Review: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not only the best movie of the summer, it’s one of the best movies of the year. As of this writing, it’s definitely in my list of top five films.

The film begins in the jungle where a group of apes are hunted down, captured and shipped to a US laboratory. This happens in the first two minutes and with that, the compassion you feel for these creatures is firmly established.

At the lab, Will Rodham (James Franco) is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s and to test it, they need to use those apes. When one of the apes goes crazy and trashes the building in the middle of a meeting, they discontinue the project and are are ordered to destroy the remaining animals.

Why did the ape go crazy? Rodham discovers it was because she was protecting her new baby. Fearing that the young ape will die, he takes it home with the thought of finding it a home.

Five years later, the ape, now called Caesar, is a permanent member of the family and best of all, he is exhibiting amazing cognitive skills. Those skills were inherited from the mother because of the drug she had been administered those 5 years ago.

All is going smoothly until Caesar spots the neighbor assaulting Rodham’s alzheimer’s stricken father (John Lithgow) for taking his car by mistake. Caesar bounds out of the house to protect him, putting a massive beat down on the neighbor. The cops and animal control are called in and Caesar is taken away.

This may have been a mistake because the ape starts to change… and not for the good.

This is far and away Andy Serkis‘ movie. He dominates every scene he’s in and thanks to his amazing motion-capture work, I was sucked into his performance from the very beginning. He. Is. Perfect. Thanks to WETA’s digital work, you can see Serkis’s Caesar think, feel. You can see every thought behind those expressive eyes.

I did have some problems with the movie, namely Franco and Freida Pinto. They were perfectly fine in the parts but I wish the filmmakers had cast older actors for the roles. I had a hard time believing 33 year old Franco was the mastermind behind this revolutionary drug. I know, it’s a summer movie about apes who take over the planet, but still. Throughout the movie, he displays none of that intelligence. That being said, the scenes he has when he is saying goodbye to Caesar is hard to watch. I won’t say I got teary eyed but… ok, I got teary eyed. With Pinto, I felt the same way. I just didn’t believe that she was a veterinarian who worked at a zoo.

My other problem? Serkis’ name isn’t above the title or on the poster. Without his fantastic work as Caesar, this film would be nothing. In a fair world, he would get some kind of nomination for his performance.

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Andy Serkis
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Casting Director: Debra Zane

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