What the Hell Is Going on Here? Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Doesn't Suck?

Admittedly, the newest installment of The Planet of The Apes saga didn't really have people waiting in anticipation for a great movie. At best viewers were probably hoping that it didn't completely suck, and there would be enough cool ape on human violence to at least cover the cost of the ticket. However this prequel not only surprises, but Rise of The Planet of The Apes exceeds all expectations and rises above as the best blockbuster this summer.
Taking a completely different tone than Tim Burton's 2001 campy remake, 20th Century Fox goes for a more stripped down visceral tone, and the results are amazing. While giving nods to the original films and throwing in some subtle foreshadowing of events to come, Rise of the Planet of The Apes does just as well as a standalone movie, and hits all the high notes of a great action film, while giving the viewer much more character development than is the norm for these types of movies.
The film takes place in the modern world, as scientist Will Rodman, played by James Franco, tries to find a cure for Alzheimer's, motivated by his father's declining health. It's a balancing act for Rodman, who is trying push forward with his research while David Oyelowo as corporate head Jacobs is trying to make sure that this will bring their pharmaceutical business big money, and if not will scrap the project altogether.
Honestly the human cast isn't anything special. James Franco could have been replaced by several actors without the performance dropping in quality, and maybe even slightly improving. Oyelowo, and Tom Felton as ape abusing Dodge are servicable enough bad guys, but won't be making anyone's top 100 villain lists anytime soon. Freida Pinto playing Rodman's girlfriend Caroline seems to disappear during the movie and might only be there for Franco to talk to someone about his thoughts without turning to soliloquy in the middle of the movie. The one bright spot among the human actors is John Lithgow as Rodman's Alzheimer's stricken father. It's a relatively small role, but he does a great job of helping to humanize and help the audience sympathize with the main chimp character Caesar.
But this is Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and no one came to see James Franco or any of the other humans. Fortunately the apes more than make up for it. We see Caesar from baby chimp orphaned and destined for euthanasia rescued and brought up with a human family. The character development for this stop motion cgi ape is amazing, and really adds to the later action scenes. We see Caesar growing up, questioning his place in the world. In one scene Caesar sees a dog on a leash, then looks at his own leash and collar and asks his human "father" if he is a pet. After trying to protect John Lithgow's character from bullying he ends up in a primate facility, which plays out as a prison scene, with Caesar having to grow up fast and eventually becoming something of a revolutionary.
The other apes that eventually make up Caesar's crew are also great. With their own distinctive personalities, back stories, and even movements, no two apes seem the same. There is Rocket, the Alpha chimp bully of the facility. Buck, a monstrous giant ape and the brawn of the army. Maurice, the former circus Orangutan and the only other ape who can communicate by sign language before the apes become super smart, and Koba, the stone cold killer of the crew, abused by years at different medical and science labs and menacing to look at when freed. The characterization of the apes and their growth through the film just make the payoff in the movie's climactic battle scene all the more amazing. You root for these characters, cheering when a familiar ape does something epic during the battle, or feel when one goes down in battle.
And the action in the movie is shockingly good. Although billed as a sci-fi movie, Rise of The Planet of The Apes is as good as any Hollywood action movie released this year. The director Rupert Wyatt is a relatively young director, with only one film under his belt The Escapist a UK prison break movie. But this near rookie UK director does action scenes just as good as his U.S. counterparts and in some ways does better than most. The action looks stunning and flows well, and as stated before hits the viewer even harder having set up the character growth earlier in the film. AT this point in the film you are rooting for the downfall of the humans and marveling at the action sequences.
Rise of The Planet of The Apes was not only more impressive than expected, it is a solid action movie and probably this summer's best. Although listed as a prequel to the Planet of The Apes series, and talks of a franchise based on this film, even if that never happens this could standalone as one of the great sci-fi/action films of recent years.

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