Move over Burton, somebody got it right.
The latest installment with Planet of the Apes in the title is a prequel about the ape Caesar, and his rise as a leader. The film begins by following Will Rodman (Franco), a scientist who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease at a genetic research facility. His reasons go deeper than just exploring things scientifically, as his father (Lithgow) has the disease as well. The genetic lab tests the experimental cure on apes however after one test goes wrong the lab is shut down and the apes are killed.
However, one ape was pregnant and gave birth to a baby before she died, Rodman is soon forced to take the young ape home. He soon learns, though, that the ape, named Caesar, had the experimental cure passed down genetically from the mother and that the cure actually dramatically increased intelligence. As the ape gets older more complications begin to pop up and he is soon forced to go to an animal control center. It is here that Caesar begins to get fed up with the life he and his fellow apes are leading and decides to revolt for freedom.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes mixes a great character study of a growing leader and a story of revolution into one brilliant plot that always has a good steady pace. The film never slows down and every bit of it was interesting to watch. It’s one of those great summer action films that has the heart and brains backing it up.
Caesar’s character arc is a great focus point in the story and was a joy to watch. As an audience you begin rooting for him. He really makes for an interesting lead and was one of the best non-human, silent characters since Christopher Johnson in “District 9.” Andy Serkis was used to animate the ape character and did well, already having experience with the type of acting and technology use from “King Kong” and “The Lord of the Rings” films.
The human cast is where the movie stumbled a bit. James Franco was great, creating more bedrock to his growing film career that is involving more and more serious roles. The way he and Caesar interact is very well done and the connection that the two characters have is very believable. John Lithgow as the father was alright, however he wasn’t given much to do.
The real problem falls with the minor characters. Franco’s love interest Caroline (Pinto) was a generic romantic sub-plot that really could be cut from the film all together. And Oyelowa just seemed to play the same old greedy corporate boss. These two didn’t perform the parts bad, it’s just that the characters were somewhat bland.
The special effects are a huge factor in the film and they are done wonderfully. Not surprisingly, it was done by the great team at WETA Workshop. From the look of the apes and other things in the film to the actual animation of the ape characters themselves, the effects just breathe life into the characters which in turn breathe life into the film.
The latest installment in the franchise is one of the rare films that are remakes or sequels to the originals and are actually on par with them. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great sci-fi action with a lot of emotion behind it and the effects are great to boot. Very solid 4 out of 5.