Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – 3/5

Not a complete piece of crap, but not great either. Barely good, actually. Silly, clichéd story, poor character development, cartoony CGI, huge lapses in logic, a script that lacks any understanding of the scientific process, and questionable acting, especially from James Franco who once again proves he’s the most overrated, least interesting actor working today.

Granted he isn’t the worst thing about the movie, and after a while his mediocrity starts becoming less and less noticeable, especially given the great emotional weight carried, successfully, by the infinitely more believable and sympathetic CGI ape at the heart of the film. But still, just how terrible of an actor do you have to be for a mute, computer generated monkey to out act you? You know you have a problem when something that technically doesn’t even exist is able to express more humanity and elicit more sympathy from the audience with a single glance than you can in an entire two-hour film. Stay in school, Franco.

Anyway, the movie has its moments. The idea for the film is interesting, though poorly executed at times, and I liked the inclusion of the **SPOILERS** contagious virus element at the end, though I found it silly that the same drug used to make these apes smarter would also be responsible for what’s implied to be a world-wide epidemic set to wipe out humanity and make way for the apes. What an amazing coincidence, eh? **END SPOILERS** But the film is filled with such good ideas spoiled by huge lapses in logic.

The experiment that sets everything in motion makes absolutely no sense; what does increasing the intelligence of apes have to do with curing Alzheimers? Humans and apes share similar genetic characteristics, sure, but they’re still completely different animals, and what works for one species may not necessarily work for another. And the problem with Alzheimer patients isn’t that they’re less intelligent, nor would increasing their intelligence make them less prone to the ill effects of the disease. It just makes no sense, and totally took me out of the film.

I get that this is a science fiction film and not based on reality and yadda yadda, but damn it, if you’re going to make a movie where the main thrust of everything that happens is due to a scientific experiment gone somewhat awry, at least make some effort to stay scientifically grounded. It’s fine to make crap up, but when you go out of your way to really over do it, and you don’t even bother sticking to the reality you’ve just created once you’ve done so like this does repeatedly, it just comes off as lazy, and stupid, and annoying. This kind of brainless storytelling implies that the filmmakers just don’t have very much respect for the intelligence of their audience. They’re insulting you, plain and simple.

They don’t think you’re familiar with or capable of understanding drug and animal testing, or product marketing, or the dangers of experimenting with untested, brain altering chemicals on humans, so everything is dumbed down and simplified, logical and scientific lapses are ignored, and James Franco suddenly becomes the brilliant scientist who will guide us by the hand through this brainless new world in his typical big chinned, unemotive manner many have come to be fooled into thinking is great acting. No, people. Demand more from your movies, damn it. You’re smarter than this.

Science and story aside, the characters are all caricatures, especially Freida Pinto whose presence at first makes you think she’s going to actually contribute something useful to the plot, but no, she doesn’t. But man is she pretty. And John Lithgow, god, why? What a waste of a good actor.  Why was he even in this? Money? Must be. And the CGI, though terrible at times, especially when capturing fast movement, is pretty good during closeups and slower moments. The main ape, Cesar, looks so realistic at times that it’s downright frightening, as did that larger, orange-ish ape he eventually meets. It has its moments, in other words. Still not quite there, though, but almost. The motion capture for Cesar really pays off, though, as I mentioned before; the emotion in its eyes and various expressions are very powerful, more so than anything expressed by any human in this film, at least. It’s Cesar’s movie in a way, and he’s the only reason the movie works at all.

There’s also a lot of interesting symbolism here and there, especially with the ape climbing the tall tree and looking over the San Francisco skyline, almost as though the film is saying, yes, it’s been a long hard climb to the top of the evolutionary ladder, but they’re there now, and soon, the world will be theirs. Clever. And the moments in the cages were interesting. That whole hierarchy of dominant and submissive ape and Cesar needing to acclimate to his new environment and all that was cool, even though it gets stupid when ***SPOILERS** Cesar makes them smart by stealing the smart gas stuff and releasing it over all of them. Wasn’t the drug originally established as a liquid and administered through a syringe? When did it suddenly become a gas? Oh, when the plot conveniently needed it to, right. **END SPOILERS** Stupid.

In summary, eh. Stupid movie at times, beautiful at others. Mostly stupid though. Good concept, terrible execution. Has its moments, but if you’re going to watch it, do so for Cesar’s, the ape, performance, which is better than that of most flesh and blood actors at times. But that’s the only reason to watch this, really. Otherwise, stay away.


    • AudiomanNH
    • February 4th, 2012

    I was carried away by this movie enough not to want my $1.20 rental fee refunded. This review is right-on the mark.

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