Rise of the Planet of the Apes
20th Century Fox
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Given Hollywood’s astounding lack of originality these days, and their “anything for a buck” mantra in green-lighting projects, I was not particularly excited by the thought of sitting through Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. But despite its share of flaws, this prequel to one of the best-known, and best-loved science fiction films in movie history is well done and really entertaining.
Set in present day San Francisco, which allows for some impressive vistas of the Golden Gate bridge and the redwood forest at Muir Woods, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes fills in the back story how Earth got where it was going when the original film began. And it should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s all our fault. There’s a lot of finger pointing at abuse of the environment, the inhumanity of using animals as test subjects, and the overreaching of medical research as a means to line the pockets of soulless corporoids.
James Franco, who, despite his Oscar nomination for 127 Hours, has yet to prove his worth as a serious actor, is the research scientist who is instrumental is setting this chain of events in motion. He’s not horrible, so that will have to suffice. The stunningly beautiful Frieda Pinto, who gained worldwide fame with her screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire, is stuck in the role of “the love interest,” and really has nothing more to do. There are two real stars: John Lithgow, giving another of his great performances, as Franco’s father who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. His is an energetic and heartbreaking turn, and the screen lights up whenever he’s on camera. The other is Andy Serkis, best known as Golum in the Lord Of The Rings films, who once again dons simian make-up to play Caesar, the ultra-intelligent ape who is destined to become the leader of this new species. This is more than putting an actor in a monkey suit. Serkis captures the joy, fear, and rage that his character experiences. And, actually, even though the rest of the apes in the cast are CGI, they are among the best CGI images ever committed to film. They too have hearts and minds and emotions.
Also in the supporting cast, the always-capable Brian Cox has a small role, and Nigerian actor David Oyelowo is excellent as the greedy corporoid who cares about nothing save his bank account. Another nice surprise is the good score by Patrick Doyle. He’s been busy since his outstanding debut with the score for Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, and his compositions are always worth a listen.
Despite some corny dialogue that registers an occasional wince, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is a thoughtful, emotional film with some spectacular and rousing action sequences. And film buffs haven’t been ignored either. There are enough references to the original film to provide chuckles of recognition… and appreciation… from those familiar with the 1968 classic.
Even with its aforementioned flaws, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is far superior to other summer popcorn movies so that it, and Captain America, are both at the top of the quality mountain for the summer of 2011.
The PG-13 rated Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is now showing at a regional habitat near you.