Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Great Setup for one of the Best Trilogies
The reboot of the Planet of the Apes series from 2011-2017 is one of, if not the best trilogies in my opinion. Rise of the Planet of the Apes launches an incredible trilogy following Caesar, a highly intelligent, English-speaking, Ape. Andy Serkis’ performance is generational and the storytelling of these films is almost perfect.
Rise isn’t the best film in this trilogy, and admittedly is objectively the worst. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s great. I just think these movies get better and better as they go. The reason this film isn’t nearly as good, is because it has a lot of explaining to do. We follow a human character for a large portion of the film, Will Rodman, played by James Franco. I think the human aspect in these films is often the hardest parts to connect with. They’re not nearly as interesting as the hyper-intelligent Apes, escaping captivity.
This film establishes why Caesar is one of the best characters ever put to film. It treats him as a person. Will Rodman treats this baby ape as his own son, teaches him and trains him and Caesar grows to feel like his true son. To the outside world however, he is only an animal and a pet. It’s sad, but Caesar kind of just has to get used to it. Later in the movie, Caesar is banished from society to join a group of caged Apes. He hasn’t really been amongst his own kind and at the beginning is bullied. As time goes on and he sees what people can be, what apes can be, and who he is, someone essentially. in the middle, he realizes the responsibility he has.
These apes shouldn’t be caged, he isn’t lesser than these humans, he shouldn’t be tortured every day and he can’t abandon his own kind to that fate. So he shares the drug that made him smart and the apes Rise into a new civilization of apes. It’s inspiring and really great storytelling. We root for the apes, not because the film says men are bad, but because in this film, they aren’t unlike us.
The CGI in this film is phenomenal. It was a very clear and long stride forward from films of its time and it still holds up today. There are a few moments that are less good, but nothing that really stands out as bad. Each lead ape character has a clear personality that we can understand, which is really hard to achieve visibly and from a storytelling standpoint.
Overall, I love this film. The visuals are great, the characters are mostly good. In context with the other films, this is even better. The final standoff on the Golden Gate Bridge is a brilliantly dramatic and emotional action scene. Will I watch it again? Absolutely. Should you watch it? Please do, this is a great, great film.