Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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rise of the planet of apesAs burned out as we all are with the reboots and prequels – and we wish Hollywood would just come up with some original ideas – if a movie is great we forgive all that.

It’s always weird when you have a film that has cameos from a few of the stars that were in the original TV or movie. That was hard to do with Charlton Heston gone, but it didn’t stop them from giving us the line of “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

Those few nods to the original came across as a bit awkward.

It’s also one thing to reboot a series of films from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but this falls in that weird category that Spiderman is also in now. They’re remaking the Spiderman that was done 10 years ago.

This movie is forgetting all about the Tim Burton version nobody liked a decade ago, and is setting up an entire new series. Since it has “Rise” in the title, you kind of know where the film is headed.

I liked the fact that it told a more somber story, that has you thinking a lot about how we treat animals we have as pets or are being experimented on in labs. I was just a bit bothered that we had to deal with that same cliché of the sadistic people taunting the apes. We just saw that in Zookeeper.

Sure, it’s slightly more interesting to have great actors like Brian Cox and Tom Felton (the blonde from Harry Potter films) as the ones treating the apes badly.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the big suit that runs the lab, and is about to close everything down. He and James Franco have those cliché scenes where the boss is lecturing the scientist (that scene can be the police captain and cop playing by his own rules, the coach and his star athlete, etc.).

Franco is the scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, and he looks just as bored as he did when he hosted the Oscars. It’s the first movie I’ve ever thought he was miscast in.

His love interest, Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), isn’t given much to do.

And the dad with Alzheimer’s, driving Franco to find the cure and save papa, is played by John Lithgow. He’s fine in the role, but brings a bit of baggage. How can you not think of Harry and the Henderson’s when he’s playing with Caesar the chimp in the house?

It was touching to watch the bond Caesar had with Franco and his family, and the chimp is played by brilliantly by Andy Serkis, who was Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films (do they give Oscars if you’re totally CGI’d?)

The motion-capture effects depicting the apes is rather stunning, until late in the movie when the apes attack (that gives nothing away that you haven’t seen in the commercials). At that point, some scenes look fake. Other scenes seem to defy science. The gorilla jumping off the bridge and onto a helicopter, defies gravity the way the bus did that jumped over the freeway in Speed.

Lots of other chimps jump out of a 15 story building and land on their feet running. Perhaps they have stronger bones than us humans, who would’ve died from a jump that high — or at least suffered a broken leg in the jump.

At that point, it just became a rather silly video game. You actually laugh (and not in a good way) when you see an ape on horseback. And that’s a shame, too. The movie had some very powerful scenes. One of those, when the apes all run amok, let’s us just see leaves falling onto the street, as we hear movement of the branches in the trees above.

I read an interesting Frans de Waal book on chimp and monkey behavior last year, and for that reason I wasn’t as bored watching the animals interact with each other early on. I’m guessing others will just yearn for the action and will feel the pacing is rather poor.

I really liked the first half, and didn’t care much for the second half.

At least the movie wasn’t in 3-D, with viewers being asked to throw extra money down – while watching apes throw…well, nevermind.

It gets 3 out of 5 stars.

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