By Chris Campo
We are finally here, the final chapter in this prequel-lite Planet of the Apes trilogy. That's right, Matt Reeve's War for the Planet of the Apes is storming into theatres very shortly (JACK NOTE: Stay tuned on Thursday!), so here I am, to review the first chapter in the epic saga, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I remember seeing this in the theater being absolutely blown away. I was excited to revisit it after all these years, because I have only seen the film once. So, does the film hold up. or is it overshadowed by what the franchise has become?
Rise of the Planet of the Apes follows James Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist who is experimenting a new drug on apes in the hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease, not only for his father (John Lithgow), but for the world. After an accident at the company Rodman works for, he takes a young ape into his home for protection. This young ape is Caesar (Andy Serkis), who was exposed to the drug and grows up with heightened intelligence. Soon, Caesar's intelligence poses a possible threat to mankind, and the apes soon bond together and start an uprising.
Yeah, I love this film. I adore this film. As good as the second film is, I think I may like this one even better. I'm not quite sure. The film's director Rupert Wyatt (whose other films I am not too fond of) directs the beautiful screenplay to perfection. Everything comes together so well to a finale that is so damn satisfying, you'll immediately want to put on the next blu-ray. There are moments that still give me goosebumps every time I watch it, moments that just in case you have not yet seen the film, I will not spoil here. Call backs to earlier films in a franchise can annoy me if overused, but this has the best callback to a franchise moment of almost any reboot/sequel/prequel/whatever.
Not everything works. There are moments where significant time passes, but other than seeing Caesar grow, it's hard to tell. A much similar problem is that other scenes are rushed, and we blow through plot points rather quickly. Again, nothing I will spoil, but give the film a rewatch and you will know what I am talking about. And I might get some shit for this, but compared to the second two films, the CGI apes don't hold up quite as well as I remember. They are still good though. Pause the film on any frame with an ape, it looks photo realistic, but in motion there's a glossy rubbery effect that's noticeable after seeing the flawless work in Dawn and War.
With or without the flaws, I want to state again that I adore this film. It's one of those rare films that I wish were longer. One of the aspects that makes me love it so much is the emotion throughout, mostly brought by the script, but just as importantly by the incredible performances. This is one of my favourite James Franco performances. Second only to his riveting 2 minutes of screen time in Alien: Covenant. Seriously though, James Franco is great. You honestly feel his love for all the characters he's close to, but most importantly, you feel his bond with Caesar.
Andy fucking Serkis, man. Although we rarely see his actual face in any of his roles, he is slowly becoming one of my favourite actors, and he is without a doubt one of the most talented and fascinating men in show business. He portrays Caesar though brilliant performance capture technology, and he's just so good. Caesar is so much more than a walking computer code. You feel and see his every emotion and, at times, his every thought. Andy Serkis is a pioneer of the technology for good reason. No one is better. If he doesn't get proper academy recognition in some form soon, it will be a sin.
Furthermore, the action on display is outstanding, for what little "action" there is. I appreciated the slow moving nature of the story, very much so, but the huge action sequence throughout San Francisco is dynamite. It's riveting and exciting and everything you want an epic battle scene to be. It may not top the pure badassery of apes riding horses in the sequels (this film does have an ape on a horse, but just one), or that epic tank shot in Dawn, but it's a hell of a sequence. Also, I always find myself forgetting to mention how much I like a movie's score in a review, so let me say I really like the music in this film.
Upon rewatching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I did notice a few flaws that I hadn't had with the film before, but regardless, this is a great, great movie. I absolutley love this film and it may beat out the sequel by a hair, in my opinion, even if the second may be a better crafted film. I can't wait to see War for the Planet of the Apes. I hope it lives up to the first two, because if it does, we will have one of the finest film trilogies of all time.
4 1/2 Stars
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