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.

34 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  1. Good Review! This is that rare summer movie that has brains and emotion in addition to the spectacle. It is also such a great film that it makes us forget about the 2001 piece of junk that Tim Burton tried to do but actually failed. Check out my review when you can!

    1. Yes, brain and heart is always a nice combo to have in any movie… coupled that with great special effects and you’ve got yourself a worthy Summer flick. Thanks for the comment, I’ll check out your review.

  2. Sums up my thoughts perfectly. Loved the film…some small problems with the human characters, but for me, it was definitely the best blockbuster of the summmer

    1. Hi John, this is one of the easier reviews to write because I was genuinely impressed by it even coming in with a high expectations because of the reviews. I still like First Class better because I like that franchise a lot, but yeah, this isn’t too far behind as my fave of the year.

  3. I am even more gutted that I didn’t get to see it lat weekend now. I have read nothing but good shouts on it and your one just confirms it…PESKY KIDS!!!! HAHHA

    I am supposed to be seeing it on Friday, but we are having some major rioting i London now and it looks like BIG SCREEN may be cancelled. Stupid youth of today!

    Thanks for sharing Ruth!!

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Custard,

      Saw that riots on CNN, man that’s scary stuff. Hope you’re not anywhere close in that area. Too they’re going to canceled the BIG SCREEN event.

      Be safe!

    2. Oh no worries Custie, I’m sure this movie will be around for a while… family time first, ok? 😀

      What, the BIG SCREEN thing is canceled??! Bummer! I didn’t realize how bad this was until I saw the pictures last nite… it’s just so sad. Sorry to hear that Custard, but I hope they’ll reschedule it soon.

  4. Ted S.

    I might go see it later this week, maybe tomorrow. Since it’s officially the last tent pole picture of the summer, I need to see it on the big screen.

    1. It’s well worth seeing it on the big screen, Ted. I still have the Groupon thing so it was cheap for us, but I wouldn’t mind paying full price for this, either.

  5. I’m really surprised people actually like this! It just seems like a very used and worn out franchise, but I guess they put a new young spin on it! I guess I have to see this after all ha!

    1. I’m surprised too, Anna. The subject matter never interested me but I was so drawn into it, so I’m glad I went to see it. I guess I should thank my hubby 😀

  6. So… Andy Serkis for Best Supporting Actor? I predict Paramount will try and launch a campaign later this year now that the movie is a hit.

    1. @ Rich – Yep, and that is one award campaign I can get behind.

      @ Markus – I think Serkis is good enough even as Best Actor, no need to create a whole new category as there’s not enough mo-cap actors out there. Caesar carried the entire movie, and whatever people say about it, I think mo-cap acting is still acting.

  7. Glad you loved this! I might check this out later this week given your wild raves. Hopefully I won’t be as disappointed as with all the other summer blockbuster this year.

    1. Oh I hope I don’t hype this up too much, but I really couldn’t knock any point off of this, other than for the performances I already mentioned. So I hope you like this one Castor, I know you’re quite hard to please 😀

      P.S. I hope you won’t say this is ‘tepid’ ahah

  8. I really liked this film and really only went to see it because of all of the great reviews and word-of-mouth it got from critics. Was it a flawless film? Hardly since some of the human characters really needed to have been fleshed out a bit more and maybe Tom Felton needed to channel Draco just a tad less, but the star of the movie are the apes (orangutans and gorillas, too), most especially Caesar. I don’t care if he’s a puppet, CGI, VFX, motion capture, animation, whatever… he gave a wonderful performance.

    As I said on twitter, this film reminded me just a bit of my favorite movie of 2009, District 9. Both were August sci-fi flicks that not a lot of people, including myself, had any expectations with only for everyone to pretty much end up loving the film, myself included. They both feature CGI characters that pack an emotional wallop as well as some smart, thrilling action set pieces. And like the best sci-fi films, it offers nuanced commentary on our world and our humanity.

    1. Yeah, I’m in the same boat, Ryan, but I’m glad it didn’t disappoint. Felton was pretty much playing Draco all over again (esp. in the earlier HP movies) so it’s getting tiresome. But it’s all about Caesar, and boy did Andy Serkis delivered. I even dare say he’s even better than Gollum!

      Yeah, I see why you’re comparing it to D-9 now, I so loved that film and I also went into that movie not really knowing what to expect and wasn’t all that interested to begin with. I so agree w/ your last statement, spot on!

  9. I did feel as you do that some of the actors got short changed, but for some reason this worked for me as I was always anxious to get back to the heart of the story in Caesar when he wasn’t on screen. This was the first time I’ve felt this way about a completely digital character. Serkis was able to convey so much emotion in his performance without saying much…..and of course when he did…..wow…….This is my most eagerly anticipated blu-ray at the moment.

    1. I hear ya, Markus. Glad you like this film as much as I do. Serkis er, Caesar was incredible, his eyes were so full of emotion it was hard to take my eyes off him.

      Btw, I’m on board if he’s hosting the Oscars, it’ll be tons better than Oprah, ahah.

  10. This looks far better than I ever thought it could be. From the reviews I’ve read so far I can’t wait to see it now. Nice one Ruth!

  11. You said it with this “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” as that’s really what I came away with as well.

    Agree with the mis/underused human characters but it wasn’t really about them so you’re right, nothing to quibble over. Smartest thing the writersz did was leave this open for the story to continue and I’m certainly on board for the impending Ape-ocalypse:) Love that bit in credits to really help push for the follow-up!

    1. Hi Marc, glad you enjoyed this one, too. I’m curious to see what direction Wyatt will take us w/ the sequel. I hope this won’t be another ‘Outbreak’ movie as we already have Contagion, ahah.

  12. Your review is fantastic Ruth! It tells a great story about a great story.

    Yes, I was disappointed in the other actors as well, but I do understand…the focus should be on the Apes themselves. I really liked the film…and, according to my rating formula, it actually ended up with the same score as what you gave it!

    Hooray for great minds thinking alike! 😉

    1. Thanks, T. Yeah, I suppose the apes (esp. Caesar) is supposed to be the star, but I just feel bad to see Brian Cox underused like that 😦 Hopefully he’ll have more to do in Coriolanus!

      I’ll check out your review later, glad we agree on the rating 😀

  13. I found the movie excellent. It had a good mix of action and character development and the special effects were used to enhance the story instead of trying to replace it.

    And i could have sworn i just commented on this, but i guess it didn’t go through

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