I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes has surprised every critic that has seen it thus far. Everyone that I know went into this movie with low expectations due to the less than promising trailer and effects that seemed just slightly off. Yet the film itself was more than just entertaining – it was actually a really good story. I was just as surprised as everyone else.
Set in present day San Francisco, Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on an experimental drug to treat Alzheimer’s. His test subjects? You guessed it – apes. After an unfortunate incident – Will’s work is deemed a failure and the drug company decides to pull the plug on the drug. One of Will’s lab mates is ordered to put all the test subjects down, but he can’t find it in him to give the lethal injection to an infant chimp who is now without a mother. Will decides to take the little guy home and name him Caesar. As Caesar grows, it becomes immediately apparent that the drug treatment his mother received was passed down to him before he was born – making him one insanely smart monkey. Caesar instantly becomes a member of the family and takes a liking to Will’s father (John Lithgow), who has Alzheimer’s. We now understand why Will has been so passionate in finding a cure for this disease – it hits close to home for him. However, as Caesar grows, he gets into trouble, and he soon finds himself relocated to a rather depressing and poorly managed ape sanctuary. Caesar is resourceful though – and he’s going to get out, reclaim his dignity, and take his friends with him.
One thing that really surprised me with this film was that it pulled at my heartstrings. Kudos to the filmmakers on this, because this emotional connection between the viewer and Caesar and also the viewer and Will and his father – is what actually invests us in the story. For the first half of the film they want to bond you with Caesar. They want you to love him, feel his pain, and root for him, so that later you’ll not only feel like the riot he causes is justified, but you’ll also root for him. This is exactly what happens.
Effect-wise, when you’re first introduced to the CGI – it looks fake, and it’s all you see every time there is a chimp or ape on the screen. I can’t quite put my finger on it – but there is definitely something off with the CGI. However, as the movie progresses, you notice this less and less. Soon the story takes over, and you’re too engrossed in the actual narrative to care that Caesar and his friends need a little extra rendering.
It’s one of the best prequels I’ve seen, and a nice break from the summer action movies with no substantial plot. Sadly, the blockbusters of this summer haven’t been that great, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the exceptions that will join Super 8 and Harry Potter as the best summer flicks that 2011 has had to offer.
Review By: Emma Loggins