Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Monkeys evolved beyond 2001 standards, anyway.
It’s been a dim year for me going out to movies but eventually I got around to a theater for the second time this summer. In July (thanks a million to Magnificent Bastard) I was privy to Crispin Hellion Glover & his first film “What Is It?” at the Alamo Ritz. Yowza, what a surreal ride that was! After waiting five long years to see it, the anticipation paid off – I had my money’s worth of entertainment alone from the Kaufman-esque show he put on before the movie. My brain was a swarm of chaotic activity afterwards, so much that I stammered abnormally to dear Mr. Glover while giving him my thanks and admiration. He gracefully accepted my compliments and snatched my Back to the Future box set, not only to sign it but deliver a heartfelt message written across the entire DVD cover, thanking me for coming. I will treasure it always and look forward to seeing him again so I can watch the rest of his trilogy.
So, what else would pull my attention from a busy film-making schedule so completely that I finally gave in, picked a showtime at the Tinseltown behind my apartment, packed some snacks, walked across the parking lot and jumped a fence to get there? Captain America? Nope. Cowboys & Aliens? Not yet. Harry Potter? Meh. A new Planet of the Apes movie? You betcha. With everything I had heard from people whose company I enjoy, the suspense consumed me ‘til I could stands no more. And now, for the first time in months, I am compelled to write about what I’ve seen. Obviously I won’t retell the story; there are plenty of reviews giving you all the details but I will say this: it’s a kickass movie.
Sure, the simians are CG wrapped over motion-captured actors – both stunningly executed. On that note, I have to say Andy Serkis certainly deserves recognition for his work as Caesar the Chimp and a performer in general, certainly more so than to be listed on IMDB after the entire human cast (including extras), which is probably just another clever jab of racial commentary intended by the producers. The quality of his character exuded through movement and expression alone is flawless. And you get loads more monkeys as the film progresses, which are all equally captivating. You also get James Franco (who I will always remember fondly from Freaks and Geeks), a fine actor who does his part well, being the star for the first 30 minutes, then as co-star to Caesar for the rest of the film – the emotional connection between a chimp and his man is genuine and carries throughout the story. John Lithgow also stars as Franco’s brain-scarred dad – being the reason this hot monkey madness goes down is perfect for this legendary, seasoned lunatic; Raising Cain, indeed.
There are those who say the film doesn’t have enough action, or that it’s just a long setup for the next film but if you have a taste for the classic Apes stories, don’t listen to those people and treat yourself to a suitable prequel appropriately titled “Rise”, not “Revolution” – which means this is what happens to cause the revolt which leads to the enslavement of the human race, which can easily be another story, or not for all I care – the next few films could be all human genocide for two hours apiece spanning decades across the world, which might be cool, but we know how it ends. The point is, this story encompasses the “Rise” part well, with an interesting series of choices and events. It’s a complete chapter spotted with clever references to the existing films that closes at a logical stopping point. Sure, there could have been more evisceration of stupid humans but what’s included is solid storytelling in line with the established legend and those who do give their lives unwittingly are still entertaining as they go. I laughed, anyway. Mostly, I was astonished by how much I enjoyed this movie. Most people have seen it already but if you’ve been on the fence, jump down and dive in to a fun, thrilling and surprisingly emotional piece of cinema.
P.S. An interesting side note; the trailers included No Man’s Land starring Michael Clarke Duncan, who was featured in the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes. Next was Contagion, being slightly related to Rise in terms of genetic mutation gone wrong but really looks like a star-studded update of Outbreak.