My jam. So this is about a company that is developing a drug to help cure Alzheimer’s disease. Like many companies out there, they test on animals, and in this case, it’s chimpanzees. This focuses on an ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the scientist (James Franco) who opted to take him home instead of put him down. Caesar has unprecedented intelligence, and he is fully capable of organizing an ape uprising if he isn’t raised carefully. Now I’ve never watched any of the original movies from back in the day; I have heard good things, of course, but I just haven’t found the time to go down that road just yet. It is not even wholly necessary to do that homework, though, as these movies stand on their own just fine. With the release of War of the Planet of the Apes, I decided that now was as good of a time as any to revisit this amazing franchise, and I still feel confident in saying that this is the best film released in 2011.
I will fight you over this movie.
Where you may be surprised by this film is that it is not really the action movie that it is sold as. It is an emotionally driven drama that has a very distinct three act structure, and while it does give you the big set piece that you were promised in the finale, it takes its time with in depth character development. I’m not exaggerating, either, and it gets downright heartbreaking at points. This story is anchored by the performance given by Andy Serkis, and it is such a different means of acting that I don’t think we have ever seen before, outdoing his already terrific track record. I do understand that the Academy is still not ready to recognize a motion capture performance, but the show that Serkis puts on here is absolutely worthy of at least a nomination. He conveys so many nuances without even speaking, covering a multitude of emotions, it is an event to behold. Backing that up is groundbreaking special effects, and that is where some of my favorite films surface: where amazing and spellbinding effects meet quality acting that gets you invested in the story.
This series wouldn’t be nearly as outstanding without the efforts of Serkis.
This blew me away when it first came out, and I still hold it dear to my heart. At its core it is a boy and his dog story, but it is so much more than that. It never lets you forget how scary chimps can be, and this movie is the reason why news stories of apes going wild will always get my attention. Caesar is such a terrific character, he is more than enough to anchor a trilogy, and I love love LOVE this film
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) *****
– Critic for Hire