Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

THE SETUP: A scientist (would you believe James Franco?), trying to find the cure for Alzheimer’s, discovers that he’s actually boosted the intelligence of one of the apes (Andy Serkis) he was experimenting on. What happens next? Did you read the name of the movie?

THE THOUGHTS: You may have noticed on the movie poster that academy award nominee James Franco doesn’t have his name above the title. Nor is he anywhere on the WATCH THIS MOVIE image. There’s a reason for this – he’s not the star. Enter Andy Serkis (aka Gollum from Lord of the Rings and King Kong from the Peter Jackson remake). He absolutely steals the show as Caesar, an ape trying to understand why he’s different from other apes and from humans. He is amazing. You will completely forget it’s a human doing all those movements and you’ll completely embrace his performance. Whether he’s the star or the villain doesn’t really matter but really you understand why he is the way he is. The rest of the cast? Well, there’s Franco who’s fine in the more supporting role. Freida Pinto (from Slumdog Millionare) is a complete waste here, not adding anything but a pretty face. The veterans are great though. John Lithgow as the ailing father who’s the motivation for Franco’s obsession and Brian Cox as the “evil” animal wrangler. Neither had big roles but were necessary to get the story where it needed to go. Before I forget, this is a summer movie so there are the necessary over-the-top special effects pieces, especially the climax at the Golden Gate Bridge and the army of apes. Stunning to watch but it’s the subtle effects of Caesar’s facial expressions that blew me away. Acting, story, special effects, emotion. More than we deserve from summer.

4 stars – you’d recommend this. An unbelievable performance from Andy Serkis, stunning special effects from the subtle to the grandiose, and a story that will keep you captivated. This movie does what few summer blockbusters do – gets the heart of the movie right to properly fuel the big effects.

Random Recommendations
Planet of the Apes (1968) – How could I not recommend the original movie? Though it’s a little dated with its special effects, it’s a great movie with an important message that still stands. Charleton Heston finds himself as a pet/slave in a civilization where apes are the dominated species.

Gorillas in the Mist (1988) – From a fake story of CGI apes to a true tale about the real thing. Sigourney Weaver plays Diane Fossey, a scientist researching and living with apes in Africa who comes under danger from poachers and a culture that’s helping to cause their extinction. A well done movie about a truly amazing story.

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