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Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A Review

August 13, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the awkwardly titled new Planet of the Apes movie is possibly the best movie I’ve seen all summer excluding the last Harry Potter.  That’s kind of a bad comparison, though since Harry Potter was the last of a film series while this is the start of a whole new series.  Where Harry Potter worked as a final last hurrah of sorts, Rise of the Planet of the Apes works not only as a prequel to the original films, but also as a fantastic stand alone movie about standing up for yourself and others.

I’m going to try to not include any spoilers, but I’m sure a few will pop up.  In fact, I’m not going to do a summary at all because you should just go see the movie if you have the money.

I’ve never seen 127 Hours.  That being said, I don’t like James Franco as an actor based on everything else I’ve seen him in.  This is no exception, but there was a performance that was so distracting that James Franco didn’t bother me much.  That performance was that of none other than Tom Felton.  He was great as Draco Malfoy, but in this his character seemed to just be there to pick on apes and regurgitate famous lines from the previous movies at very strange times.  When playing Draco Malfoy, Tom wasn’t supposed to be a sympathetic character for the first five films, so he got very used to playing a snobby dick,  but that worked because he was picking on another human who always had life shitting on him which set up those small school boy triumphs like winning the house cup and scaring him away with snowballs work.  When you have a complete dick who has no backstory at all electrocuting apes for fun just doesn’t work.  It also doesn’t help that he attempted an American accent that just didn’t quite feel right.  I applaud his effort, though.

Other than the fantastic story, itself, the highlight of the film was the amazing performance by Andy Serkis.  I’m a huge fan of his anyway, but this was a standout performance even for him.  That’s not to say the WETA animators didn’t do their share, but Andy Serkis made me forget that I was watching a CG ape for a couple of hours.  It helps that he is used to playing non-human characters and is used to motion capture and facial capture equipment, but when you see Caesar with that look of longing to play with human children or interacting with John Lithgow’s character, you can really see the the acting shine through the CGI.  He is an amazing Gollum, he was a good King Kong, and now he’s a fantastic Caesar.  In the age when all actors will have to learn to act with motion/facial capture, he will no doubt be named as an inspiration to those in the business and this performance will most likely come up as one of the greats in books about the history of film.

That went on for a while and I apologize.  I just truly believe that he is to motion capture what Charlie Chaplin was for silent film.

The story of the film is wonderful, but I did have one gripe with the second act.  It went from a strong build up to a sagging middle act where nothing happens for a very long time to an explosive third act that felt way too short.

Though it has flaws, it is still one of the best films I’ve seen this summer.  I give this movie five out of five monkey paws.

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