A lot of critics were giving this movie pretty good reviews so I went in hoping that it would be more than what I thought it would be but to be perfectly honest…it was EXACTLY what I thought it was gonna be. Not that it’s a bad thing but this prequel to “Planet of the Apes” didn’t blow me away even though it was, for the most part, a decent afternoon matinee.
Set in modern times, the story follows scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) as he is trying to perfect a serum that will cure Alzheimer’s. In order to conduct the studies, the science team experiments on apes. One of the first recipients to have positive results becomes super smart but then hostile as she tries to protect her newborn child. The child is put in the custody of Rodman, who takes him home, names him “Caesar” and keeps him like a surrogate son. Caesar grows into a rather large ape and has an IQ that far surpasses anything that Rodman has ever seen before. But trying to keep Caesar in his home becomes an issue as Caesar starts to become more & more interested in the outside world. Eventually, in a fit of rage, he attacks someone while trying to protect Rodman’s father (John Lithgow) and is placed in a shelter for monkeys of all shapes & sizes. It is here that he begins to come into his own and soon leads a primate rebellion against the evil caretaker (played gleefully by Tom Felton of the “Harry Potter” series) and the ambivalent shelter owner (Brian Cox).
Although this film is directed well enough and the action sequences are fun to watch, I couldn’t totally buy into this movie. Not that I don’t understand what has happened to the human race that leads them into the 1968 classic because I do. But the ending is unfortunately tacked on and you’re left with the sense that what happens AFTER the ending is when everything unravels. Will there be a sequel? It’s hard to tell. But I know HOW the world ends but I don’t get to see it happen, so that bothers me.
All of the actors in this film are great and fill their roles with good performances. I really liked Franco’s role and thought he did a pretty good job with it. Lithgow was a perfect choice as the father dealing with Alzheimer’s and Felton is excellent as the evil caretaker. The only role not given any substance is Freida Pinto as Rodman’s love interest. She seems tacked in and never does much. The real talent in this movie though is CGI monkey maker supreme, Andy Serkis. Once again Serkis works his magic as a primate (he was King Kong in the 2005 remake) as the CGI wizards in Hollywood work their magic to create a lifelike looking Caesar. Serkis moves like a monkey and even creates facial expressions that are very primate looking. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Caesar was a real animal! But of course he’s not.
The only other thing that I found to be incredulous was the attack of the apes on San Francisco. I’m not sure how it happens but from the time the apes escape from the shelter to when they reach the city, somehow they TRIPLE their numbers. Even if there were 5 zoos located near SF, I’m not sure that there would be THAT many monkeys within a 50 mile radius. So how they suddenly appear to go on a rampage is beyond me.
Anyway, those are my pros and 2 cons for “Rise” because it’s actually done very well and is an easy enough story to follow. All the actors do a good job and the director and producers have put together a pretty good story. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t blown away by the movie and I left with the feeling that what was an average movie might have been spectacular had they sped things up a little and showed HOW the apes took over the planet. But we’re left with a cliffhanger ending (even if we DO know what starts the end of humankind) and very little to motivate me to see a sequel should they decide to make one.
Overall Rating: C+