Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Review – Good God, Everything Really Is Better With Monkeys

Yell! Magazine review:

Alright, I know it’s kind of hard to take a poster like this seriously. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ll know just how hard they tried to market this thing to cater to action fans. Between bad-ass looks delivered by monkeys straight into the camera, or that one shot of a foreboding ape solemnly standing over a couple as they sleep, we’re led to assume that Rise could turn out to be an unintentional laugh-fest.

With all that said, I’d like to bring your attention to the link below:

Owner: ‘My chimp has ripped her face off’

Yeah, that kind of puts the whole “apes can be terrifying” thing into context, doesn’t it? We don’t give them the respect they deserve until we remember that they can rip off our face at a moment’s notice, as if they were peeling an orange. If you can manage to hold close the notion that these things are comprised of 100% functional strength while staring at the poster, suddenly it’s a lot harder to laugh.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
“I sure do feel like ripping someone’s face off right about now.”


And so, this is where the basic premise comes in: Animals comprised of equal parts killing instinct, boundless strength and superior intelligence decide that it might be nice to kill all humans (or seek freedom from their captors – whatever.)

It sounds like a good idea on paper – and hey, everybody likes monkeys – but how does it all play out?

James Franco plays Will Rodman – an idealistic scientist whose name you probably won’t remember. He comes to invent some kind of Alzheimer preventing super-serum that’s initially tested on apes, but poses initial problems, and is pulled from further testing. To continue his life’s work, Will comes to adopt a baby monkey who’s been altered to have increased intelligence from birth. As the ape’s IQ increases with age, Will takes a leap of faith and gives his aging father (John Lithgow) the serum, and his own faltering memory and loosely connected synapses snap back into function. Meanwhile, while witnessing James’ romantic interaction with love interest Freida Pinto, our friendly neighbourhood super monkey (who’s been christened with the name Caesar) stars to question his own freakish existence as he considers the balance between his animal instincts and human upbringing, and falls into a state of ape-man existential ennui. Soon, his primal rage becomes a problem, and he’s taken to an animal shelter run by the always-evil Brian Cox, and his search for freedom begins.

Now, it may be hard to tell from the trailers, but Rise is by no means an action packed, balls to the wall tale of man vs. monkey. Yes, that does culminate satisfyingly in the third act, but the plot itself concerns both Caesar’s interactions with humans, and his subsequent interaction with apes. To be fair, the first act can be pretty charming, and moves along at an excellent pace, but where the film truly shines is in its integration of Caesar into the strange world of beasts. The moment he steps into the recreation room of the ape shelter (complete with a tree, watering holes and swinging tires), you can feel his sense of both intrigue and cautiousness, as he’s sized up by his simian colleagues and a convincingly threatening alpha male. Obviously, Caesar’s tendency to wear conveniently distinguishing clothing upsets his potential new friends, and they don’t take very kindly to his strange proclivities. As he offers his hand to the domineering leader of said shelter, his shirt is ripped off and he is beaten senseless.

On the plus side, at least he still has his pants.

And it was during this scene that I was hit with an odd but undeniable truth. I wasn’t watching a movie about James Franco’s struggle to face the loss of his proverbial “son” and deal with the hardships of the capitalist pharmaceutical racket. I was watching a strangely engrossing tale of a charismatic CGI ape, and his ordeals of wrangling up a team of ready-and-willing monkeys with whom they can find freedom! To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
That’s weird… I don’t remember James Franco being in this movie.

It just goes to prove that everything really is better with monkeys – even catharsis.

Now, on one hand, I could stick my lips out and complain that a good actor such as James Franco is being out-performed by a bunch of apes that don’t really exist. That could be a dividing line for a lot of people. Truth be told though, I had a great time watching this visual feast, and given the right context, wouldn’t mind seeing something like this done again – so long as it doesn’t become the norm. I can’t say I could really look forward to a future where a-list actors are birthed by master animators. That would indeed be messed up.

Anyway, what follows are Caesar’s careful planning and attempts to recruit, organize and galvanize his simian colleagues in his quest – not necessarily to take over the world – but to find true freedom. It’s in this sense that we start to identify with the true hero of this story. He’s not a furious George wannabe who’ll rip the face off a cop at the drop of a hat; he’s just a super-intelligent simian who wants to find a good home. Evidently, the best way to do it is to genetically enhance all his monkey brethren, and perform a daring great escape.

And what a great escape it is.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
“‘Danger; keep super-serum out of reach of monkeys.’ Hmm. I wonder what that means.”

Read about the characters, and the verdict on the next jump…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes poster
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
5 August 2011
Rupert Wyatt
James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Official URL:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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