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Does “Apes” Rise to the Occasion?

by on August 9, 2011

Saturday morning, my wife and I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This film is an origin story that doesn’t ignore the original “Apes” movies from the late 60s and 70s, nor does it completely re-write the history of the 2001 Burton disaster. That being said, it has nothing to do with any of these films either and has the potential to kick off a new “Apes” franchise.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, who was previously unknown to me, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is set in modern day San Francisco and tells the story of Will Rodman, played by James Franco, a genetic scientist searching for the cure to Alzheimer’s in hopes of saving his father, played heartbreakingly by John Lithgow.

Rodman’s formula shows major changes in brain function for one of the apes named Bright Eyes. After what appears to be a side effect of major aggression, the research is shut down and the apes are ordered to be destroyed. Fortunately, scientist Robert Franklin, played by Tyler Labine (Dale of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil or the drunk Pittsburgh fan from Zack and Miri Make a Porno) doesn’t have the heart to destroy the offspring of Bright Eyes. Rodman reluctantly agrees to take care of the young ape until a suitable home can be found. As an aside, the interactions between Lithgow’s character and Caesar are truly touching.

On the other hand, we have Brian Cox and Tom Felton (Malfoy had a bit of a problem with his accent), who play a deplorable father-son duo that operate a primate sanctuary in San Francisco. These two embody the worst qualities of humanity in their interaction with the apes.

If you watch this movie closely, you can tell that it was made with great respect to the original films. There are several nods to Planet of the Apes strewn throughout the film. I think I will need another viewing to catch them all.

The star of this film is Gollum himself, Andy Serkis, and his incredibly expressive face, which brings Caesar to life through the latest motion capture technology. What elevates this film above some of the recent box office schlock is the character development. The characters feel real and draw the viewer into the film. You care about Rodman’s dad, Caesar, and even Maurice, the circus orangutan.

The film is good, it is fun, and Wyatt gives us characters where we don’t mind the emotional investment, but the coolest part is the apes wreaking havoc on San Francisco. I wanted more of that and hopefully, we will get more.

Harry Potter was a good end to the franchise, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes is my favorite film of the year so far, and, hopefully, it will be the beginning of a new franchise.

How much would I pay to see this again? Out of $10, I would pay $10. The apes are worth it!

Jay Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast

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