In most animal attack movies, the wild animal is always the monster that needs to be killed in order for the humans to live, but in this film, it’s not so one-sided. Despite what you may think from seeing the trailer, the apes don’t try to dominate humans, there goal is simply to liberate themselves from the captivity of human kind. In fact, they try their best not to kill anyone, they only kill in self-defense and even in that respect there’s nothing pleasant about it. There’s a moment when Caesar defends himself against the bully character, which unintentionally takes his life and you can tell from the reaction on Caesar’s face that it really hurt him deep down to take a life. As an interesting result, you find yourself cheering for the apes. Even though you naturally don’t want to see the humans trampled underfoot, this film really gets you to care for the ape characters, and it just hurts you to see them getting beaten with bats and clubs.
Andy Serkis is no stranger to this craft and has played all kinds of memorable CGI characters including Golem from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is also known for playing King Kong in the 2005 remake. Now it may seem strange to give so much credit to an actor that’s basically one big special effect but so much character and personality come from his simple body movements and posturing that it feels like a genuinely human performance, in fact many people suggested that he be the first CGI actor in history to be nominated for the best actor award. Most of the remaining apes in the film are played by other talented CGI actors and it’s a unique change from the makeup that where so accustomed to seeing in these films. I was a little skeptical going in because I always prefer makeup or puppets and I didn’t think I’d get that much realism from a bunch of CGI apes. To my surprise, they looked really good for the most part and I actually began to forget that they were CG creatures. There are some obvious CGI moments like when we see Caesar as an infant but the fully-grown Caesar looked very believable, as did many other shots involving herds of apes.
Overall, this was a very good movie that took an old, deflated franchise and gave it new life again. Most people would still call the original the absolute best, but personally, I think this this one is better. Rupert Wyatt’s direction is just so precise, stylish and everything else just feels so professionally handled. More than anything, I love that while this film has its share of impressive special effects, this doesn’t feel like a big special effects picture, it feels like a genuinely good film, with characters that hold your attention and a story that keeps you guessing what the outcome might be. It’s the kind of film that I hope Hollywood would make more of, something that doesn’t go straight for non-stop action and visual effects. Now the movie isn’t a landmark masterpiece or anything like that, but it is still very well constructed, delivers a rich warning on the dangers of science and offers an interesting new perspective regarding the wild animal on the loose franchise.
I give “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” 4 stars.