My Ten Cents On: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

When I saw the trailer of this movie, I had to admit, I was skeptical. Especially with the scene of the monkeys breaking out of the enclosure seeming to swarm the whole area, it looked like I, Robot if all the robots were super-intelligent primates instead. Then I saw the extended trailer, and I was much more excited about it. Then I finally got to watch it, and I’m glad that I did.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a story centering around two characters. One is a researcher named Will Rodman, played by James Franco, who is part of a team trying to cure Alzheimer’s with an experimental drug that they were testing on monkeys, and the other is Caesar, the son of one of Will‘s experiments who had to be put down for attacking her handlers (instinctively to protect her hidden offspring, which the team did not know of at the time). Will is ordered to scrap all testing of the product and put down all the experimented animals. He ends up keeping the baby Caesar and raises him as his own. He continues to secretly document Caesar‘s growth and gathers enough data to prove that his medicine works, including testing it on his father, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, Caesar is discovered and is subsequently housed in a primate shelter.This leads Caesar to a realization that his kind is treated very poorly, and he devises a plan to free his kind once and for all.

I can’t wait to dive in to this movie, so I hope you’ll pardon my quick jump into it. Without further ado, these are the reasons why I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

+ The subtle (and not so subtle) references to the original movie

I'm glad the new film tied itself closer to this...

No, I don’t mean the 2001 movie starring Mark Wahlberg, the less we talk about that, the better. I’m talking about the 1968 masterpiece starring Charlton Heston. I will go out on a limb and say that just a little bit less than half of the reason why I love this movie is based on this fact. If you watched Rise without watching the original, I am telling you with near-absolute certainty that you’re missing out on a great amount of the appeal. For one thing, the story of Caesar‘s integration into the Primate facility mimics when Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor was captured along with other human for the ape city. There was also the similarity between the facts that that Taylor was placed in the charge of a scientist couple who fought for his freedom, and Caesar also lived with a scientist and his girlfriend doctor who tried to free him.

Thant to this.

I loved that they brought all these elements back to this new movie (including the slightly forced uttering of a famous line). The nods were generally well placed so that it didn’t feel like an inside joke. If you didn’t watch the original movie, you wouldn’t feel left out or confused, because the references were tied into the story. I appreciated that a lot.

I recall a segment of the remake of the Clash of the Titans movie that came out in 2010, where while Perseus and his band of allies were suiting up, Perseus pulled out a robotic toy owl and asked “What is this?” and was given the response of: “Just leave it!“. That robotic toy owl was Bubo, an mechanical owlfrom the 1981 film, forged by Hephaestus sent down by Athena to aid Perseus in defeating the Kraken. The owl does become a very integral part of the movie. I don’t mind that they wrote Bubo out of the script, he would not have fit well with the tone of the new one, in fact, the lead actor, Sam Worthington, wanted to destroy it because he thought that a shot with this toy would ruin his career.

Isn't he the cutest mechanical owl ever? And to think, Perseus couldn't win without him.

Rather, the problem was how they chose to put the cameo in. It was so forced, and rather than the owl being in the background or something that wouldn’t break the flow, it was given 3 seconds of airtime, which didn’t please the fans, and didn’t mean anything to the non-fans. I’m glad that Rise of the Planet of the Apes found a way to integrate nods to the original within their own narrative without having to stop the flow of the story.

+ The character development

Much like with the new King Kong movie, one thing I loved about this movie was how they humanized Caesar. I guess its to be expected since they used the same motion-capture technology and the same motion capture actor (Andy Serkis). So if you’ve seen the most recent King Kong, you pretty much have an idea of how the primates will all look here.

These three put a lot of emotion into the story. Kudos!

More than that, I loved the interaction between Will, his father and Caesar as the three of them lived together in their house. These three formed such an amazing bond between the three of them, that when the conflicts started to set in, you felt for all of them. Kudos of James Franco and John Lithgow both put on amazing performances, especially considering that they had to act with CG character put in later. It just gave the conflict so much with which to build its foundation. The strong emotional foundation of the movie was what carried it through everything else.

+ The Plot

I understand that many people felt let down by the plot, that it wasn’t a sufficient ending to the story and left a lot of open ends. I dare say that that’s part of the charm. For one thing, I’d like to point out that this movie didn’t feel like a prequel. It felt like a reboot. Rather than saying that this preceded the original Planet of the Apes movie, this film is a retelling of that same story with a different flavor. And given how closely the plot resembled that of the original movie in some ways, I’m inclined to agree with this being a reboot. And as far as reboots go, this one wasn’t half-bad.

Also, remember that the movie isn’t supposed to be the a complete story by any means, in fact, I smell sequel as bright as day. I could tell in the narrative that the people who wrote this movie had a sequel in mind when they wrote the script, because they had a couple of characters whose stories seemed to lead nowhere by the end of the film. Not to mention that the character’s name is Caesar (which kind of tells me what’s going to happen next time). I didn’t mind the movie for doing this per se, but It was in the fact that we expected a one-shot movie with a completed plot that threw us out of whack, but I’ll get to that later.

Think back to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. A great film, yes, but with a similar unfinished ending. And yet that was perfectly fine, because you knew that it was going to be a trilogy. That similar type of open, unfinished story for an ending is what we also got from this movie, and I think where a lot of the problems came from was that we all expected the movie to encapsulate the whole story. I liked the plot, but I’ll say that a lot of the problem of this went into the…

– Marketing

The hype was wrong, and I guess for a lot of people, they went in to the theater expecting an action-packed all-out war between humans and primates, maybe they expected a prequel to The Planet of the Apes movie instead of the reboot, or maybe they should have made it clearer that they were going to continue the story in another film later on. What people are expecting when they go into the theater already sets the tone for most of their enjoyment in the film. Which is why, for a lot of people movies are better the second time around, because you know what to expect from the film. If the first time you watch a movie, you go in with the wrong notion, chances are you’re not gonna like it, like say people who went into Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (awesome film, I recommend it too) and expected straight-up horror.

I for one am a guy who tries to go into every movie with an open mind and no expectations. Its impossible to do so, I’ll admit, but I try nonetheless. So the film didn’t disappoint me in that sense, but I can’t speak for others.

– The Pacing

Admittedly the movie’s pacing could have been better. After a slow, smooth and emotional build-up it hits us with a hard,  fast, action-packed climax and really speedy resolution. I’m not blaming the story, but rather the execution. It felt like the movie was building up to a great clash, and while the climax was pretty good, it was short, and felt rushed. It felt like the film-makers were watching the movie and said: “Oh crap, we’ve been watching for two hours? hurry up through the rest.” I was disappointed with how they treated the end of the movie given how much care was put into the story in every other way.

– Tom Felton

sod off you bloody.... I mean, get back in your cage, you filthy animal!

Okay, before you guys crucify me, let me explain. The role calls for a callous, animal-abusing, redneck kind of character. I don’t know why they chose to cast the very British Tom Felton in THAT role. I’m not blaming him, because he was really trying his best, but it just wasn’t right. He was visibly having a hard time finding the American accent and trying (and occasionally failing) to stuff the British accent. His character as a result felt less authentic, and since his character was really integral for the plot, I wish the performance could have been stronger. The casting people were probably trying to capitalize on the end of Harry Potter. It probably led to a few more tickets sold in the theater, but the price was a slightly weaker story.

My Cent’s Worth: 7.5/10

All in all, it was a really enjoyable movie, I loved it a lot. I do have to say though that 2 points automatically go to the fact that it took material from the original. So I’d recommend watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes strongly, but only after watching the original.

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Posted on September 5, 2011, in Film Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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