Last night, I ran into Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) on HBO, and had the absolute pleasure of watching it again (on the Small Screen this time). And it still made me feel everything I felt when I saw it on the Big Screen -- and more, which amazes the crap out of me. So I've gone back and dug up my ROTPOTA review from August 2011, on my old blog, and am re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.
I could watch Caesar's expressions all day long.
If you haven't seen this movie, I've no idea why not.
-- Written by: Stephe Thornton
[ Originally posted on Writingscape V1.0, August 7, 2011 ]
For the moment, at least, until they blow it all to Hell again, my faith has actually been restored in Hollywood. Quick, somebody, take a picture!
Unlike with the 2001 debacle remake, I've been titillated by the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes since the trailers came out, in spite of myself, which made absolutely no sense. Me, lover of all things Ape before 2001. ME, avid Hater of Remakes/Revivals/Revisitations/Re-whatever you want to call them. There was just something about the look in Caesar's eyes and expressions that told me I shouldn't overlook this thing. And so, thanks to my son (who surprised me with a trip to the theater on opening night), I was front and center as the newest Caesar (CG'd by Andy Serkis) lived out his story.
(On that note, there were earlier rumblings about there being perhaps too much CGI in the movie. Well I say this--who cares about too much stinkin' CGI when it's done THIS WELL? You could have reached out and touched those apes. Their faces and body language were open books. They were REAL. Hell, give me more!)
I not only loved this movie, I appreciated it. I'll tell you why.
This prequel was a new story unto itself, and did the same thing as the old Conquest of The Planet of the Apes (a beloved favorite)--it explained how simians may have risen over humans to rule the Earth. The difference in the two stories, from my point of view, is that whereas with CONQUEST, you did have to suspend your disbelief a bit (though it wasn't that hard to do), with the new RISE, I could actually believe that this was indeed how it all started, with little suspension at all. Also, RISE gave wonderful nods to the very first movie, The Planet of the Apes of 1968, with Sir Charlton. From a very cool newspaper headline to some of the names that were used, though in different ways (Bright Eyes, Cornelia, etc.) to the old characters who were "represented" in unique ways (Dr. Zaius, General Orco, astronaut Taylor and his horse, etc.) to the iconic scene from the very first movie where humans were being hunted, and even right down to some of the signature phrases. I appreciated every single bit of it.
There was nothing extraneous in the plot, and the pacing was right on. The story was intelligently and realistically told. The actors were perfectly cast--thumbs up to James Franco and John Lithgow, especially. Nods to Freida Pinto! If I had anything to do with it, Andy Serkis' CG portrayal of Caesar would get him an award.
It was easy to identify with and sympathize with the characters, especially Caesar. You cared about him. You wanted to protect him. There was one make-or-break moment for him when I and the audience burst into spontaneous cheers and applause. We just couldn't help it. And that wasn't the only time it happened. You were with Caesar. Not because you were supposed to be, but because the character won you over. Hard sell that I am, I couldn't resist him.
By the time it ended, the story not only explained what happened to the apes in this evolutionary revolution, it remembered to also tie-in what happened to the humans as well. N-i-c-e.
I will say there was a moment in the opening set-up where the utter stupidity of the humans, while realistic, seemed waaaaaay too convenient to the plot. Talk about irritating. But with the way the rest of the movie flowed, I could let that go! :)
During the prequel's final climax, which was visually and emotionally incredible, I had a bad moment and was suddenly terrified that Hollywood might actually eff the ending up. (We're talking about the same folks who had the audacity to royally screw the ending to Godzilla, remember. I mean WHO ELSE has managed to trash an icon and a franchise of that caliber with ridiculous folderol, in the history of the world? Huh?) But somehow, everything ended just as it should have according to the dictates of the story we had been presented, again to spontaneous applause. I was looking around for Rod Serling because I just knew I was in the Twilight Zone.
Well, friends, that's my take, for what it's worth. This isn't just an ape movie. It's a story about what happens when a character (who just happens to be an ape) tries to take the reins of his own future.
GO SEE THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Go. Go now! I would love to know what you think.
(My personal nod to the first Caesar who fed my imagination and who I still love... Mr. Roddy McDowall.)