Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Naptown Nerd Goes Ape: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011)

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Tyler Labine
Rated: PG-13

Caesar is home.

I don't mean to sound all hipster-like, but I always believed in this movie.  When I lived in Los Angeles there was a hot script going around town for a possible new jump start for the Planet of the Apes franchise merely called "Caesar" which ended up being this movie.  I had heard nothing but good things.  But, what got me going the most was that it was going to be a reboot of Conquest to jumpstart the series, leaving the Burton one in the dust and not starting from the same point as the film series.
The thing I didn't expect was it to go beyond my expectations.  Aside from it drawing from the Apes films, its a pretty damn good movie in on its own right.  And a lot of that lies in the greatest Ape performance to date in that of Andy Serkis as Caesar.  This actor has really done something special in his work and Caesar is the crowning jewel.  There's a real life and personality to it.  Not only does the mo-cap CG look amazing, but you can tell most of what is making this work comes from Serkis.  The Academy REALLY needs to find a way to reward this guy for his performances.  If anything, these Apes movies are breaking ground for this to eventually open the door.
James Franco seemed an interesting choice and this is probably his best "normal" role to date.  I'll always watch anything he does, and he manages to help ground this film and just enough of the character we can relate with to make it really work.  The underdog here is John Lithgow who gives a really touching and sympathetic performance that in coordinance with Serkis manage to really sell and enhance the emotional core of the film.  Its incredible the amount of all this I've been describing and its going into a Planet of the Apes movie of all things.  But that's what makes it stand tall.
We are also treated to some great and memorable action sequences in the film for possibly the first time in the series.  There are well thought out pieces regarding ape escapes and fights.  The Golden Gate Bridge finale is probably the best and first action sequence in the series that sort of stands as iconic.  Beneath we remember, but mostly remember the result rather than the details of the battle exactly.  It comes across as adventurous and surprisingly brutal all at the same time.
One big thing this movie did quite well?  It managed to make me forget I was watching a Planet of the Apes movie and allowed me to just focus on what it was.  So when Caesar actually speaks in the movie I found myself mouth open and absolutely shocked at what was happening.  Almost disturbed.  BUT...HEY DUMMY!  You're watching a PLANET OF THE APES movie!  You know where the Apes talk?  This film got me so invested in it that I completely forgot what this series was all about and it manages to feel like a fresh introduction to everything.  THAT is a sign of a great reboot/reintroduction.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my favorite films of summer 2011 (an INCREDIBLY underrated summer) and of 2011 in general.  It was a smart, fun and profound popcorn film and a dynamite entry into one of my favorite franchises.  And, luckily, you thought so too.  The movie was a pretty big succes leading us to Dawn and hopefully many after. 

NEXT TIME: The 2014 film that has 'Dawn' in its title.

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