Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Review

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a movie that came more or less sneaking into the theaters. There wasn't that much hype for it whatsoever. Most likely due to Tim Burton's remake from 2001, which turned out to be very polarizing between fans of the franchise.
Now with a new prequel story and Weta Digital promising to blow our minds with their CG effects, this new entry in the franchise does have quite some potential.

The plot:
An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. (source: IMDb)

"Rise of the Apes" is very difficult to categorize: it's kind of like a prequel but at the same time it would also count as some kind of reboot or reimagining, due to it's issues with the continuity of the first Planet of the Apes movies.
The movie is not only covering the backstory of the planet of the apes but primarily the backstory of Caesar, the leading ape, who caused it all. In the course of the movie, Caesar is given an extremely huge amount of character, without him having to say a word. With that said, it's incredibly interesting, how the story takes turns and shows the audience more and more facettes of Caesar's character the more he grows up and starts to develop a certain look at the world. The writing in this movie is excellent, managing to make the audience sympathize with the main antagonist/protagonist (Caesar) and leading the viewer very easily to his way of thinking. It all gets round up by the movie holding a true message about animal experiments that are unfortunately enough really happening nowadays.
It all comes down to Caesar being the star and main engine of the entire movie.

The complete cast generally does a solid job in acting. Although James Franco is slightly miscast, because it's difficult to buy his role as a scientist (he is a bit too young and laid back for that), his acting still is pretty good. But every actor in "Rise of the Apes" is constantly standing in the shadow of Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar. It may seem like James Franco is the main protagonist of the movie, but it is clearly Caesar. No wonder that most directors try to get Andy Serkis to play a CGI character for their movies. His performance including facial expressions, movements, etc. are unmatched.
The character and emotional depth he gives Caesar ar at least at the same level of acting quality as his performance in "King Kong".
There is no competition for Serkis here. He clearly is the best actor in the entire film, managing to make the audience feel pity and luck for Caesar. The viewer constantly roots for this CGI ape.
Characters that stuck out negatively for me in this flick, were the very bland girlfriend of James Franco, played by Freida Pinto and Tom Felton as a sadistic ape sanctuary worker. While Freida Pinto's character clearly has just been included to look pretty at Franco's side, Tom Felton as the evil sanctuary worker is just written badly. He just stuck out as being unreasonably evil. It's like they just wrote him in to have someone for Caesar to have his revenge on.

Although "Rise of the Apes" is very heavy on character development, the movie also boasts enough great action scenes, which may be only taking place during the last 20 minutes, but they are very exciting and greatly represent the cherry on top of this very well made sci-fi flick.

Concerning the effects, there's not very much to say except for what you can already see from watching the trailers. The guys from Weta Digital (the studio that gave us the effects from "Avatar") give us the best and most realistic ape effects to date here. Although you can still spot that they are CGI, it's still jawdroppingly well made. At first i thought it would have been better if they used real apes for the movie, but now thinking about it, the required expressional work is impossible to achieve by any ape whatsoever (additionally CGI is better than forcing any animal to shoot for a movie).
Another thing with the effects i recognized, is that they gradually get better. It seems like it's like: the older the ape, the better the effect (baby apes still look VERY CG).

All in all, "Rise of the Apes" is the surprise hit of 2011 for me and most likely for everyone else. It undeniably is next to the original from 1968, the best planet of the apes movie yet. Director Rupert Wyatt really gave new life to a forgotten and truely long-running franchise with this reboot, prequel, reimagining...whatever.
Although it's basically the story of an apocalypse that you know is going to happen, it surprised me how much you will want it to happen, so that Caesar can get his revenge on humans.
There's no excuse to miss the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".

Final Verdict: 8 out of 10


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