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Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Aug 06, 2011 08:06AM ● By Wendy Sipple

20th Century Fox has decided to reboot it’s famous Planet of the Apes series after the semi-successful, but critically panned Planet of the Apes film by Tim Burton. Instead of starting in the future like its predecessors this film tells how the Apes come to power and eventually overthrow the humans to become the dominate species.

The movie begins with the story of Will, a scientist hellbent on a cure for Alzheimer's, as his once brilliant father is plagued with the disease. Will’s initial experimental drug is shut down as his test chimp goes on a rampage trying to protect her baby (unknown to the humans at this time). After the rampage the order is given to exterminate the apes, but Will can’t bring himself to kill the newborn chimp and smuggles him home and names him Caesar. The movie instantly becomes Caesar’s story and how he quickly develops and grows his IQ while becoming self aware that he is looked down on as nothing more than a wild animal by the human population. After an accident Caesar is forced to a facility for primates where he is mistreated but given the opportunity to lead and train a large group of primates ultimately leading to their escape and dash for freedom.
The story from Caesar’s perspective is expertly told and the special effects are the best that I’ve seen. I could go on about the FX artist’s ability to craft so much emotion in Caesar’s performance but it really needs to be seen to be believed. It’s no wonder that people are already talking about how this character might get nominated for a best actor award. I doubt there will be a better performance by an actor, human or animal, this year.
The film’s ability to tell the story so well from Caesar’s perspective is no less incredible than the special effects. By the end of the film you are completely routing for the apes to win and beat the humans. In fact it almost seems like the apes don’t go far enough, I would personally be more vengeful if I were an ape. This was helped by the film’s inability to inject any compassion or humanity into any of its human characters which was by far the film’s greatest weakness.
The human characters in the film are beyond one dimensional. This would have been acceptable if the film would have been able to build the relationship between Will and Caesar better. It is not as though they didn’t try, they dedicated enough screen time to build that relationship up. I think it was a combination of writing, directing and acting that resulted in the failure to build a stronger bond between the two. The moments between Caesar and Will seem devoid of heart on Will’s part. James Franco is a fine actor but I never believed that he truly loved Caesar which was needed to really pay off in the end. In fact I felt there was a much stronger bond between Caesar and Will’s father played by John Lithgow which lead to a few moving moments between the two.
Aside from the character of Will the rest of the film is highly involving, interesting and moving. All the supporting ape characters have distinct personalities and those nuanced performances by the supporting ape characters help add to the film’s finale. The finale is incredible and thanks to the strong character development the apes break for freedom across San Francisco is 1000 times more exciting and emotional than the hour long destruction spectacle of Chicago in the recently released Transformer movie.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite movies of the summer. It pays homage to the original in several cleaver ways and intelligently introduces the series to a new audience. Unlike so much of the other action fare this summer, Planet of the Apes is far more thoughtful in its approach and spends most of its time developing its main characters (the apes, not the humans) than blowing stuff up. It’s a bold and believable set up and I am excited and hopeful for a sequel that builds on this movie.
Films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Planet of the Apes (1968), Avatar, King Kong and Project X 

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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