This movie proves that a bunch of CGI monkeys jumping around trees CAN work in a film. Take THAT Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a movie where you have to look over a fair amount of small-to-medium logical errors, but it still never came across as a dumb film to me. It’s actually one of the more engaging, thought-provoking films of the year. It works in one way as an extremely entertaining scientific picture about raising a super-chimp and finding the cure for Alzheimer’s, another way as an observation on animal rights, and yet another way as a fun and thrilling special effects driven action film. And I liked how it never really attempted (at least too hard) to try and send the message that humans are really the savage animals on the planet, but more that the savage animals were capable of feeling emotion.
The motion capture on the apes were definitely good, but let’s be honest, never once did it really feel like I was ever looking at real apes. But it was good enough that I didn’t have to constantly think they looked fake. You just have to kind of say to yourself “These are CGI apes, but they are the best CGI apes we are gonna get!”. There was a lot of emotion in the eyes, which I know CGI animation has struggled on, but eyes were a big focus in the film and I thought that helped sell the apes better in my opinion.
A lot of the human characters were kind of one-note. With the generic corporate villain (“We’re moving forward with the research without you, regardless of how dangerous you say it is!”), the obscenely evil monkey handler who hates monkeys (get a new job?), and the girlfriend who, despite spending 8 years of montage time in the film, still seems rather clueless about most things. But at least James Franco had an engaging relationship with his father (played by John Lithgow), which was actually heartwarming and believable. I like how the entire movie seemed to be driven on the fact that Franco was just trying to do good in the world. It wasn’t as if anyone was trying to breed a race of super apes, it was just a side effect.
Despite a few human shortcomings, all the time with the apes on screen is phenomenal. It’s a great character study on a really smart animal. Caesar (the ape) had a very believable progression from a budding young ape prodigy, to a slightly jaded ape of near-human emotion. But what kept it real is the fact that despite his intelligence, he still retained a few beast-like impulses. I guess I’m saying they progressed the Caesar character perfectly. If they did anything right, they did that.
Looking back, one thing I would change about he whole thing, though, is that I would strip it of all connection to the Planet of the Apes franchise. There are too many connections that result in continuity and logic flaws because of it. And that’s not even mentioning how they forced in the “Get your stinkin’ paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” line in one of the most dramatic and intense scenes in the film, borderline ruining the moment. I was thinking in my head right when that happened “No, movie! You were doing so good… why?!?!”. And if the movie was exactly the same, but didn’t have the implication that it would lead to the ape domination, I think the ending would have been poetic and beautiful, instead of slightly underwhelming. They could have made 95% the same movie, called it Caesar or something, and I think it would have benefited the final product. It was interesting enough a story to not need the Planet of the Apes tie-in.
At the very least, my fears were eased from the commercials that the apes would actually PHYSICALLY overtake the entire planet somehow. They explain how the planet of the apes will occur, and it’s not through ape violence, which was nice. Because I mean, one day of planning and a few combat helicopters could have easily wiped out the apes of they wanted to.
Still, it’s one of the better movies in theaters right now, check it out!
8 out of 10