heart. Now, I don’t know what that say about me when I felt like rooting for the apes, but really, you can’t help it 😀

As for the um, human performances, well I have a few nitpicks, but let’s start with the positive. James Franco‘s melancholy demeanor is perfect for this role, I feel like he genuinely cares for this apes and especially Caesar, but he’s of course torn by all that’s happening. John Lithgow is wonderful as well, and his scenes with Caesar is one of the highlights of the film for me.

Now, the not-so-good. I’ve read some reviews that said Freida Pinto wasn’t given much to do than looking pretty, well I think it’s the other British actors in this movie that really wasn’t given much to do. It’s a pity to see great character actor Brian Cox being so criminally underutilized, his character lacks any real motive and he barely has any screen time. Felton also got the shorter end of the stick as the ‘bully’ with no character nuance whatsoever, the same with David Oyelowo as a one-dimensional corporate exec who’s all about the bottom line.

In any case, I still don’t think those minor quibbles derail the film in any way. I commend UK director Rupert Wyatt—a relative newcomer with only two previous feature films under his belt—for creating such a satisfying film with a ‘whoa’ kind of ending. I think that last quote by Caesar is one for the ages… man, that was a good one!

It’s inevitable there’s sequel talks already given its box office success, and the ending definitely leaves plenty of opportunities for a follow up. Well, I’m game if Wyatt is at the helm. Borrowing a term from a reviewer Jim Napier who I follow on Twitter, this movie is ‘chimptastic!’ 😀

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, have you seen the movie? Please share your thoughts about the movie below.