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September 18, 2011

Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The original Conqeust of the Planet of the Apes is not my favourite of the original Ape movies, thus making it a prime candidate for a remake, this time being called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Thankfully, the remake is everything the original wasn't, which includes "good." Yes, there were definitely problems with the movie, but overall, it was a very enjoyable experience.

Unless you're squeamish about animal testing, that is.

Will Rodman (Jamie Franco) has created a new drug that could cure Alzheimer's Disease, and of course it has to be tested on animals before it can proceed to human trials. In the chimps, it seems to have heightened the intelligence in at least one case, along with fighting the disease. The chimp, affectionately called Bright Eyes, goes berserk just as Rodman is presenting his findings to the board for more funding for human trials. Bright Eyes' son is found in her cage, and Rodman smuggles him out to take care of him, naming him Caesar. Caesar (played wonderfully by that motion capture genius, Andy Serkis) has even more intelligence than Bright Eyes did, and lives a happy life with Rodman until things go horribly wrong. Caesar will end up leading his fellow apes to safety, perhaps a precursor of an Ape society that will rise in the future?

(Thanks to Shopping Blog)

The humans in Rise of the Planet of the Apes are nothing to write home about. Other than Rodman, none of them are given any depth at all, playing more caricatures than anything else. Rodman's new girlfriend, Caroline (Freida Pinto), is totally wasted, doing nothing in the movie other than identifying a few primate traits so the audience would understand them later in the movie, as well as providing one scene of being Rodman's conscience. The head of the drug company where Rodman works, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) is your stereotypical company head honcho who wants money more than anything else.

As an aside, do we really need to see yet another greedy drug company businessman in films? Talk about your stereotypes! At least Rise limits it to one man, rather than making the entire company that way, but it's still annoying.

Rodman is the only human character given any depth, and even he's semi-cliched. He's desperate to create the Alzheimer's cure because his father is suffering from it. Thus, the shortcuts that he takes are done for personal reasons, not those of greed. You can also tell that he cares about Caesar. Yet even Rodman only manages to barely reach a third dimension.

I have to especially call out the head of the Primate refuge and his son (Bryan Cox and Tom Felton), who are so stereotypically cruel and provocative that it was almost over the top. Felton's performance is the same, though Cox tones it down. However, the characters themselves are hopeless.

(Thanks to InEntertainment)

The good thing is that the apes save the day, which I guess might be the point. Serkis is simply amazing as Caesar, assuming that even the expressions on Caesar's face were taken from Serkis. You can almost tell what he is thinking at times. The other apes are also very well done. The CGI when they move doesn't quite cross into "Uncanny Valley" territory, but it is exceptional. The one major confrontation in the movie, on the Golden Gate Bridge (shown in all the trailers), is beautifully shot.

(Thanks to Twitch)

The story was interesting and definitely keeps your attention. The movie packs a lot into less than two hours, though that could be because the ending is so obviously a set-up for a sequel that it doesn't even really exist. The movie just ends. There isn't a cliffhanger or anything, but there also isn't really a resolution.

There are a few plot holes, though. Caroline dates Rodman for years, moving in with him at the very least (apparently), yet five or so years later, she still is shocked at Caesar's origin? You weren't curious for all those years? And if you did ask and he blatantly lied to you about it, that's a pretty big lie to forgive without saying much. This is a testament to how unimportant the human characters are in this movie.

Overall, I did greatly enjoy Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If your heart goes out to animals so much that you can't see any mistreatment of them whatsoever, then this movie is not for you. They have to set up why Caesar is outraged to begin with, so there are some bad scenes. Keep in mind, though, that I don't believe any real apes were used in the movie. If there were, certainly not in any of the violent scenes.

Grab your popcorn and get ready. This is a very good movie, and know that you'll be getting more of it in the next few years as well.

It's a win-win!


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