Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt

Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Ok so it’s not necessarily a horror movie, but it is a reboot (yes I said reboot and not remake) of a great movie written in part by the guy that gave us all The Twilight Zone, so that’s more than enough pedigree for me. So get ready to pick some bugs from your buddy’s hide with you filthy paws, its monkey time.

Rise is set in modern day earth where we humans still call the shots. Thankfully there is no capsule falling from the stars with space chimps in it. Unfortunately it’s the old chestnut of trying to defeat Alzheimer’s disease by genetically altering animals that gets folks into trouble. Come on people, that’s the exact same setup for Deep Blue Sea, and you know how well that went. Anyway, this time around the well-meaning scientists are experimenting on apes instead of sharks, so I guess that’s a little better. This testing results in a supper smart mommy monkey who goes berserk one day defending her super smart baby, so she is killed and the project is scrapped by the typical evil rich businessman. But one scientist, played by a rather wooden James Franco, sneaks the genius chimp out of the testing labs to raise as his own. This Mensa monkey is named Caesar and yes, that name should sound familiar to you, for more than just historic and pizza reasons.

Caesar grows up like your typical hyper intelligent primate, looking on the outside world with longing from his attic bedroom. The classic tale of “who am I?” is played out as Caesar is smart enough to know that he’s different from his adoptive father and grandfather (John Lithgow doing a good job as Franco’s Alzheimer’s afflicted father) but he doesn’t know why he’s different. Things then go from sad to bad when the demented granddad goes outside and gets accosted by the world’s biggest jackass neighbor. When Caesar swings in (literally) to save the day and bites the douchebag’s fingers off, he gets sentenced to monkey jail until the courts decide what to do with him. And as you would guess, bad goes to worse as the ape house is run by Brian Cox and has Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films) as a scumbag assistant. Yeah, I’m sure Caesar will have no problems with either of them.

The movie next becomes a bit of a primate prison film with Caesar having to prove himself to the other apes, including the big bully chimp of the cellblock. Meanwhile the well-meaning scientist tries to get his ape buddy back, but at the same time he continues his work on the wonder drug that made Caesar so smart. But before long Caesar decides he’s had enough of man’s cruelty to his kind, so he steals a bunch of the smart drug, doses all of the apes in the monkey prison, and stages the great ape revolt.

I have to admit that when I started this film I had very low expectations. While I liked the original Planet Of The Apes movie, I was never a fan of all the various sequels, so I didn’t have any fanboy love for this series. Also the previews I had seen for the flick just looked silly; it looked like a CGI monkey fest where apes could somehow overcome a SWAT team complete with machineguns and helicopters. That said, I was surprisingly won over by this film. Sure there were a lot of silly bits in it, but that’s to be expected in any movie with super smart apes in it. But here the story was surprisingly engaging, all the actors did a very good job, and even James Franco was less wooded than usual. Special kudos must be given to Caesar as both a good looking CGI creation, and a fine performance by the master of mocap (motion capture) acting, Andy Serkis, who mastered his virtual acting skills by playing Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings films and Kong in 2005 King Kong remake. The vast majority of time I can’t stand CGI, but here I not only didn’t mind it, but I sometimes forgot I was looking at a computer created character. Higher praise than that, I cannot think of.

As far as extras go, this is one of those three-way combo packs that I like so much. That means it has the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy of the movie to choose from. In addition there are a ton of goodies on the Blu-ray disc including audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a boatload of featurettes with many of them focusing on the CGI/mocap aspect of the film and on Andy Serkis in particular. A nice collection of trailers, concept art, a look at the previous Apes films, and more round out the impressive list of extras to be found on this Blu-ray.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a fun, popcorn-muncher of a film with a lot more depth in it than I would have thought. I think it will satisfy both fans of the original series and those who have never seen any of the previous Ape films. And as someone who was neither, I really liked it too. So consider this bit of monkey business recommended.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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