After the Tim Burton vision of the PLANET OF THE APES universe I was fairly convinced that would be it for anything else in this franchise. Admittedly, I was not all that excited when this film was announced but the trailers reeled me in. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (from here on out RISE OF THE APES) for me was a terrific example of filmmaking that encapsulates patient storytelling while being very kinetic and chaotic at the same time. The emotional connection I felt through the film can be attributed to the phenomenal performance capture from Andy Serkis and the methodical direction from Rupert Quart.
RISE OF THE APES follows the work of Will Rodman (James Franco), a brilliant scientist that is right on the heels of a cure for Alzheimer’s. When their star chimp test subject, Bright Eyes, goes bananas and destroys any chance Will has of greenlighting human trials the board demands all chimps to he put down. Will finds that Bright Eyes was protecting her newborn baby and he takes him home before he is put down as well. It becomes evident that the baby, Caesar, took on the advanced intelligence of his mother through the treatments of Will’s untested cure. After Caesar is sent to a new facility after a violent encounter in public he is subject to abuse from one of the employees and enlists his fellow primates to break out and earn their freedom.
When I say the film displays patient storytelling what I mean is for a new filmmaker tackling a prequel and essentially a reboot of a classic franchise there is a potential for disaster by just getting right in to the good stuff- it’s kind of like getting way too touchy feely on a first date with an extremely religious virgin. Wyatt puts us right on the forefront of what’s going down but then scales back a bit to let a few years of events pass before kicking things up again. There is always something interesting going on even if the only real action packed moments are in the finale. When it’s not full of action it’s very emotionally captivating friendship dynamics.
I am a huge animal lover so maybe I’m a bit biased in saying how effective the connection between Franco’s character and Caesar is. Enough cannot be said about Serkis performing as Caesar since for the most part Franco isn’t terrible, but he’s also not really doing the film any favors. As far as human characters that is one of the flaws- as none of them are spectacular and I would go so far as to say some of the acting is lazy. If the performance from Serkis wasn’t as profound as it was and the climactic action scene wasn’t as exciting this could have been pretty disappointing.
Human performances aside, the film works in spite of them and because it’s so immensely entertaining the time just flies by. Wyatt and the screenwriters set up, build and execute a story with great skill even if at times might seem inherently silly. There are aspects in the writing and logic of characters I found to be a stretch but the film is so well done, fun to watch and emotionally resonate that it would feel pointless to mention here since I love the film so much.
RISE OF THE APES presents an epic scope for the world and story on display in such a way that it never crosses cheesy or over-the-top territory. The film is a great achievement for Wyatt and company because it had the possibility to be far less satisfying than it is. RISE OF THE APES won me over with the emotional journey of Caesar as well as a thrilling tale of revolution through an impending global pandemic. As a standalone film outside of its name recognition the movie is a success, but even as an entry into the “OF THE APES” franchise it has potential to conquer.