Review: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 6 August 2011



Ten years ago, Tim Burton has attempted to reboot the 1968's sci-fi classic of PLANET OF THE APES. Unfortunately, Tim Burton's version was heavily criticized as one of the worst big-budget remakes ever made, even though the movie did made a lot of money in the box-office. However, Twentieth Century Fox has made a wise decision by going prequel to revitalize the fading franchise. The result is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (I have to admit, it's one heck of a long-winded title!), a surprisingly excellent summer blockbuster filled with state-of-the-art special effects wonder, engrossing storyline, top-notch cast, and spectacular action set-pieces.

The movie begins with an ambitious star scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), who has developed a revolutionary drug called "ALZ-112" to cure Alzheimer's disease. After getting positive result on one of his experimental chimpanzees named Bright Eyes (voice of Terry Notary), he finally manages to convince his boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) to pitch the drug to a team of investors. But the day when Will is pitching for the drug to the investors, Bright Eyes turns amok and everything is fallen apart. As a result, the program is immediately shut down and all the test subjects are ordered to be eliminated with lethal injections. Soon it doesn't take long before Will learns the truth behind Bright Eyes' sudden rage -- apparently she had quietly given birth to a baby chimp inside her cage, and her motherly instinct caused her such behavior.

Instead of killing the last chimp, Will decides to sneak the newborn back home and takes care of him like his own child. He names him Caesar (voice of Andy Serkis) and gradually, he is impressed with his progressing intelligence within a short notice. He realizes that the drug has somehow passed from his mother to him, and Caesar gets smarter as years goes by. In the meantime, Will sneaks a couple of drugs from the lab to use his Alzheimer's-afflicted father Charles (John Lithgow) as his first human test subject. To his surprise, it works miraculously. However Charles's disease eventually relapsed and his condition becomes worse.

One day when Charles is causing trouble against his next-door neighbor, Hunsiker (David Hewlett), things turn ugly as Caesar fights to defend him. His act of violence caused him to be contained to a wildlife rescue center run by the corrupt John Landon (Brian Cox) and his sadistic son, Dodge (Tom Felton), who likes to abuse and humiliates all the apes. While Will continues to research with a more stabilized and stronger drug, Caesar becomes increasingly frustrated with all the human cruelty and decides to create an army of apes to rebel against the humankind.

First and foremost, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES works well because Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's screenplay pays a lot of attention for the story and the characters. As mentioned earlier, the cast is top-notch. James Franco is credible for the role as the relentless scientist who stops at nothing to achieve his goal. But of all the cast, it was Andy Serkis who steals the most limelight. Like his memorable performance-capture work as Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Serkis is simply a tour de force as Caesar. His detailed expressions and telling gestures are every bit as impressive as the lifelike ape effect, which is particularly well-done by Weta Digital. As a matter of fact, you'll actually feel for his pain, humiliation and anger he is forced to go through especially after he is locked up in a cage. His character is subsequently well-developed, as we learn how he eventually adapts to the ugly situation beyond the comfort of his own home, and his troubled interactions with other apes. Seriously, the Academy should have implemented a new rule for Best Actor category that outstanding performance-capture work like Serkis deserves to be nominated!

Rupert Wyatt's direction is very efficient, especially the way he pace his picture in a consistent rhythm that keeps us hooked on the screen even though the movie takes its time to build its setup. The movie is also briskly edited by Conrad Buff IV and Mark Goldblatt, while Andrew Lesnie's fluid cinematography is simply amazing. His constantly moving camerawork, especially when he mimics all the frantic move of an ape, is a true work of cinematic art. Completing the movie's excellent technical values is Patrick Doyle's rousing music score that is both majestic and emotionally captivating at the same time.

Lastly, of course, is the spectacular cliffhanger finale once the apes escape from their prison and begin to wreck havoc on the street of San Francisco. From here, this is a first-class entertainment that the payoff is certainly worth all the wait after more than an hour of carefully-build setup. The climactic showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge is particularly memorable as the apes waged war against the local authorities.

While a lot of things works well with the movie, there are still not without the flaws. Some of the supporting characters are disappointingly cut-rate. Great talents like Frieda Pinto, who is wasted as Will's love interest, and Brian Cox, are all reduced into thankless roles. Earlier in the scene, I must admit that there is a technical flaw of the computer-generated baby chimp which feels like a halfhearted effort than the one we are subsequently impressed with the adult Caesar. All the nitpicking aside, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is one of the better big-budget prequels I've ever seen in a long while. In the meantime, don't forget to stay for the credits -- there is a minor scene where the movie is hinted for a possible sequel in the future.

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