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5 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
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by brianorndorf

"More ape, less Franco"
4 stars

After five motion pictures, two television series, and a 2001 Tim Burton remake, it seems a prequel is the only logical place to go in the exhausted “Planet of the Apes” saga. The origin tale of apes and their early stages of domination is surprisingly fertile ground for the producers, who loosely rework 1972’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” into “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a frequently thrilling, emotionally resonate reboot that takes advantage of today’s vibrant motion capture technology to help articulate the complexity burning within these damn dirty apes.

An ambitious San Francisco scientist, Will (James Franco) is looking to cure Alzheimer’s Disease with a special virus tested extensively on apes. When his star experiment is killed, the baby chimpanzee left behind is put into Will’s care, brought home to help comfort his ailing father (John Lithgow). The chimp, now named Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis), grows into an obedient pet with a heightened intellect, eternally curious about the outside world. When his protective instincts threaten community safety, Caesar is placed into a harsh primate facility run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his abusive son Dodge (Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” series), soon subjected to intimidation and violence from the staff and his fellow inmates. Losing faith in humanity, Caesar longs for freedom, looking to harness the power of Will’s virus to generate an army strong enough to overthrow his human captors.

While rooted in prequel elements, “Rise” supplies a clean start for the moldy brand name, returning the story back to a single ape and his impossible dream of liberation. The conflict is familiar but the visual scope of the picture has been sharpened, thanks to decades of hindsight and the use of mocap technology to bring Caesar and his kind to life. No more actors in stiff masks and make-up, “Rise” introduces a fluid CG-assisted sense of animal existence, blending Serkis’s performance with an artificial, yet highly convincing ape makeover. The transformation is riveting, displaying both exceptional realism and cinematic texture.

The “Apes” pictures have always taken special care with social and political messages, with “Rise” a fine addition to that tradition, subjecting Caesar to imprisonment and abuse, detailing the darkening of his soul and his growing distrust of humans. It’s a potent message of animal treatment, sold with exceptional clarity by Serkis, who generates a rich, soulful life within the main character, communicating Caesar’s longing for liberty and his developing sense of caution, which results in defensive behaviors he never exercised in Will’s suburban care. The dramatic arc for this exceptional chimp is superbly rendered by the production, with opening acts of soaring playtime wilting into caged cruelties and guarded ape mobilization, provided a stylish visual punch by director Rupert Wyatt, who maintains the widescreen size of the prequel without losing its critical feel for internal reflection.

The apes take center stage in “Rise,” with much of the movie devoted to heated animal behaviors, wordlessly articulating Caesar’s growth from passivity to general (using cookies to unite his army). The ape business is so convincing, the human characters merely block the view, with Franco, Frieda Pinto (playing Will’s drippy love interest), and Felton turning in disappointingly wooden performances, unable to electrify the tremendous expositional needs of the screenplay. Anytime the focus is pulled away from Caesar and his master plan of ape recruitment, “Rise” turns clumsy and forced.

The last act of the feature is entirely devoted to the apes and their, well, rise. Storming San Francisco, the furry soldiers create enthralling havoc, though the script is careful to underline Caesar’s handle on passive resistance, leaving the gun-happy killing to the damn dirty humans. It’s a whirlwind sequence of panic and growly ape craze that Wyatt choreographs skillfully, retaining the necessary chaos without losing the action to a big black blur of car-bouncing, tree-swinging madness. Also amusing (and unbelievably corny) are the film’s numerous references to the original “Apes” pictures, with most (not all) of the inside jokes handled gracefully.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” shows precision with its origin world and creativity with its hulking stars. It’s a victorious relaunch of the franchise, a fact reinforced by the open ending, which leaves plenty of room for the apes to continue on their way to global supremacy. Although the 1968 Charlton Heston classic remains untouched, this slightly new direction in ape rule promises interesting developments and a rowdy overthrow to come.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20761&reviewer=404
originally posted: 08/07/11 13:22:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell killer prequel 4 stars
1/30/14 Charles Tatum A good entry in the resurrected series 4 stars
8/26/12 David Pollastrini The best ape movie since '68 5 stars
8/23/12 roscoe caesar only good character, movie's hollow, feels like only 2/3 a movie 3 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison Tim Burton take note, this is how the Planet of the Apes should have been brought back. 5 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC The abrupt ending only sets the film up for a sequel. Thats a gimmick, not good movie-makin 3 stars
11/26/11 AEB What every action movie aspires to be. 5 stars
10/24/11 Annie G Best of all the PotA movies! Although the virus-pocalypse is getting old. 4 stars
10/19/11 Magic A prequel that actually does not suck. And it's short! Serkis' acting is unbelievable. 4 stars
9/30/11 mr.mike Is "No Bad". 4 stars
9/26/11 sake02mo five stars 5 stars
9/23/11 Trina Lufkin More than one reviewer needed to listen better when movie said Apes AREN'T Monkeys! 4 stars
9/15/11 ALICE WOW ! Finaly a grande movie, been a long time... 5 stars
9/15/11 Nick Frigging loved the movie! Saw it yesterday evening, and woke up with it this morning. 5 stars
9/04/11 Koitus I liked it. Skeptical of the lock picking and know-how to release the drug, however. 4 stars
8/28/11 Heather Purplethorn Tangled web of political correctness(inadvertently?)makes mad-scientist figure animal lover 3 stars
8/27/11 Get a life, Ron Gonsalves! Many a soccer mom, suburban dad,&"Wii addicted" kid is nicer than you! &apesAREN'Tmonkeys! 4 stars
8/26/11 The Big D Well-meaning scientist unleashes marginally sympethetic monster--fun but nothing new. 3 stars
8/12/11 Eric Ivins Perfect Summer Popcorn flick 5 stars
8/10/11 Jon Going to see this soon, can't wait! 4 stars
8/10/11 Quang Thịnh What a great movie! James was pretty good. Everything is fine! 4 stars
8/10/11 Rick A wonderful surprise. Good strory, good acting, and great makeup and digital work. 5 stars
8/09/11 Mishyana Great reboot to a series hindered by hokey acting and dialogue. Well done. 5 stars
8/07/11 Spencer Great origin story infused with a ton of soul and a nice ramp up to the action 4 stars
8/07/11 Erica Cant they come up w/ a new story, why always the same thing. It was ok nevertheless. 3 stars
8/06/11 Man Out Six Bucks Anarchical apes overrunning the Gay Area and Indian Valley. What's to hate? 4 stars
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  05-Aug-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Dec-2011


  DVD: 13-Dec-2011

Directed by
  Rupert Wyatt

Written by
  Rick Jaffa
  Amanda Silver

  James Franco
  Freida Pinto
  John Lithgow
  Brian Cox
  Andy Serkis
  Tom Felton

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