Review: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' is a Milestone in CG Filmmaking

August 5, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The love Rupert Wyatt, and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, the director and co-writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, have for the 1968 original is clear. The admiration doesn't just bleed through - it swings in on a low-hanging vine, lets out a shriek that you feel in your gut, and smashes you directly in the face. It's the kind of esteem that could come off as corny or even monotonous if the movie weren't so damned, dirty entertaining. Marrying intriguing and captivating story-telling with confident direction and arguably the the best CG creations ever put to film, Rise —yeah, we'll go with that from now on—is precisely what a prequel should be, telling a story we think we know but blending the perfect amount of originality with a known cinematic universe to make any fan of the original love it just as much.

Set in present day San Francisco, the film centers on Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's. His lab tests their latest drug on apes, but all of that changes when Caesar comes into his care. Caesar was the son of Rodman's last failed attempt at perfecting the drug, but some interesting side effects have been passed down from mother to baby chimp. As Caesar grows, he shows more and more intelligence, but the human world can be cruel. Needless to say, things don't go swimmingly for anyone.

What must be mentioned in Rise's favor first and foremost is the creation of Caesar. Using Weta Digital and motion capture technology to capture actor Andy Serkis' performance, the character is a marvel. It isn't entirely photo realistic through and through. When Caesar is seen full body and moving about Rodman's home or the nearby redwood forest, it isn't bad CG. It's just obvious CG. However, when Caesar is sitting still, it's near impossible to tell if it's an actual ape or a string of 1s and 0s. More importantly, the performance, the looks on Caesar's face, the personality that comes through is impeccable.

He ends up becoming more real than the human characters found in the film, a flaw to be sure, but it isn't due to poor performances by those humans. Not every character is written flawlessly. Brian Cox and Freida Pinto have what should be key roles, but neither gets any time to develop what they're given. All that time goes back to Caesar and the relationship built between he, Franco, and John Lithgow who plays Rodman's Alzheimer stricken father. The three carry every scene with superb emotion, very nearly to the point that you start to forget you're watching a film about a forthcoming ape revolution.

And sure, Caesar ends up being locked away, he comes across other apes who have been locked up by humans, and he ends up leading them against us. But that doesn't stop Caesar from being the main character of this film nor does it stop Wyatt from treating him as such. Perhaps that's where the real power in Rise lies. It isn't about humans trying to survive during a massive attack by warring apes. It's about one ape in particular and his rise to rule over his own species. For that to work, for that to even be believable Caesar has to work as a character. That clearly isn't a problem with Serkis and Weta in charge.

Once the revolution begins, the movie loses bit of steam, but only a bit. The emotional impact of seeing Caesar move, lead, and interact with both apes and humans is still there, but now the real precursor to the 1968 film begins. Wyatt and the screenwriters involved douse the film with their nostalgic love, throwing in tidbits here and there the keen eye and ear will be able to pick up. News reports, character names, lines of dialogue - minus a few that are too corny for this film's own good - are all thrown in to serve the film as both a true prequel and a candy store for like-minded Planet of the Apes lovers. You begin to remember how the apes acted in that film and to see these present-day apes begin to learn how to lead makes the film all the more entertaining.

Rise also goes to certain levels to change how you view the original films. A subplot runs through that seems to be going nowhere, doesn't even feel like it belongs until the end of the film. That's when the people behind Rise truly turn on the connective magic and show you something in the series you didn't know was there to begin with. Without giving away too much, it's safe to say Rise doesn't end with the Statue of Liberty on the beach, but it points in a certain direction. Whether there's a follow-up continuing the ape revolution or not doesn't matter. With what we're given, the audience is able to fill in the gaps for ourselves, make the jump between this film and the original, and not feel like we've missed anything.

That's truly what makes this the ideal prequel. Even though we know where it's headed, even though we know apes will eventually rule the planet in this series, the story in Rise is compelling and equivocal enough that you don't lose interest. What's more, it's a highly engaging film about the connection man has with ape and a suspenseful look at how all of that can turn to nothing thanks to the cruel nature of humankind.

Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a triumphant entry into a long-dormant series and an incredibly entertaining summer blockbuster that you don't have to turn your brain off for. Thanks to the immaculate work by Weta Digital and the faultless performance by Andy Serkis, Rise also delivers a milestone in computer animated imagery. Caesar isn't real, but when crafted by such a perfect joint effort, he seems real enough to bow down before. All other CG creations should do just that.

Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Find more posts: Hype, Opinions, Review



Cant wait to see this!!!!!

Crom on Aug 5, 2011


This is a great review. The movie was amazing and couldn't have been any better

Antonio on Aug 5, 2011


Just came out watching the Rise of the apes, it was an amazing movie.I enjoyed it every bit of it. There were moments were everyone laughed out loud and some, the entire theater applauded. Like everyone even i was curious how a bunch of apes can overtake the world and it proven to be way above my expectations. The movie did make sense a lot, and i really liked the ending. I will definitely re-watch  it again. I give it 9/10.

Bhanu_neo on Aug 5, 2011


I don't know why I'm so surprised it was this good.

DesinaCoda on Aug 5, 2011


Ok, you twisted my arm. I'll pay money to see this.  I saw a mash up of the film footage and real monkeys on youtube (better than the trailers) and read a spoilerish rumor about how the humans become stupid like in the original. Most people I know still think this looks like a comedy, the premise does seem to be that 100 monkeys beat 6,000,000,000 people... but I'll give it a chance. BUT IF IT SUCKS I'm getting my money back from you KIRK

Richie G on Aug 5, 2011


i never watched the original *the original first one seemed to suck to me so i never bothered* so i couldn't compare them. but this was excellent 

Jericho on Aug 5, 2011


I saw it. The quality of the CG apes was all over the place but nearly always looked fake. Weta did a better job with Kong. Sorry to say but this hardly felt like a Planet Of The Apes movie. I should've known better than to trust that Fox would make a good film. I'm sticking to cable tv shows.

Griffin on Aug 5, 2011


I saw it too and I thought it was 'Fuckin' A!"  Best fun of the summer!

Hattori Hanzo on Aug 5, 2011


Some apes looked 100% photo-realistic. Especially the one from the circus. Kink Kong didn't have face animation based on human, you can't compare him with Ceasar - gorilla was perfect, though.

Konti on Aug 5, 2011


actually, Serkis is Kong too

BaSs1L on Sep 6, 2011


Thought it looked corny but after seeing the Weta digital thing with Andy Serkis the other day and reading this review my outlook has changed.  We shall see!  Rise here i come!

FunkyGreen on Aug 5, 2011


Reading the review without looking at the 'srating', I thought you had given it a 9 or 9.5/10. Hmmm

David Banner on Aug 5, 2011


at the 'rating'*

David Banner on Aug 5, 2011


Phenomenal movie. I give it 5 stars. The CGI was amazing, the story was solid and the build-up will have you on the edge of your seat!

Black Dynamite on Aug 5, 2011


In just 2 days and 2 articles this has become the must watch movie of the near future for me 🙂

Anonymous on Aug 5, 2011


I've read nothing but excellent reviews for this film. Ok, you've convinced me. I'm going to go see it!

Cinema Nostalgia on Aug 5, 2011


I don't get why people are surprised. Trailers were great and the film is great too - simple as that.

Konti on Aug 5, 2011


King Kong had facial animation from Andy Zerkis too. These apes were too human in design and mannerisms. FAIL. 

Flock on Aug 5, 2011


There's a part in the film were EVERYBODY in the theatre seriously had nerdgasms! 😛

David on Aug 6, 2011

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