Movie #90 2021: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Am I the only person in the world who wanted more of the apes after seeing Tim Burton’s 2001 flop? Maybe so, but I regret absolutely nothing.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released exactly ten years after the Burton film, with an all new cast, a complete overhaul of how the apes are created and pretty much a completely new premise. Quite simply, the only similarity here is that there are apes and there are humans. That’s it. In this franchise reboot, we follow a scientist named Will (James Franco) who has been working for quite some time on a cure for Alzheimer’s. It’s a cause that’s near to his heart, as his father (John Lithgow) is slowly deteriorating due to the disease. When a mother chimpanzee dies within the testing facility, Will takes her baby home and raises him almost like a human child. Enter Caesar. The film explores the relationship between Will and Caesar, who is later played by Andy Serkis, and how they form a bond when Will spots signs of human intelligence in his pet.

First of all, Andy Serkis is an insane human being. I completely love the man. Most people of my generation will know him as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, but what he does here is outstanding. This film is known for its exceptional use of motion capture, and it’s so easy to forget that there’s a real life person behind Caesar’s CGI eyes because Serkis is so phenomenal.

On that note, there was a real danger with Rise of that the CGI would be too clunky and poorly-executed, but for the most part, it’s completely realistic and brilliant. Not only does Serkis bring everything he has to this character, but the technicians behind the visuals are complete geniuses. Performance capture was absolutely the way to go and it’s masterfully done to say the very least.

Narratively, it gets off to a slow start. However, what the first act does so well is make you really care about Caesar and root for him on his journey. From there, I was truly invested purely because I loved the character, and I’m sure that’s the case for others too. The plot as a whole is far from complex but the fact that it’s only 105 minutes long (the shortest movie in this particular trilogy) ensures there’s no room for boredom. As snappy as it is well-paced, the writing works perfectly with the brilliant visuals. A great start to this new reboot!

When the third act finally kicks in, it really is quite the blockbuster spectacle. As the apes get to the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s a visually breath-taking piece of filmmaking – the big finale makes it worth getting through the more story-led parts for sure. A piece of pure action entertainment, ensuring your patience with the initial background storytelling gets a really great pay off in the end.

The moral of the story? Humans bad. Apes great. Not gonna lie, I still like the 2001 version, but this is certainly better in terms of the overall film. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy without a doubt!

Stay tuned…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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