Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the underwhelming introduction to the recently rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise.
The film stars James Franco as Will, a San Francisco scientist working on a drug that he hopes will cure Alzheimer’s, a disease his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. When Will’s experiments (which are conducted using apes as test subjects) are deemed a failure by his colleagues, Will is entrusted as the secret caretaker of a young ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis). Being previously exposed to Will’s drug tests, Caesar displays an unusual level of intelligence, far greater than other apes. And as his intelligence continues to grow over time, Caesar creates an insurrection among apes that threatens the existence of the human race.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes an intriguing look at the typical “don’t control nature” plot. It fuses a whole host of ethical issues and questions into the storyline for the viewer to ponder, many of which reflect on real world problems we as the human race struggle with.
The CGI effects on Caesar, as well as the rest of the apes, were pretty spectacular. This blended well with the performance of Andy Serkis (the man that brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), whose talent really shined through with the help of modern-day motion capture. Every little facial expression is finely detailed on the face of Caesar, and by the end of the film his character transcends from animated animal to more human-like than the actual humans.
The majority of the flick takes its time building up to the climax, but perhaps too much time. There are plenty of moments where I felt the film would start to drag, and not even Franco or Serkis could keep the story immersive. However, when the film picks up in the third act, it really picks up. The climactic showdown atop the Golden Gate Bridge is both fast-paced and exciting, the kind of material I was hoping to have seen throughout the entire picture.
On an emotional level, this film really didn’t do much for me. While I thought there was a great dynamic between Franco and Caesar, I never felt as invested as i should’ve been. There were numerous occasions where characters would share heartfelt or poignant scenes that I found hard to even pay attention to. Perhaps this was due to the poor performance of James Franco, who looked rather tired and passionless throughout the entire film, as if he might fall asleep at any given moment.
Best describable as average, Rise of the Planet of the Apes answers for us the obvious question of, “did we really need a Planet of the Apes prequel/origin story”? It has some good CGI effects, a great motion captured performance by Andy Serkis, and a third act that I found to be quite exciting. Yet the film lacked any emotional investment from its leading stars (minus Andy Serkis), creating a boring and uneventful atmosphere for most of the runtime.
The Verdict: C