Gorilla Warfare, by Jack Fleischer
The studio’s press notes refer to Rise of the Planet of the Apes as, “much like its storied predecessor, the original Planet of the Apes.”
This implies that Rise is the first installment in a reboot of the original Ape series. It’s like the studio is telling you to ignore Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes as if it were one of Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies. Yet, true blue ape-o-philes will recognize that the majority of this plot comes from number four in the original series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
Confused? Don’t be.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the Planet of the Apes series, or if you’re hardcore enough to have watched both the live action and cartoon TV spin offs, you’ll find plenty here to enjoy.
This is a good movie, perhaps not perfect, but it’s enjoyable enough that if the opening box office ordains, this could easily be the first step in a franchise. Plus if you hold any love for the original, I think it’ll make you excited enough to throw your own pooh.
Fox is billing this movie as an “origin story,” and that’s exactly what it is. We meet a young scientist played by James Franco who’s looking to find a cure for the Alzheimer’s that’s ravaging his father played with aplomb by John Lithgow. As he looks for ways to restore his father’s mind, his experiments lead to the birth of a “super ape.” Named Ceasar, he’s the “Magneto” of chimps, and Franco is his “Charles Xavier.”
Things happen, worlds collide thanks to hubris and abuse, “Malfoy” (Tom Felton) shows up and does some bad things, and it all culminates in an entertainingly epic battle on the Golden Gate Bridge.
I’m happy to report that a key element of the story is not in any of the film’s advertising, not even the trailer. In the screening I went to, filled with film geeks, nerds, and the occasional spaz there was an audible gasp when it happened. It speaks well of director Rupert Wyatt that he took a potential gimmick and instead dosed it out to great effect.
At this point the whole CGI vs. practical effects debate is a tad tired — but this movie shows we’re about 99% of the way to perfection. Not every movement is spot-on natural, but all the actors, including the ultimate motion capture performer Andy Serkis, did a bang up job. Speaking of the actors it should be said that all the actors do really well here, even if Brian Cox is under utilized and Freida Pinto seems a tad like beautiful window dressing.
Since we’re on the picky side of things there seem to be a few logical leaps in the course of the story. Some elements leap from ape intelligence to ape prescience, but the story still manages to be well developed and coherent. Then there’s Director Wyatt’s heavy handed use of music, and perhaps one too many composite shots. Together they make you feel like the director is saying, “Look at me!” Yet all seems forgivable so long as you’re exited about the dangers of the impending ape apocalypse, and that’s really what Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes down to.
If images of the Statue of Liberty and Charlton Heston in a space suit send a tingle down your spine and if you know the rest of the line, “Take your stinking paws off me …” this movie is for you. There are inside jokes a plenty, and yes, it absolutely sets us up for the next installment.