The Planet of the Apes Series: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

It’s famously said that if you pay peanuts, then you get monkeys. However, I’d like to note that if you pay lots of cash, and hire the right people then occasionally, just occasionally, you can end up with something really quite special. When Rise of the Planet of the Apes was announced my first thought was, to be honest, “fuck that”. Having considered it a bit, I then added “why bother” to that original thought. I honestly believed that Tim Burton’s abortion a few years ago killed Planet of the Apes as a viable 21st century concept. Furthermore, I am the sad sack that’s seen all of them and most of the TV series, and am thus well aware that most of the good Planet of the Apes ideas and imagery have already either passed into pop culture and become little more than a hackneyed footnote. This isn’t to forget for a second, though, that most of the Planet of the Apes films are actually garbage themselves, with the later ones such as Battle being particularly bad. Nevertheless, earlier this year, Droid pointed out the new international trailer for the new version of Rise and my interest in it went from positively subterranean to sky-high. Whoever cut that trailer did a first-rate job in generating interest in a property that most had written off.

Then the reviews started coming in, and blow me down, they were mostly positive too. Word of mouth from learned scribes such as Jonah, and the malfunctioning trash can himself was also generally positive. Rise of the Planet of the Apes had now become a must-see film for me. Just not in 3D.

Everyone knows the score with Planet of the Apes. Basically, in a crazy mixed up future we will no longer spank the monkey, the monkey will spank us. Yes, I know that’s childish and is a quote from Kevin Smith, but never mind, I still think it’s funny. Various of the films in the 1970’s tried to inject heavy social commentary into the Planet of the Apes mix, and as the films deal with the nightmare that is Time Travel the chronology of Planet of the Apes is effectively circular. I’m just going to pretend that the 2001 remake doesn’t exist for a moment, but this is roughly the timeline of Planet of the Apes:

  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (rebooted as Rise here), which deals with the Apes overthrowing their human masters
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (a heinous sack of shit, but deals with the apes in command. It’s a cack handed attempt at an anti-racism screed and a pathetic failure on every conceivable level, but more of this later).
  • Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston, “You damned dirty ape”. Set in the far future where mankind has devolved and the apes run everything in a quasi-medieval theocracy).
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes– (the NASA rescue mission, mutant humans with Scottish complexions worship nuclear weaponry)
  • Escape From the Planet of the Apes (After the end of Beneath, the three surviving Apes return to Earth in 1973. Events here lead directly to Conquest).

Added to this already confusing chronology, there’s the long-running TV series, Burton’s alternative future in the awful remake and now Conquest has been rebooted as Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This time round, though, some thought has been put in regarding the fall of humanity and how we, as a species, could be reduced to caveman level as seen in Planet of the Apes.

James Franco plays Will Rodman, a superstar geneticist. He’s desperately seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s to aid his ailing father (John Lithgow). When will Movie Scientist learn? Fucking around with Mother Nature searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s invariably leads to terrible events. Due to a hideous misunderstanding in the lab, his star chimp (Bright Eyes- a lovely little nod to the first film) blows his big presentation and is gunned down. She has left behind a baby, which chimp wrangler Franklin (Tyler Labine) refuses to put down. Will sneaks the chimp home, and continues to study it. Soon enough, the chimp, now called Caesar is learning at a genius level and Will is sneakily using the virus on his father. Due to an ugly confrontation with a neighbour, Caesar is taken to monkey gaol, abused at the hands of Tom Felton, and gradually begins to plot the revolution. In the meantime, Will’s new virus is accelerating ape intelligence at a fantastic rate, even if there are side-effects for humanity. It all kicks off with the Apes running amok in San Fransisco (they came for the shopping and stayed for the bath houses) and a battle on the Golden Gate Bridge.

This is, and I’m so happy to report this, a very good film. In fact, I’ll go a bit further and say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fucking good film. Firstly, it feels “epic”, which is quite an unusual sensation for Planet of the Apes films. There are several shots here, the time-lapsing of Caesar’s growth where he’s standing at the top of the Redwood tree staring at San Fransisco (a shot mirrored at the end), there are other little moments here, all centred around Caesar that contribute to this sensation, and I loved the sequence with him busting out of Monkey prison. The score, brilliantly, also adds to this feeling and I walked out of the cinema honestly believing that this was a legitimate and stirring attempt to rebirth the whole Planet of the Apes idea as a viable concept.

Secondly, the motion capture work (Andy Serkis) and anthromorphisation (probably not a word) of Caesar is absolutely stupendous. Serkis is a dab hand at this, and Caesar is clearly the strongest and best developed character in the film. Even if he is a monkey with no dialogue. The best bits of the movie all involve Caesar, such as helping Lithgow eat, and so full marks to the effects people, because this is spectacular.

Pity the same can’t be said about the lead actors. James Franco can act, we all know this, but here he’s, well, lacking. His finest moment is when Caesar turns his back on Franco in the cell, and in this instant we finally get to see a bit of the bond between man and ape. However, against this, Franco is actively terrible on more than one occasion, although he isn’t helped out by some lousy dialogue, such as the “I can’t lose them both” line. Lithgow puts in an enormously sympathetic turn here, and is probably the stand-out non-Ape actor with his look of puzzled terror in the car accident scene being both touching and a little bit scary. The rest of the support here, in particular Labine and Felton are good. With one exception: Frieda Pinto’s eye candy is both an utterly pointless character and lacking in presence. In a way, though, this film is a poisoned chalice for any human actor, as the Apes are clearly the real stars of the piece.

On the writing front, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, for the most part, well written. To deal with the negative first, Caroline may as well not be in the film. The focus of Rise is the relationship between Will,  Charles and Caesar, her character adds absolutely nothing to proceedings. It was mentioned that the relationship between her and Will could have been better developed, but I disagree. The problem isn’t her relationship with Will, it’s the character being in the film full stop: she adds nothing, isn’t properly thought out (when we first see her, she’s a vet in an ape enclosure, yet this is forgotten by the end of the film). She doesn’t add another emotional centre and, to be honest, if she did it would make the film worse anyway. She’s just an entirely pointless piece of writing and her appearance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes is as if the suits said “this film is too much of a sausage-fest, find some women”.

Nevertheless, I’ve said this is well written, and aside from Caroline, it is. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has an easy narrative flow, and the character arc for Caesar is both well-considered and touching in parts. However, what I really like is that it finds a plausible explanation for humanity’s devolution, contains several nods to the iconic original film, and, best of all, pretends that the 2001 remake simply doesn’t exist. The events, as play out here, work supremely well, and the final coda gives a hint as to the way the future will play. It’s clever without being obnoxious and is honestly the best “blockbuster” writing that I’ve seen in a long time. Oh, and Orci and Kurtzman, take note- it is possible to do a “family” film targeted at 13 year olds and not stuff it full of juvenile and unfunny piss/ wank gags.

Overall, this is a sterling film. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, I bet (haven’t seen Captain America or Conan yet), the best summer film of the year and an unprecedented success given its origins. It is possible with a bit of thought and care to make a good remake and full credit to the team behind this (director Rupert Wyatt). This is how it should be done, and I enjoyed it so much that it’s inspired me to go and watch all of them for a review series now that idiotic Birthday list has finished.

I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes 3 happy baby Orangutans out of a possible 4. Result.

Next up on this list is going to be the original Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which I have to say, I don’t remember very kindly at all.

Until then,

Jarv

P.S. I’m not sure which one of these smoking monkeys to use for the logo- so any preferences?

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

51 responses to “The Planet of the Apes Series: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Sorry about the length of this.

    Still, it’s a really good film.

  2. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I echo all your sentiments. This will probably be in my top 3 this year.

    I loved the scene when ceaser releases the gorilla from his cage, and the subsequent scene with the old alpha male. Fantasic, dialogue free work from the 3 actors. And that only works because the mo-cap work is so stunning.

    Michael Bay take note too!

    Its been one of the best summers for good, popcorn films. I really enjoyed X-Men, and Captain America, and thought Thor was a good showing too.

    • Jarv says :

      Cheers Col. That scene is brilliant.

      On the SUmmer, I’ve avoided most of them, but I’ve got a horrible week ahead of me next week:

      Conan on Tuesday, Then In my Skin on Wednesday. Best take a fucking pillow to that one.

  3. Droid says :

    Yeah, this is a good film. 3 Changs is what I’d give it. The problem for me was the bond between Franco and Caeser wasn’t strong enough. I never got the father/son type relationship from it, which is what it was going after. Despite Franco telling Caeser he’s not a pet, he clearly thinks of him as one. And that’s the quite big issue I have with it and the thing that stops this being a classic, which it quite possibly could’ve been.

    Still, a good film and better than nearly all the summer films. I’d rank it third behind Rango and Fast Five.

    • Droid says :

      BTW, I think you meant “stars” not “starts”. Not that it matters. I’m pedantic.

    • Jarv says :

      It’s Franco’s performance. I don’t think he’s happy acting without anything opposite. There are only about two moments in the film where you get that he has a relationship with Caesar.

      Still, 3 out of 4 is not a bad effort, and I want to nominate both Serkis and Lithgow for Golden Changs later in the year.

      • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

        I just couldnt buy him as a super scientist. He’s just too pretty, and stonerish for it lol.

        The character should have been a bit more nerdy. And the girl was totally surpluss to requirements.

        I also thought there wasnt enough blood the two times ceaser attacked a human. I thought they dropped the ball on that. I’ve seen enough natural history programs to know when a chimp beats on you, you get fucking beat! lol. Both Rodney from Stargate (pilot), and Hillbilly handler should have looked at lot more beat up after it.

        And the five years later looked like the day after. Two ball drops, in my opinion. Dame shame

      • Jarv says :

        I totally understand the lack of blood in it, but there’s never been a lot of blood in a Planet of the Apes film, so didn’t mind.

        Really liked that transition with 5 years later. If there had been some point to Caroline, it would have helped as well.

      • Jarv says :

        Also, I was really surprised at both Labine and Felton. Who’d have thought Draco Malfoy (of all people) could be good.

        Forgot to mention Cox. Still, it’s long enough.

      • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

        Yeah Felton definately held his own, and got the two big lines that nodded at the last films, the “Its a madhouse” and the “get your paws off me, damn dirty ape” and managed to sell them.

        Nice death too

      • Jarv says :

        The other big nod to Planet of the Apes is that the mother is called “Bright Eyes” which is what Zira calls Heston.

      • Continentalop says :

        You know who deserves Golden Changs? Maurice the Orangutan for best supporting ape, and Bud the Gorilla for best death scene.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah sometimes the Orang looked like a puppet rather than CGI. If that was always GCI that was damn impressive dangly arm hair work.

        I really like Labine, amazed he was picked for that role (you ever wondered what actor you would’ve bought less as a scientist….well his name is Taylor Labine) but he was good in that role I knew the chubby man had it in him, but got he still always looked smelly and dirty.

      • Jarv says :

        To be fair- he was a chimp wrangler so being dirty is fair enough

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah that added to him working. It wasn’t like he was working in some sterile lab.

  4. Continentalop says :

    Great review Jarv. This is a movie that completely surprised me how good it is. I would say it is 3 1/2 out of 4. So close to being great but just shy it’s infuriating.

    I disagree about Draco Malfoy. He was too much of a one dimensional character IMO.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah Draco’s worst part and possibly the worst part of the movie even though everyone loved it was the reuse of THE LINE. He was an interesting character I liked how he wasn’t like SUPER fucked up about what he did but yeah he was very one dimensional, in fact ALL the human actors were very one dimensional but it worked because it showcased the CGI work of Ceasar, he is the star of the film.

      I’d say if anything Frido was the worst character because she doesn’t add anything, you’d THINK a women in her position “head Ape vet of the zoo I think she was” she’d KNOW that the Cox/Felton House of Ape was a terrible place to keep an Ape…unless there are just SOOOOOOO many Ape sanctuary’s in the area its hard to keep them all straight? ALSO like Ebert said, she wasn’t raped or didn’t have some gratuitous sex scene so it was like…..eh what’s the point of having a women in the movie is not for that, you know?

  5. Continentalop says :

    And once again, this movie is based on Moses.

  6. Xiphos0311 says :

    How can you tell if apes are running amok in San Francisco? The entire city, hell the entire state for that matter, is amok.

    I have not seen this but there is absolutely no way I can buy Franco as a scientist. Every ad I saw all I heard him saying was “duuuude let’s go out to my ’73 Duster and hotbox this kush I just scored. Ya got any munchies handy bro?”

    Use the first picture there is something vaguely James Caan/Steve McQueen about it. The second one is just way to creepy.

  7. koutchboom says :

    Sooooo is this the movie of the summer? I’ve yet to read a review where someone just fucking hated it.

  8. koutchboom says :

    ALSO SO NOW IS EVERYONE GOING TO NUT UP AND WATCH THE FUCKING ESCAPIST! Jesus.

  9. koutchboom says :

    Also fuck all this Andy Circus Acting nom crap….he was no better than any of the Ape work done in Burton’s apes. He just added the movement and some facial expressions. Give the award to small town of computer animators who made the ape believable.

    • koutchboom says :

      Like all this hoopla over that ugly fuck, I mean THERE IS A REASON why his face doesn’t end up on screen much, I’d really like to know what the percentage was of straight up CGI work to mocappiing his ass was. I mean you think he Andy RAN UP THAT tree?

      • Jarv says :

        It’s a good job by all concerned.

        He is quite a good actor away from the mocap.

      • koutchboom says :

        Bahahaha yeah because you’d know who the fuck he was just based on his work in The Cottage. Bahahahahaha he’s a nobody.

      • Jarv says :

        No- I’ve seem deathwatch, tv he’s been in.

        Usually his films are crap

      • koutchboom says :

        OHHH well that’s TV your allowed to be ugly on the small screen.

      • Jarv says :

        Deathwatch is a film. I’ve also seen 24hour party people.

      • koutchboom says :

        Don’t remember him in that.

      • Jarv says :

        He was Martin Hannet, I think. He was also in Shooting the Past which I loved

      • koutchboom says :

        Well yeah I can read IMDB as well….who the fuck is Martin Hannet?

      • koutchboom says :

        Ahhh ok he was the producer.

      • Jarv says :

        Except I didn’t look at imdb. It’s on the shelf behind me

      • koutchboom says :

        Same difference.

      • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

        He’s a great actor. Topsy Turvy, Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll. are both great, as was 24PP (which I also own as I used to go to the club in question).

        He started off studying circus or mime or something like that, which is why he is such a physical actor.

        I heard someone discribe him as the first superstar of the mo-cap world, and I wont disagree.

        But hey, lets concentrate on his physical appearance instead. As the resident homo here, he’s not bad looking at all. Not my type, unless he gets a haircut and a shave, but not an ugly man.

        If this was late night, I would say you were just being a moody, contrary drunk. But as I guess its day over there, I can only hope youre just back in after an all night bender.

      • koutchboom says :

        Hehehe naw I don’t mind him at all, fuck I think I even liked The Cottage for what it was. I just think this mo cap oscar speak is nonsense. There is just TOOO much damn back end work to say that HE REALLY did some amazing amount of work. It’s so much more the director and animators than that actor. I’d say overall Circus was probably 25% of that role, it’s a giant group effort to make it work so he’ll never get anything bigger than a Saturn award for it.

  10. koutchboom says :

    Heheh is that Apes Poster at the top real? Or did you add JAMES FRANCO’s name on there?

  11. koutchboom says :

    Wait….did you think this movie was in 3D?

      • koutchboom says :

        You said this:

        Rise of the Planet of the Apes had now become a must-see film for me. Just not in 3D.

        Meaning that you wouldn’t see it in 3D and would be on the hunt for a 2D showing of it.

        Actually I think 3D wouldn’t have hurt Apes that much. Seeing as how its bright and shot like an older 90s movies not hyper fast cuts all over the place you could always see the action. Sure 3D wouldn’t have been necessary but it would’ve worked much better here then in say Green Lantern/Thor/Cap/Mars Needs Moms/Conan.

        Its just funny because, and I applaud them for going Nolan with it and not doing 3D, but had they done it 3D I wouldn’t have been made. Also its surprising the suits didn’t say…Ehhhh this sounds like a stupid movie no one wants to see slap 3D on that bitch to make more money. You know the conversation was there.

      • Jarv says :

        I thought it was on in 3D in places. Or rather I assumed it was. I’ve got a proper hatred of 3D nowadays

  12. koutchboom says :

    Also from what I gather since I haven’t read the book, the books ending is actually closer to Burton’s ending than Hestons.

  13. koutchboom says :

    The score in this movie was pretty good, but it still wasn’t as good as Elfman’s, Thor guy used some similar sounds to Elfman which was smart but it never became it’s own thing. He did however use the music from the trailer which was nice.

  14. koutchboom says :

    ALSO did you not realize that the asshole neighbor is Vincenzo Natali’s muse? As much as you hate/love that guy you think you would’ve caught that.

  15. koutchboom says :

    Also I put this as the 4th best summer film behind Transformers 3/Kung Fu Panda 2/Fast Five. Followed by Tree of Life maybe.

  16. ThereWolf says :

    This is a total head-scratcher.

    It’s like I’ve wandered into an alternate timeline. I’ve seen 3 different trailers for ‘Rise’, none of them made an impact on me – in fact one of them was utter, utter honk (the very first full one, I think). So, I’ve sat back and waited for the slaughter to commence…

    But, no… Everyone is coming back saying ‘Rise’ is, not only good, but superb.

    I mean, fair play, it’s pretty much unanimous, can’t argue with that. But, honestly, I’ve not seen a single image to make me even rent the cunt!

  17. Cade Boyd says :

    As***le! The TV Series were brilliant commentary and very entertaining! Plus Galen is the awesomest chimp character ever! GO GALEN!!!!!!

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