Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Or, I now know which movie from 2011 I most want to own in DvD.

This movie was Smurfing great!  (Sorry, I’m still channeling the Smurfs review from a couple days ago).  I really can’t say enough good things about it.  It’s suspenseful, exciting, well acted, and the apes are unbelievable.  I don’t know what kind of pact the animators signed with dark powers to give them the ape visuals, but really stunning.

I don’t mean to gush, but the fact it this is one of the first times in a long time I have been excited by a movie trailer only to find the actual movie exceeds my expectations.  Normally I see a really good trailer and am plagued with the thought “That could be decent” only to leave the theater feeling like I vomited in my mouth an hour ago and can still taste a little of it.  This film, however, had me leaving the theater just tasting the wholesome goodness of a great movie (and popcorn).

I’m not going to get into the story too much, as most of it can be derived from the trailer alone and also, if you don’t go see this film as soon as possible (like right after reading this review) then you are an idiot of the highest caliber (by the way, I’m still pissed off at movie going America for letting the Smurfs beat out Cowboys and Aliens opening weekend.  Really?).  Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story without all the origin problems that I have talked about plaguing other origin movies (too focused on the origin of one character, completing the origin in the first half only to have to find a way to fill up the second half, etc.).  I actually looked at a couple reviews by other writers (something I really only do for movies that I absolutely love, in case I missed some issue while drifting in my fan boy bliss) and one guy came up with a word that really sums it up nicely: organic.  The story is organic and everything that happens seems to happen in a natural order for a completely believable reason.

Anyway, if you have seen the trailer and/or watched Charlton Heston yell at the Statue of Liberty than you know the basic story.  Couple minor spoilers coming up so if you get upset at those just skip ahead a little.  James Franco plays a biochemist working on an Alzheimer cure in a lab, but the story really isn’t about him.  It is about Cesar, the research chimp that he rescues and takes home from his lab.  Cesar was infected with the retrovirus the was being worked on to develop the brain cure.  He shows unusual intelligence as he grows up.  Meanwhile the research continues and gets better.  Cesar grows up in a loving home but is smart enough to realize he does not have the same rights or identity as the humans.  Eventually he attacks a jerk neighbor (played by David Hewlett, of Stargate Atlantis, who plays a jerk better than pretty much anyone else.  Dr. Rodney McKay image from the science fiction t shirt category) and gets locked up in a shelter, where he is more or less mistreated by the local white trash handler.  It time he escapes, gets a hold of the newer, improved brain cure, and gives it to his other chimp buddies.  It might sound a little far fetched, but it all makes total sense when you see it.  Ape hijinks ensues.  Stuff gets blown up.  The apes go a little nuts.

First the stars.  Planet of the Apes.  One star.  The ape animation was so, absolutely freaking good.  One star.  The pacing and flow of the movie couldn’t be more perfect.  One star.  You can actually see the humanization of the apes, particularly Cesar, as the movie progresses.  Believe it or not, but towards the end you can literally see subtle nuance in the facial expressions of the apes.  One star.  Great story.  One star.  They managed to reference the original movie multiple times (Apes on horseback, a barely mentioned but significant missing manned space flight to Mars, even the famous Charlton Heston phrase) without rubbing our faces in it like certain other, lamer directors like to do (suck it, Lucas).  One star.  The human acting was good.  One star.  They guy the got to do the motion capture for Cesar was un-freaking-believable.  Also, as a baby and young chimp he is super duper cute.  Two stars.  Jonathon Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun).  One star.  James Franco’s vet girlfriend (Frieda Pinto) was so hot she had me channeling my inner primate, if you know what I mean.  One star.  Somehow the director took a movie about the fall of the human race and made me feel good when the apes won.  One star.  David Hewlett.  One star.  And two bonus stars for just a damned good movie.  Total:  fourteen stars.

As for black holes, I spent a lot of time last night and this morning wracking my brain, but to be honest, can’t seem to find any.  I suppose an argument could be made that the apes seemed to go out of their way to try to not kill humans, at least until the end, but that could just be a reflection of Cesar growing up with humans.  Another point could be raised out of the fact that, while it was very cool that it was set in San Francisco, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense to a local.  We really don’t get mosquitoes, and there is a scene of a guy getting bit by one.  We also don’t have a lot of issues with animal cruelty at shelters as there are several hundred thousand animal rights activists who would probably draw and quarter anyone guilty of that.  But these are minor and, in a lesser film, would be put in the “irksome but not black hole worthy” category.  I won’t disrespect this film with those.

So a grand total of 14 stars, tying for my top score to date.  Honestly, see this movie.  You will enjoy the hell out of it and hopefully encourage movie makers to keep on doing great films that don’t suck.

On the other hand, for films that I fully expect to suck look for a review for the Change Up later this weekend.  This has suck written all over it.  Also, I saw another of the Harry Potter movies last night and will continue with my marathon this weekend.  Talk to you soon.

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