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Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

By ShelGarlick
On November 28, 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the much hyped prequel to the original 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. This science fiction film comes from director Rupert Wyatt, and has the potential to be the last blockbuster of the summer season. The film had an impressive series of trailers and a marketing campaign, so naturally it caught a bit of attention.
However, with the various sequels and the critically rejected 2001 remake; I still retained a degree of skepticism at this reboot of the franchise. Rise of the Planet of the Apes boasts a cast with some major names, as well as some lesser known actors and actresses. The film stars actor James Franco as Will Rodman, who is one of the leading scientists in developing an experimental drug that will restore cognitive function in the brain.
Will's driving force behind researching and making this new drug successful is that his father, played by John Lithgow, is suffering from an advanced case of Alzheimer's disease. Franco does a decent job at playing the sympathetic hero and conveys the internal conflict within him well. Rodman's love interest, Caroline, is portrayed by Indian model/actress Freida Pinto. Together, the two discover the effects of the drugs and are the first to realize the potentially devastating effects this drug could cause.
Tom Felton, (Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter series), has a minor part as an abusive ape handler but; his role is one dimensional and serves no other purpose than to be an agonistic plot catalyst. John Lithgow gives a standard performance as Will's mentally decaying father, but nothing truly exemplary. The rest of the cast puts in decent performances but, the characters are mostly bland and at times a bit dull. The only exception is Andy Serkis; who is the true star of the film despite never actually appearing on the screen.
Andy Serkis has provided the voice and physical choreography for the creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings franchise; as well as the facial expressions for Kong in Peter Jackson's King Kong. In this film, Andy Serkis provides all of the expressions and facial reactions of the incredibly intelligent ape named Caesar. With all of the apes in this movie being created through CGI; Serkis' contribution to the character of Caesar gives the character more depth, and is able to convey what Caesar is thinking without actually speaking. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a movie that depends a lot on CGI and special effects to realistically convey a primate uprising against humans.
As farfetched as that premise is, the effects in this movie are truly great. It's eerie how realistic the apes appear on screen as they progress in intelligence, and begin their assault on mankind. You can see the power of the gorilla when it overturns a charging horse, or the calculating mind of Caesar as he ponders his next move in his fight with human soldiers. The effects in the film are top notch, and make the apes in the film appear as realistic as technologically possible.
However, the one drawback I felt with the effects was that the apes appeared a little too human at times; but it's very subtle and doesn't do any damage to the quality of the effects. Despite the somewhat lack luster acting and characters in the film, the plot is what drives this movie, and makes it such a success. It brings to light the ethical choices concerning experimentation on animals, and any negative repercussions this may entail. It also shows the Prometheus-like effect on mankind due to our unintentional errors caused while trying to create something that is supposed to be beneficial to the human race.
The plot seems to focus on Will's struggles to make this drug a success, but it soon shifts gears and Caesar becomes the focus of the story. We see Caesar plucked from a nurturing home, and then placed in an abusive environment. His hate begins to blossom, and his developing mind begins to cultivate the ideas of revolution and rebellion. We see how mankind has to go on the defensive against a species that before seemed just beneath us; but now apes seem equal if not superior to humans.
The film Rise of the Planet of the Apes is carried by a well delivered story, and some wonderfully dramatic moments. The cast does boast some big names, but their performances don't leave too much of impact due to the lack of sufficient character development.
The battle scene on the Golden Gate Bridge is executed well, and it dives into Caesar's psychology throughout the film. I say all hail the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and give this film three and a half out of five stars.

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