‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Published 4 years ago by

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Rise of the Planet of the Apes

At first glance, the decision by 20th Century Fox to capitalize on the familiarity of the Planet of the Apes franchise – changing the title of this film from Caesar to Rise of the Apes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes – could seem as though audiences are being sold style over substance.

While Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist), probably wasn’t in charge of the film’s final title, the obvious push to sell the movie based on its relationship to Charlton Heston’s iconic sci-fi hit (instead of the film’s own merits) may cause savvy moviegoers to be suspicious. It wouldn’t be the first time that Hollywood has attempted to revive Planet of the Apes – with even Tim Burton  struggling to deliver an enjoyable modern remake.

So does the relatively-unknown Wyatt, paired with Academy Award-nominee James Franco – as well as fan-favorite motion capture actor Andy Serkis – deliver a smart and entertaining prequel/reboot for the Apes franchise?

Fortunately, and surprisingly, the answer is yes. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not without a number of problems, especially with regard to the film’s pacing, but still manages to offer a compelling tie-in to the cult hit franchise – one that rests heavily on an intriguing psychological arc for an entirely digital chimpanzee.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Rise of the Planet of the Apes storyline, the film follows Will Rodman (James Franco) who is working on a chemical compound designed to cure Alzheimer’s Disease, which happens to afflict his father (John Lithgow). Through a chimpanzee test subject named “Bright Eyes,” Rodman discovers that his compound not only rebuilds damaged brain tissue, but significantly increases intelligence. When his study is suddenly scrapped, following a lab accident, Rodman is forced to put-down all of his primate test subjects and is left to raise a young Chimpanzee named Caesar – who has genetically inherited super-intelligence from his mother. As Caesar grows, it becomes difficult for the chimp to make sense of his role in a human world, as well as withstand his animal impulses.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes James Franco Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review

Andy Serkis and James Franco in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

Rise of the Planet of the Apes would not be possible without the especially impressive efforts of Weta Digital (the team behind Avatar), the CGI effects company who produced, through motion capture, the remarkably life-like performances of the apes. By far the strongest element of the film is Caesar’s arc – which successfully presents a mostly non-verbal evolution of the character from a reckless and charming baby chimpanzee to a contemplative but dangerous adolescent. Weta’s digital protagonist, coupled with another incredibly life-like performance from Andy Serkis, work to create one of the most intriguing connections to an entirely digital character that audiences will have ever experienced. In the end, it’s not just that Caesar looks real – the character, through both the remarkable physical appearance as well as his onscreen actions, is genuinely brought to life.

Surprisingly, the human characters aren’t quite as well realized. Where Caesar’s evolution is unique and compelling, most of the other actors in the film are reduced to very traditional roles. Franco’s Rodman is the obsessed but sensitive scientist who breaks the rules for all the right reasons. The actor does a competent job of interacting with the CGI Caesar – as well as pumping some believable emotion into the human-side of the equation. However, even a talented performer like Franco is somewhat held-back by the film’s interest in his ape counterpart; as a result, Rodman is mostly reacting to the things happening around him – and isn’t given much room to evolve. Similarly, Freida Pinto plays Caroline Aranha, a veterinarian that becomes involved with Rodman – another character that is mostly defined by a relationship, not her actions. Again, Pinto delivers a okay performance in the role but isn’t given anywhere to take it. Lithgow delivers a few charming moments, but the other supporting characters – specifically cruel animal sanctuary wardens John and Dodge Landon (Brian Cox and Tom Felton, respectively) – are one-note caricatures – as is David Oyelowo’s money-hungry executive, Steven Jacobs.

It’s an ironic state of affairs that – in a film about apes that break free from the confines of human oppression – it is the human actors who are restrained by the weight of their digital colleagues.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Caesar Attacks Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review

Caesar leads the attack in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

Anyone looking for Rise of the Planet of the Apes to put a cap on summer action spectacle will probably get dragged down by the pace of  Wyatt’s film. In spite of the CGI action-heavy finale, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is mostly a plodding character drama – one that features a number of tense, but mostly small-scale, encounters. While everything that’s depicted onscreen is interesting, and successfully works to develop Caesar’s character, the film does get bogged-down at times. The final act offers a number of interesting visuals (most notably an empty suburban street lined with trees – and falling leaves) and successfully depicts the actual rise of the apes – but anyone expecting a large-scale, action-packed, finale might be a little let-down. However, for viewers who are locked into the film’s character moments, the final set-piece manages to deliver both a dramatic and emotional pay-off – not to mention successfully ties the film to the overarching franchise (though Rise takes a number of liberties with the accepted canon).

Planet of the Apes die-hards will, no doubt, notice a few nods to the original films peppered throughout Rise (especially an on-the-nose sequence during the credits). However, it’s important to note that, for anyone who might be turned-off by the campy sci-fi roots of the film, the tie-ins are ancillary to the far more compelling story of Caesar’s psychological evolution. As mentioned, the heavy-handed Planet of the Apes branding may dominate the film’s marketing campaign, but the actual story and characters depicted onscreen successfully rise above the PR blitz to deliver a unique and compelling movie-going experience.

Despite thin human drama, and one note supporting characters, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a surprisingly sincere story that elevates the franchise canon – and delivers one of the most life-like and honest digital characters ever constructed with 1’s and 0’s on a computer.

If you’re still on the fence about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, check out the trailer below:

[poll id=”175″]

If you’ve already seen the film and want to talk about various plot details without ruining it for others, head over to our Rise of the Planet of the Apes spoilers discussion.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick – and let us know what you thought of the film below.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Very good movie 4/5.
    Very good but too short,feels like a one time watch movie.

  2. I thought it was a very good movie, and I enjoyed it, but it totally diregarded the more recent movie with Mark Walberg and how the Apes got started and on another planet or alternate reality. Inconsistent as far as I am concerned. Should have kept it named Ceaser and not associated it with Planet of the Apes. Overall I guess I am disappointed relative to it being a prequel, thought we already had one that was great.

    • That movie has been discarded as a viable reboot. This movie is a prequel/semi-reboot (semi-reboot because it changed some of the mythology of the original Heston version).

    • Yeah, the Mark Walburg film isn’t part of the continuity that ‘Rise’ is pursuing. ‘Rise’ was inconsistant with the Walburg film because they weren’t paying any attention to that movie. I wouldn’t knock ‘Rise’ because it doesn’t mesh with Walburg’s movie, it was never meant to.

  3. It should of tied in with mark walburns. I dont think it doed. What fo you all think?

    • What?

    • I agree,it would also be cool to see a sequel to Mark Waulberg’s,taken from exactly where it ended.

      • I don’t even know what he was saying.

        • It’s cool when you can laugh at other peoples responses, that one left me holding my side!!!

          • I agree, “hi I’m a stroke victim!” responses are actually my favorite, especially the ones that not only can barely be read, but barely make any logical sense as well.

  4. I will see the movie in a few days, so I don’t want heavy spoilers, but there is no word in the review about one problem: How can some apes, regardless how inteligent they are, overrun the heavy armed mankind with javelin throwing.

    I don’t want to know exactly how they managed this problem in the movie (again, I don’t want heavy spoilers), but if it is solved in a believable way.

    • It is solved in a believable way.

      • Yup!

    • Don’t even worry. Get your drink, your popcorn, whatever else you need then relax and enjoy the ride!!! You might want to write “GO APES!!!” on an old sheet so you can wave it around the theater………yea, it’s like that!!

      • Ok, thanks i’m looking forward to it :)

  5. Some of you have some very narrow-minded gripes. I supposed you expect a movie to spell out EVERYTHING for you or something.

    The movie is named Rise of PotA and not Rise of the Apes because the franchise is “Planet of the Apes.” Plain and simple. This is a new movie, a prequel and a reboot. In the original series, we’re introduced to things after apes have already taken over. This is introducing us to the new story. As an introduction, we know the general premise of the series is that Apes supplant us and this movie was designed to give us the “how” for the new series going forward. It think it did that very well.

    This is an airborne virus that infects humans and apes, it just doesn’t kill the latter. Just like humans breathe and sneeze on one another and pass along a cold, the Apes are going to breath on one another too. So the longer any given ape is in the company of others, the more the infection takes hold (that’s how the zoo apes get smarter, though not as smart as the ones who inhaled more or like Caesar who was born with a different strain).

    A larger (but subtle) point in this movie is: this could’ve been avoided if it was tested on humans. But, of course, that would never happen because it’s inhumane, right? So we test on animals (which is wrong) and we screw ourselves in the process. And the apes rise.

    Anyone who thinks the military would be deployed on US soil to kill primates in a National (treasure of a) forest has never paid 30 seconds of attention to politics. The idea would be deferred to a committee and debated on the floor of Congress while the larger focus was put on the virus that’s popping up and killing people. With Jacobs and the lead researcher dead, who’d listen to Will when he says he knows that the virus makes apes smarter? Nobody. The CDC would try to contain it, panic would ensue as people die, etc, etc. It’s easy to see how the next movie would show a massively smaller, terrified human population.

    • This page is for giving comments without spoilers, or your reviews please don’t mess it up for the next guy!!! There is a spoilers discussion page on this site as well, thanks.

  6. I liked it but I wouldn’t go so far as calling it the best movie of the summer. For me, that title is for Captain America.

    But this movie I thoroughly enjoyed. I LOVED the nods to the original film. I give it a 3.5 out 5 instead of a full 4. Only because of this:

    SPOILERS? My only problem was that the movie never really shows the full scale of how many apes are in that ape refuge building. You’re left to wonder exactly how many apes are in that building until the last 20 min of the movie via bird’s eye view camera shots. There’s no real sense of the vast numbers of them being held there. It didn’t look like that many in the in the few shots of the cage area and when they were all let loose in the play area of the refuge.

    Because of this I was left wondering where did all these apes come from out of that building? I would’ve liked more apes shown in the refuge to give a better sense of believability that they CAN in fact take over. And yes I realize that AFTERWARDS they head to the zoo and lab to acquire additional “help” but I felt a majority of their numbers relied on how many apes were held in the refuge.

    Other than that good movie. Excited to see how they proceed and show their evolution. I recommend it to anyone.

    • They freed some from the zoo as well

    • Where did you read it was a stand-alone? EVERYWHERE that I’ve read has referred to this as the beginning of a new series. Everything official states it as such; if you stumble upon random channels that call it a stand-alone, I’d be skeptical.

  7. I think this movie mainly shows how great apes should be given basic rights and not be treated as just “dumb animals” sure they aren’t as smart as us, but they feel emotion etc. We should allow them to live unharmed in their own environment. Respect their territory instead of turning it into tables and chairs

  8. Saw it today (8/12/11). Very good movie and recommended, but I will always love the original with Charleton Heston, Roddy McDowell, et al. Of course, this was not a “remake” like the sloppy attempt by Tim Burton. This is supposedly how it all begins. Enjoy!

  9. Like many, I was a kid the first time I saw PotA with Charlton Heston. I found it intriguing and it spurred my love of sci-fi. This movie fits into the mythology very well. You wouldn’t have to be a fan of the franchise to enjoy this movie. It’s well done as a stand alone film, although I would like to see more. I concur with the 4/5. Some sloppiness (did anyone else notice Felton slipping betwixt accents?) some fantastic cgi, great nods to the original, and some actually good human performances (I thought Lithgow and Franco were very good). Only the most purist of snobs would not enjoy this movie, and even they would if they suspended belief and let themselves enjoy something for a minute.

  10. Thouroughly enjoyed the movie and will definitely be going again – who
    knows not so many apes of all species around the world will get such raw deal and lets not forget we are apes too – so give the apes that are caged around the world a break – good to see MAN getting his arse kicked!!!!!

    • Send money to some dude on the internet? Sounds like a GREAT idea!

      wait, no. terrible idea.

    • Get a job

  11. free – movies – on – line . com

  12. This movie was great! It took a while to start the “rise”, but it didn’t seem dull or slow.

  13. There are two main aspects of this movie that made me love it. One is at the end as the credits rolled they showed David Hewlett (Hunsiker the neighbor) on his way to work. I will not say what his profession is, as to not spoil what is the greatest lead in to what must be the next movie’s premiss as to how the Apes came to rule the planet Earth. The other is to how as we all know from the original Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston (Taylor) lands on a planet inhabited by intelligent Apes. Obvious he is from Earth, but how will the next movie make this happen if we know the Apes now are about to control Earth in our modern time line. Well, the movie (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) gives us the answer, but it is inserted into the movie in such a subtle way that I feel many missed it. Once again I will not expose the movie makers genius. Just want all to know that its in their, look for it or be lost. Great Great movie I loved it. Mario.

    • this movie was faboo i totally enjoyed it like i wanna c it again and again and again and again and the monkeys were fluffy and the people were cute my fave persn was obviosly grandpa and one of my favorite parts was when the guy sneezed out blood i was dying laughing so was my great great aunt actually the movie was terrrible omg what am i saying it was freaking amazing lolzzz

  14. Worst Apes movie ever. With the original five, each was a step down, so the last was the worst. Until now. The only connection it has to the Apes canon is to offer an explanation for the supposed genetic engineering proposed in the Tim Burton reboot. So there’s really no connection at all. Too bad nobody ever thought to tell the story of the change in the original timeline that developed through the original five movies. And at least the reboot version brought us back to an ending that more or less coincided with the very first story (the book, that is). But that’s all done now. Ya know the difference between a “clincher” and a “kicker?” A clincher is the last one. Done deal. No more. A kicker is one more. The Tim Burton movie was the clincher- end of the old storyline. This one is the kicker… in the teeth, that is! Mind you, it’s well done- brilliant in its visuals. But the story? Ho-hum. Been done before. Critters over-running the city, oh my! Andromeda Strain over-runs the planet, oh no! And bad guy begs at the end, oh yes! How very Disney… Ah, well- it’s clinched and kicked.

    • And the story is thin and the acting is flat. I’m just saying.

      • I thought that Franco’s acting was rather wooden. It may be a stretch to act against nothing but your imagination, but that’s what he was paid to do. His love interest seemed shoehorned in with very little to do, and many of the other characters were one dimensional. There were so many stupid moments, my favorite being where one guy is exposed to the aerosol based ‘compound’ and all they say is ‘get your mask back on!’ They don’t test him or quarantine him, or even care that he doesn’t show up for work because he’s sick…OK, you need to have your little end credit fun, but couldn’t there have been some intelligence in the movie? Personally I think a great way to transmit the virus would have been some hot human/chimp action-but I’m twisted. It might have made the movie more interesting though.

  15. My favorite character was the Orangutan. Anyone else?

    • Ceaser of course

      • YES! The 3Orang-utan, that’s what i was thinking throughout watching him, he’s a great character and really added to the story of the revolution in a way i didn’t see coming, despite so many other elements being revealed by the marketing. Did anyone else feel like some aspects of the revolution had a Greek/Roman epic feel to them? Caesar should have been called Spartacus!

  16. I loved this movie looking forward for the Sequel. I was happy that I finally understood the Origins of this story and how it all fit into the puzzle

  17. Sorry Chase, I am not trying to keep it to myself. What I am doing in my review is not being a plot spoiler to those whom have not seen the movie. I encourage everyone to see the movie and look for the two aspects of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I loved. It’s a hint that I hope to pass on, without wrecking the thought process for all who haven’t seen the movie. Please stay though the movie credits to see one of what I speak of and look close for the other. Once the movie is out of the theaters, I will reply with the exact scenes that I have written about. In doing this maybe I can help you feel special about yourself as I do about myself. Mario.

  18. through the previews, you would think that the apes were evil and bent on taking over the world. This movie was very well done

  19. I was starting to like Franco but he wasnt very good in this. He didnt act like a scientist, sound like one, or look like one. He could have been the janitor or the cable tv installer. Flat.

  20. I don’t remember if I’ve commented on this page yet, but I just wanted to say that I finally saw this movie a few days ago and loved it. Bravo to WETA and Andy Serkis, it was one hell of a ride.

  21. i don; remember, if i ve commented on this page yet but i just wanted to say that i finally saw this movie a few day ago and loved it. bravo to weta and andy serkis , it was one hell of a ride,

  22. I thought this movie was excellent. I’ve read that people take issue with the science, but really, it’s just a movie, and anyone who saw the original (and enjoyed it) shouldn’t be too hung up on that.

    I’m curious to see where they go with the lost astronaut. It’s shaping up like Dawn of the POTA will be a remake of Battle for the POTA, and the last movie in the trilogy will be a remake of the original 1968 film.

    I also thought the Apes looked pretty good considering they were digital…much better than anything Peter Jackson gave us in the Hobbit Movies.

    I would have given it 5 stars but I kinda took issue with the relationship between Caesar and the Franco Character, I mean, they spent 8 years with one another, but it felt more like 8 months. Once Caesar refused to leave, why did he just leave so easily? Why even leave Caesar at THAT sanctuary? Their goodbye was a bit lackluster as well “Caesar is home…and oh by the way, don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

    I can’t wait to see Dawn. Should be good. Too bad Buck couldn’t be in this one too.