Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

There was a time when I was really into The Planet of the Apes series. I watched all the movies and the TV show, multiple times. I still enjoy the first and last films in the series (I’m pretty sure it was the last film… the one where they come back in time and Ceasar is born).

Now, as may be obvious, I barely remember the titles of the films. But I have fond memories of the films themselves – even the TV series.

Then there was that Mark Wahlberg remake a few years back. Yeesh. Loved the effects, but other than that… yeesh. I still can’t keep myself from laughing when I think of that ending.

So then I saw the trailer for the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes. After Wahlberg’s entry, I was more than wary, but I gave it a shot. The trailer looked good. But it could easily be that the trailer was just hiding the schlock. I was interested, but willing to give it a pass until DVD.

Then I got a call from a friend who really wanted to go see it on opening night. Yes! I love going with someone who’s excited, and with an audience who is predisposed to like it, as the opening night crowds usually are. So I went.

I’m glad I did. This is a really good movie. Ignoring the apes for a moment, John Lithgow did a great job as the father with Alzheimers, who is the unwitting reason for the entire plot and the destruction of mankind. I enjoyed seeing David Hewlett (of Stargate: Atlantis fame) as the neighbor with a string of bad experiences. James Franco did a good job, though not really stand-out, which is a shame given he’s the star. Tom Felton (“Draco” from the Harry Potter franchise) has an important role, though I think he’s not as strong as he should have been.

But then, of course, there are the apes. The effects for the apes are really very good. There were a couple of times that I thought “oh, they had a lot of actors acting likes apes for motion capture” but frequently it really did look like it could be real apes. The moment Ceasar first speaks works perfectly. I don’t want to spoil when it happens, but … nicely done. When it gets to the action scenes at the end it was done so well that I actually believed this kind of thing could happen. So impressive.

The story was what I was really worried about, but that didn’t disappoint either. The path to the destruction of the humans is paved with good intentions, marred by greed and impatience.

There were also plenty of references to the older films to satisfy those who were looking. Between my friend and I, we caught 6 references, I believe, to some memorable events in the original film. The most obvious, of course, was the use of the “Get your paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!” Charlton Heston’s appearance was sneaky and cool. Nice use of the Statue of Liberty, and the references to the space mission were much appreciated. I think they even got a reference to the Wahlberg remake in the design of one of the apes (the orangutan).  There were a couple of others. What did you catch?

I’ll end with, appropriately, a comment about the credits. Very cool use of airline routes to evoke thoughts of missile strikes, subtly communicating the end of the world as we know it.

From start to finish, this movie was well done.

Did you see it yet? Planning to? What do you think?