If you couldn’t already tell from my Primate Primer, I’m a bit of a Planet of the Apes nut. Unfortunately I had to wait an extra week to view the film with a special someone, and then some time on the road and away from my computer led to this review coming in much later than it should have. Critics have already heaped on plenty of praise when it comes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and audiences are loving it as well, but I can’t help but heap in my own two cents. And those two cents are very, very positive. This is my favorite Apes film of the lot.
And the best part is that this film should absolutely not be as good as it is. With a bare bones budget and the dreaded “rebot/prequel” buzz word, Rise never garnered much attention until the apes effects were shown off, and that may have been for the best. Director Rupert Wyatt was able to film without worrying about overzealous fanboy attention, and with lowered expectations Rise has come out of nowhere and really knocked it out of the park.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Andy Serkis and the Weta team that brought Caesar to life deserve the Visual Effects Oscar this year. I cannot imagine another film that will so completely create a character that feels so alive, so complete, and so beautiful out of nothing but 1s and 0s. Caesar is my favorite character of 2011, and Fox was brave to center a film around a tragic figure who has little to say.
But when he does speak, both verbally and through sign language, you can’t take your eyes of him. I titled this review “Why Cookie Rocket?”* a question that comes from Caesar’s second in command, Maurice, but the answer to the question is the whole crux of the film: “Apes alone, weak. Apes together, strong.”
That statement applies to humans too, by the way, and I think that plays into how the film is being so embraced by the public. It seems 2011 is the Year of the Riot, with people getting fed up with systems and institutions that are irreparably broken. It’s hard not to sound like a raving lunatic when you say that people are itching to burn authority to the ground and start from scratch, but there’s a bit of truth within the madness. Rise continues the Apes tradition of commenting on social issues of the day whether it wants to or not, and the commentary seems to point towards folks having revolution on their minds. It may not be as violent as Caesar’s, but it may be just as radical.
But enough of my political mumbo jumbo, back to the review at hand: Rise of the Planet of the Apes is my favorite film of the year at this point, with enough on hand for newbies to be taken in and enough Easter Eggs for fans of the franchise to get their Apes groove on. The action is solid, but so is the heart and soul. The ending is weird tonally, only because we’re cheering for Caesar to take his place and the beginning of the end for humanity. Any film strong enough to get us to cheer for our own destruction is worth seeing in my book, and if you’ve been holding out, I cannot urge you enough: See this movie. It is, without question, a fantastic piece of cinema.
*Why Cookie Rocket, by the way, needs to be slapped on some t-shirts immediately. I would wear it often, and proudly.