When I first heard about this movie, I was all about skipping it. It seemed like Hollywood was delivering another reboot of another seemingly-dead franchise just to milk it for everything it had left... starring James Franco... and I actually like James Franco. It's just... James Franco in a movie with a monkey... and it's supposed to be serious? C'mooooon... It had all the ingredients of terrible, terrible movie...
But I was wrong. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, despite a terrible title, is a great movie. Not good. Great. And it's an excellent way to finish the summer.
Way generally... This movie tells the story of Caesar (Andy "Gollum" Serkis in another career-defining motion-capture performance), a super intelligent ape, who is raised by James Franco from near birth. Caesar's intelligence has ties to an Alzheimer cure that Franco is developing. As Caesar grows and becomes unmanageable, he is sent to a place where other apes are held. And after being mistreated, Caesar rounds up a massive Ape posse and rebels.
I kind of like how... ridiculous it is. Because, it's an anti-human movie. How many times do you watch a movie and want the humans to get their asses kicked? The humans in this movie suck. With the possible exception of Franco and John Lithgow's characters, the humans act selfishly, bastardly or are Freida Pinto and have no business being in the movie at all. Meanwhile, you really come to identify with Caesar. You empathize with injustice in his life and the innocence of not belonging in any world. You cheer when he finds his place. You cheer when he stands up for the wronged. Every new step in his own personal evolution is amazing to watch.
The film worked best when it concentrated on Caesar. Caesar was compelling. EW compared Caesar to the chimp Daniel Craig, and that was actually a really good comparison. He just looks steely and intense at all times. There's resolve and conviction in him.
The movie builds to the moment that Caesar gives the apes in his compound the drug that makes them smarter, and the apes rebel and flee towards a sanctuary in the forest. It's a pretty damn good sequence and incredible direction.
Prequels are typically terrible, but this was a good example of how a prequel can work. It leaves fun questions to ponder until the next movie. What happened next? Caesar was fairly peaceful, so either something pissed him the hell off or another ape rises to power (possible sequel name: Rise of the Ape who Rises to Power on the Planet of Apes...of). They run to the forest and are happy, so what makes them all crazy, anti-human militant?
-Freida Pinto is gorgeous, but why was she even in the movie? There was no point for her character to be in it.
- Terrible title. TERRIBLE title. Planet of the Apes: The Beginning? Planet of the Apes Begins? Planet of the Apes: The Rising?
- No matter what, Tom Felton will always be Malfoy. I hope he gets to be a good guy soon, but he's pretty good at being bad. Soooo many times, I wanted to yell, "Shut up, Malfoy!" or "10 Points for Gryffindor!"
- I loved the callbacks to the original movie. They talked about a lost mission in space (which could also set up the sequel and faithful remake of the original... Suck it, Tim Burton). They even fit in Charleton Heston twice. Felton got the memorable line (in a gorgeous piece of symmetry with the original), "Take your stinking paw off me, you damn dirty ape!" The audience only had a moment to react before it was quickly one-upped in an an epic way. Seriously. One of the most memorable moments this summer.
We had low expectations for this movie, but they were surpassed. I wanted to give it a 7.5. Lomo thought of it more of an 8... So we give it a 7.8333333333333333 Damn Dirty Apes.