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Rise of the Planet of the Apes - The Review
As previously stated, I am a life long Apeist.

I came of age in that sweet spot in the 70s where the original Planet of the Apes franchise was everywhere - movies, TV, cartoons, even toys.

I think I still have my Mego Cornelius action figure somewhere.

So, it was with great exitement that I dragged my wife to see the new Planet of the Apes movie in 2001.

It was with equally great disappointment that we left the theater later that night.

Tim Burton's reimagining was heavy handed and, somehow, just wrong.

Needless to say, the missus was having no part of the franchise rebooting that was Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Too bad.

The creative team behind RoTPoTA got it right.  They got it right in a big way.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes all of the entertaining elements of the original series and recasts them for the 21st century.

James Franco stars as a genetic researcher looking for a cure for Alzheimer's in order to help his father, John Lithgow, stave off the disease.  His research has some unexpected results, specifically a baby chimp who is gifted with human level IQ as a result of his mother's exposure to Franco's experimental drug.

The chimp is named Caesar, and if you have any familiarity with the PoTA series, you know that bodes ill for mankind.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes borrows its basic premise from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth film in the original series.  Those basic beats are where the similarities end.

Rise is its own beast.

As we follow Caesar's evolution from pet to child to inmate to liberator to conqueror, you can't help but root for the chimp.  He's unique in all the world and all he wants to belong, but he's to animal too be human and too human to be accepted by the apes.

What does he do?  He makes his own people.

Saying anymore would be giving away too much.

The pacing of the movie is good.  It takes the time to establish the Franco/Lithgow dynamic so that Franco's motivations don't seem forced.  The use of flashforwards to age Caesar and advance the romantic involvement of Franco and Frieda Pinto works as well.

I really enjoyed the segment of the movie where Caesar is thrust into a primate preserve.  It was as if someone put a reel of a prison movie in the middle of Rise.  We watch Caesar go from the new fish to the yard boss.  We see him stand up to his violent jailers.  We see him enlist the help of unexpected allies.  It was a very cool homage to another genre. 

I don't even know where to start with Andy Serkis' Caesar.  The prosthetics of the original movies are gone.  In there place is the motion capture suit that has become Serkis' trademark.  Serkis' brings Caesar to life in a most spectacular manner.  His mannerisms really give the viewer a sense of the changes that Caesar is going through.

Of course, half the fun of a reboot like this is watching for the callbacks to the original.  There are plenty of those to choose from here.  Watch Caesar build a model of the Statue of Liberty.  Pray for the crew of the Icarus space mission.  Keep an eye out for Charlton Heston.  And, of course, we get the most famous line in the history of the franchise.

I was also impressed with how effortlessly the creators were able to set up future installments of the series without it impeding the narrative of this one.

I was anxiously excited about a return of the Planet of the Apes.  After seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I'm excited to see where they take the franchise.

Hail Caesar!
Posted in: Movies
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