Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis acts circles around James Franco in new Apes flick.
When the trailers first hit the market for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was not impressed.  Here it seemed Hollywood was yet again rehashing an old franchise that didn’t warrant revisiting.  The effects didn’t look very good, and the story seemed as silly as ever.  Sure, I enjoyed the original films as a kid, but even then I recognized them as high camp, and their lame attempts at social commentary were lost inside of actors in goofy ape suits and Charlton Heston’s comical over-emoting.  But then the film came out this past weekend, and the good buzz was palpable and made me think I should check it out in spite of my misgivings.  I come before you, my readers, willing to admit when I am wrong.
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the best reboot of any franchise since Batman Begins.  It’s also the most fun I’ve had watching a sci-fi morality tale since District 9.  While it lacks District 9‘s satirically leanings and over-the-top gore, it makes up for it in character development and emotional involvement.  Whereas the original series clumsily drew parallels to the Civil Rights movement, this new incarnation goes back to the age-old warnings against Man abusing Nature and underestimating the power of animal instincts.  Leaps of logic and driving through gaping plot holes are required, but hell, we are talking about a movie featuring a talking chimp…so just go with it, okay?  It seems Hollywood will also occasionally admit when it’s wrong, as the new film is loaded with clever nods to the Heston originals and draws no lines of reference to the debacle that was Tim Burton’s 2001 remake.  Some things are best forgotten and treated as if they never existed.
In a near-future San Francisco, a scientist (James Franco) feverishly races to find a cure for Alzheimer’s (of which his father, played by John Lithgow, suffers) through radical experiments on chimps.  Do I need to say any more?  You can probably tell where this is going.  Eventually we have our good-hearted scientist hiding a baby super chimp from the evil corporation he works for after your run-of-the-mill experimental debacle.  Behold…Caesar.  While in the previews I thought the effects were nothing special – on the big screen they work quite well.  Andy Serkis – the 21st century Lon Chaney – provides the skeleton, heart and soul behind the CGI Caesar just as he did playing King Kong and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Equally impressive are the secondary characters, including a wise old orangutan, who it was nearly impossible to tell wasn’t real, and a big bad bodyguard of a gorilla that could give Kong a run for his money.  The Weta Digital Effects team again proves to be the best in the business second only perhaps to James Cameron’s crew.
The producers also deserve kudos for casting the aloof Franco and the wooden Freida Pinto as the nicest humans.  When you put them up against Serkis’ Caesar and the other apes, the simians act circles around them.  This opens up the door for the audience to relate to and sympathize with the apes.  We grow to know them…and we root for them.  In the cleverest piece of character development, Caesar is relegated to an ape sanctuary after a run-in with the biggest douche-bag neighbor of recent memory.  He was defending Lithgow’s character, who he had grown to love as an elder who needed help.  In the sanctuary, run like a prison complete with corrupt warden (Brian Cox) and sadistic guard (Tom Felton), Caesar learns that the orangutan can speak like him through sign-language.  It’s then that he comes to a realization:  maybe he can work with these other primitives…maybe he can teach them…maybe he can become their leader…and maybe together they can revolt.
And here’s the brilliance of the film…and it emerges through a minor coup scored by its director, Rupert Wyatt.  Like Duncan Jones did earlier in the year with the smart and economically fun Source Code, Wyatt shows off with his sophomore effort.  He’s a Brit who got his start with a wickedly good little independent film, the prison-break thriller The Escapist.  No with this Apes reboot, he proves he can handle a mainstream studio film and deliver the goods without sacrificing the substance.  Tucked in between the origin story of the famed franchise, Wyatt has subversively implanted a thrilling and intelligent prison drama where we watch Caesar gain a keen awareness of his surroundings, usurp the alpha-male, gain the respect of his fellow inmates, and hatch a brilliant escape plot.  Clearly this is Wyatt’s bread-and-butter, and in only his second film, he shows the clean, smooth lines of a skilled auteur.  The movie has his indelible stamp, and it’s all the better for it.
If the producers have any sense (and it seems like they do)…they’ll offer Wyatt the world to continue behind the director’s chair with what inevitably will be a new series.  If Wyatt has any sense (and it seems like he does)…he’ll run as far away from the franchise as he can and ply his trade with original films he can continue upon which to put his signature spin.
Ultimately, we have to enjoy this film alone and in the moment.  And don’t forget that money shot of that kick-ass gorilla leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge to bring down a helicopter.  They’ve showed it ad nauseam in the trailers, and admittedly, it looked pretty cool.  Under Wyatt’s skilled hand, however, in the proper context of the film, it packs an emotional wallop.  The build-up to the money shot is brilliant…and trust me, you will care about that damn, dirty ape.  For the producers, the effects team, and Rupert Wyatt…it may have been a leap of faith to think the audience would buy into it.  But how couldn’t we?  You see, for the characters of the apes, this revolt (as symbolized by that money shot) is no leap of faith, but instead a leap of fate. 
It’s been predetermined.  Humans are doomed.  And there’s nothing we go bananas more for than watching our own demise.  Long live the Apes!


  1. I’ve never been able to actually get through the original Planet of the Apes film, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it through this one…especially with James Franco constantly squinting at me from the screen. Can’t do it. 😉

    Ha ha – just keep in mind…Franco is not really the star. Andy Serkis is. –DHS

  2. I whole-heartedly agree with you. I think this was a fabulous, fun movie. It obviously left room for a sequel, and I hope they do a great job on that, too. Very well-written post, I might add.

    Thanks! It will be interesting to see what they do with the sequels – lots of room for possibilities. –DHS

  3. It’s on my must see list. Thank you for an excellent review. be Well

    Thanks! Hope you enjoy the film. –DHS

  4. I really enjoyed the movie also! It was better than I expected! Funniest part was the moment that Caesar said “No” because everyone in the theatre laughed. Anywho, nice post!

    Sara – I actually didn’t expect any talking apes – so that was a surprise for sure! –DHS

  5. This is a great, well-written review. I, like you thought the trailer looked OK, but nothing special. Now I’ve read you’re review, I’ll definitely be booking a ticket – thanks!

    I hope I haven’t lead you astray. Enjoy the film! –DHS

  6. Great review — I’m a huge James Franco fan, so I’ll definitely be adding this one to the list of must-see flicks. I’m thinking without my children though, right?

    I think kids over 10 (who are mature enough) will actually really enjoy it as it makes you think. It’s not overly violent. It’s PG-13, so you be your own best judge. –DHS

  7. I’m shocked to read that this installment of Planet of the Apes was actually…good. Now I must watch it. Growing up, my father introduced me to the original series, and when I discovered this film yet another Hollywood revamp, I was anything but thrilled. But your post gives me confidence that Franco and others advocated The Planet of the Apes. Thank you, I’ll give it a chance.

    Kyna – I felt the exact same way, but I was totally wrong. Give it a shot. –DHS

  8. High praise for a movie I already wanted to see. Glad their not making any references to the 2001 movie.

    Yes, the 2001 film was a travesty and thankfully this film distances itself from that. –DHS

  9. Great review! I loved the original Planet of the Apes movies, but the 2001 remake blew. Maybe I’ll go check this one out now.

    I don’t even want to think about the insane idiocy of the Burton 2001 remake! –DHS

  10. Felt the same way about this movie – totally uninterested until my husband and sons dragged me there. Then, loved it. So true about the big action sequence – it was a little stunning and I don’t often say that.

    @Mikalee – My boys are 8 & 10 and have been allowed to see a lot so maybe they’re jaded, but they were more drawn to the emotional aspects of the story than being scared. They loved it and want to see more apes movies!

    Amy – it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised by a movie, no? There were a slew of kids probably aged 8-16 in the theater when I saw it – and you know they enjoyed it because they were totally silent. –DHS

  11. I enjoyed all the beginning films in this story, but have decided not to see this one. Considering our current ecomony and the lack of leadership of our President, I feel most of us have enough “bad news” surrounding us each day……having Apes becoming smarter than humans, and taking over our world does not add anything of value to my movie going enjoyment. I will even pass on the dollar and 98 cents rental in the near future.

    John – you make some interesting points. I hope you decide to give the film a chance eventually, but I can see where you’re coming from. –DHS

  12. wow, this seems like a pretty interesting film, even though I am more of a fan for romantic comedies. However, this movie seems to be worth the trip to the movie theater (:

    There’s an emotional aspect to the film – so you might be surprised at how much you could like it. –DHS

  13. I felt like Charlton Heston in the original ‘Planet of The Apes’ (when he first came back to earth and thought it was another planet) when I heard ‘Watch The Throne’ for the first time. Check out my review and posts on much more at Wan’s 2 Cents @ ku1cornelius.wordpress.com

    Heston will always be remembered for the original film. –DHS

  14. Just saw this movie yesterday afternoon & I really enjoyed. There is a minimalist approach that makes the film very satisfying on a number of levels. I loved that much of the story development wasn’t in dialogue. There was violence, but not gratuitous violence. I’m not a parent & I’m not sure how kids might react. Nice Review.

    Yes, the story development was very well done. I think mature kids (or kids who grew up on stuff like Harry Potter) will really like this. –DHS

  15. Wow you have to have some pretty lousy glasses if you thought the effects didn’t look good. I thought this was gonna be crapfest until I saw the first ape closeup in the trailer. It looked soo good!! Still have not seen it though!

    I admit I was wrong about the effects. And funny you should say that, as I have recently purchased new glasses 🙂 –DHS

    • 😀 super rewiew by the way… except for one thing that caught my eye. You liked source code? :O partially kiddin, I was kinda amuzed but there were some major logic gaps in there!

      There were some major logic gaps there – but I still really enjoyed it. –DHS

  16. A very good review! I look forward to reading more and congrats on being FP.

    Thanks, Linda! –DHS

  17. I was already excited to see this before this review. Now I am desperate.

    It’s pretty damn good – not to be missed for sure. –DHS

  18. Great blog, excellent review. Although I would not consider the original as high camp, I believe the creators of that series reached high camp when they went “beneath the planet of the apes” and never left camp after that.

    I was on the fence about seeing yet another entry in the Apes canon but your review has nudged me off that fence and onto the worn seats and sticky floors of my local cineplex. Thanks!

    Will – thanks for reading! You might be right about the original series. I’ve lumped them all together in my memory, but the high camp probably evolved over the course of the series. –DHS

  19. i was skeptical, but i’m thrilled to hear this is worth a watch! can’t wait to see it. plus i always appreciate a little james franco. if only he’d wear fewer clothes.

    Eva – I think many ladies might feel the same way. –DHS

  20. I loved this movie. I played on my heartstrings and I literally cried no less than four times. I like how it wasn’t the apes revenge, but rather the humans ambition that finally ended man kind.

    Yes, they definitely put an interesting spin on the story. –DHS

  21. Im still shocked at how well it did in the box office. I also do agree that it is a great franchise re-boot

    It will be interesting to see if it has legs at the box office. The buzz makes me think it will. –DHS

  22. And, yes, without children. It is very scary/violent/sad at times.

    Eh, I think older kids can handle it and will like it – at least based on the audience I saw it with. –DHS

  23. I haven’t seen this movie yet, but will very soon! I like your movie reviews. You’ve got a new subscriber!

    Thanks for subscribing! I like what you did with Bueno theme on your blog. –DHS

    • Thanks, great minds think alike! Yours look very nice. I play around with my themes a lot, but tend to stay with Bueno.

      I’ve been with Bueno for years (it’s my fall-back theme) but I just switched to Quintus and I’m loving it so far. –DHS

  24. Okay, you’ve convinced me, I’ll see it tomorrow! I’ve read a lot of other reviews praising Apes, but yours has the most kick. I think it was your comparison of Andy Serkis to Lon Chaney that did it. I totally agree with that statement, and now want to view this this based on Serkis’ performance alone.

    Debbie – hooray! Another convert 🙂 Serkis is great – he’s the new man of a thousand faces. –DHS

  25. That kind of makes me add this movie to my list. Last time I watched Source Code a few days ago and I enjoyed it quite well. Let’s see how it entertains me.

    Sajib – if you enjoyed Source Code you’ll probably enjoy this. –DHS

  26. Interesting post. Im not sure though as I’ll see this movie, though as Im not one of the fans of human demise type films. 🙂 But it sure does look interesting.
    I am also not really crazy about the old films either. Granted I havent seen them in … well, many years. It seemed, if I recall correctly… that they didnt really have an ending? And that bugs me unless there is a sequel coming that eventually draws to a conclusion of the series.
    I am wondering, does this one have an ending? Or is it left open to the imagination, or simply a … “well, you know how this one ends” type thing.
    Also… why do you say that the 2001 remake was a debacle? What draws you to that opinion of that particular film? (well, other than I guess it must not have done well at the box office since there is no sequel) We actually liked that one! I always wished to see a sequel to that to find out what happened next. It was a fun story. Interesting characters. Some pretty decent action scenes and I thought a well developed story and plot. Disappointingly, I realize that a sequel will never occur. 😦
    But anyway, just curious as to why you didn’t like it.

    Though the 2001 remake had decent effects/make-up, I thought it was a lousy “update” of the original film and added nothing new to the story. I’m not a big fan of Burton’s style, and I didn’t feel he was the right fit for the franchise. You should give the new one a shot – the character development of the apes is very well done – though it’s probably not as action-packed as the 2001 remake. –DHS

  27. I want to see that movie too and i think it will be really cool in 3D, if they have it in 3D.

    It’s not in 3D – and I think that’s a good thing. 3D is good for certain films (like Avatar or funny horror films) but I feel it’s way overused these days. –DHS

  28. I saw this earlier today and it was amazing! I wasn’t expecting much (I thought it would be beating a dead horse), but I was pleasantly surprised! Though, I have to disagree with you about District 9… I wasn’t much of a fan :/

    Either way, great review!

    Ally – I’ve heard many say they didn’t like District 9 lately – but I still think it was a very well-done sci-fi/action film satire. –DHS

  29. I thought it looked good and now I am ready to see it! Thanks for a wonderful, thorough review! I am glad you werre Freshly Pressed so I got to read you. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on movies.

    Thanks! The FreshlyPressed thing was almost as nice of a surprise as the film! –DHS

  30. I just saw this the other day and actually liked it. Of course, watching James Franco for 2 hours is a plus in my book, but the other characters and the Apes themselves really did a great job of making me care about their situation. I still think it’s a cross between Prison Break and the Twilight Series, simply based on the prison scene and the digital effects, but hey, it works.

    I definitely see the Prison Break connection. I love how your kid called other kids lunatics! That had me laughing. –DHS

  31. I think Wyatt did quite a good job with this one and would love for him to return to the chair for the sequels, which were teased very well with the story of the Lost Mars Expedition.

    Apparently Wyatt is very keen on doing the sequels. It will be interesting to see how he handles them – but I always worry when a talented director gets totally caught up in a franchise to where he can’t work on other films. –DHS

  32. really agree with you here! i saw it on it’s release date and i was not overwhelmed. in this day and age it’s rare to come across a movie with not only a solid plot but one that develops characters you fall in love with. I hope part two is just as well written and portrayed.

    Yes, let’s hope Wyatt takes another page from Nolan’s playbook and does a really top-notch sequel. It will be hard to pull off, but we’ll see. –DHS

  33. I’m going to get hold of a DVD on this movie this weekend! 🙂 Great review and congratulations on being FPed!

    It better not be a bootleg DVD 😉 Seriously, this should seen on the big screen. –DHS

  34. had the same feelings going into this movie – but reallllly enjoyed myself and I’m very glad I went

    I’m glad I took a chance on it – would’ve been mad had I missed out until the DVD came out. –DHS

  35. Thanks for the great review – helped me a lot with deciding to watch it or not. Definitely not going to miss it now!

    I’m here to serve, Jessica. Glad I could help you make a decision. –DHS

  36. “the simians act circles around them” This is so true and the fact that the apes are actually the ones that make the movie such an amazing experience and really tell a good story that has depth is pretty darn impressive. I loved it.

    Yes, they did a great job making us care for the apes. –DHS

  37. Such a great post! This is indeed a worthy, exciting, emotional addition to the venerable monkey movie marathon. Apes will rise and sequels are likely.

    Thanks! Yes, the sequels will be coming for sure. –DHS

  38. I am going to watch this movie. Thanks for the review!
    I don’t know why Freida Pinto is casted in any movie. The lady can’t act!

    Pinto is nice to look at, but she is a terrible actress – shows no emotion what so ever. –DHS

  39. I thought the Tim Burton version wasn’t quite bad, but tried to be too much like the original with the way his wife-err, Helena Bonham Carter’s character looked (more human than ape, kinda Michael Jackson-ish [RIP]), but I’l be seeing this movie for a fresh take on the story. Excellent review!

    Good call on the HBC looking like MJ in TB’s 2001 POTA comment. I hope you enjoy this new version! –DHS

  40. hey thanks for the review 🙂
    I watched the original during english class, the plot was really good but the effects were…..comical at best. Was debating whether to watch this new version and you just helped me make up my mind 🙂
    go apes!

    The effects in this are top notch – and the plot just as good. Hope you enjoy it! –DHS

  41. ok…i really wasn’t sure about watching this, but this was such a well written and thoughtful post, I think you’ve convinced me.

    Thanks! I hope you feel about the film the same way you felt about my post 🙂 –DHS

  42. Absolutely agree with EVERYTHING you’ve said!! Great empathy and deep emotional, human/ape ties created early on, and yes – we totally love (for some odd reason) watching our own demise. Perhaps it takes a little edge off of the inevitable? lol, but not really worthy of an ‘lol.’

    Love how human behavior was modeled silently thru the primates in this rockin’ flick! This movie got my emotional bubbles going…

    Yes, I was surprised at how well they anthropomorphized the apes, while still letting them keep their ape-ness. It made them very endearing characters to watch. –DHS

  43. I walked away not knowing if I liked it or not. I agree about the chopper shot and was very pleased when the man who caused the whole kafuffel went over the edge in the wreck. I thought the ending was a bit weak though. I’m sure those in the know would never have allowed them to stay there. And of course we all know what that inaction lead to don’t we?

    I am wondering why the humans won’t just bomb/burn the Redwoods down. Maybe the humans who don’t get sick are all environmentalists and allow the apes to thrive and eventually take over? –DHS

  44. I’ve seen the original planet of the apes, and the re-make after that on cable, and I’m thinking about going to see this one too. I saw it got good reviews with it and you do a great job reviewing it too. And, the actor who does the CGI for King Kong, Gollum, etc. is amazing at what he does too!

    Andy Serkis is the real star of this. –DHS

  45. Good review. I’ll look for it in the theatre…. One edit to your post though. “Caesar is regulated to an ape sanctuary….” should likely be “Caesar is relegated to an ape sanctuary….”

    Good catch! I just edited that. Thanks! –DHS

  46. After attempting to make the reboot with Mark Wahlberg, it was then that I thought to myself that this generation wouldn’t know what to do with the social commentary a couple of the Planet of the Apes stories (namely Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes and especially Beneath the Planet of the Apes) falling prey to being politically correct more than being socially conscious. So I’m going to trust my own instincts and steer clear of this.

    I’m also of the mind that Hollywood needs a good swift boot in the pants. They need to stop trying to make reboots and remakes and reimaginings. They need to take a good long hard look around the world and try telling more stories that don’t rely on prior work to make money.

    I typically agree Hollywood is too busy trying to repeat/remake past successes, and I prefer original stories over recycled – but sometimes they get these reboots right and some stories deserve to be updated for new generations. –DHS

  47. I really enjoyed the film a lot – even more so than I expected. Ebert called it the best popcorn flick of the summer. Between X-Men: First Class and this movie, I would agree (but that’s me!). Nice post! Although I don’t think Franco should be belittled. He definitely isn’t Andy Serkis, but we don’t want him to be Andy Serkis. I was again impressed with his performance. I haven’t seen Franco give a poor performance in a film, but again, that’s my opinion. Also, I haven’t seen all of his earlier films when he wasn’t as big, so I could be biting my tongue soon here. Either way, I feel like he still gave a stellar performance as well as John Lithgow. Overall, it was a nice cast. But I would agree that Serkis was the star, and ultimately should have gotten top billing.

    You’re right about Lithgow. He was very good. –DHS

  48. I thought the movie was just OKAY. I know the movie is from Caesar’s point of view, but it would have been nice to see more of the downfall of humans. I find it unlikely that they would just be able to stay in the forest without being challenged again. It seemed like an odd ending.

    I imagine the downfall of the humans and how the apes spread outside of the Redwoods will be addressed in the coming sequels. –DHS

  49. You just earned yourself a subscriber Mr. Schleicher! Wonderfully written! I can’t wait to see this movie.

    Thanks for subscribing and enjoy the film! –DHS

  50. David:

    This entire thread is fantastic! Perhaps your most popular post ever!!!! Congratulations!

    I didn’t expect myself to like this new incarnation of a beloved original series, but I thought Franco was affecting, the CGI work commendable and the striking thematic similarities to the recent (extraordinary) documentary PROJECT NIM most compelling. The various “homages” during the film including some of the actions and lines were amusing, and the action set pieces quite compelling. Without question there was a substantial “human” connection here.

    Sam – thanks! I enjoyed all the little homages, too – especially the scene where the young Caesar was taking the crown off a foam/plastic Statue of Liberty while playing in the attic. Talk about foreshadowing! HA! –DHS

  51. ‘Long live the Apes!’ Loved the originals and, thanks to your great review, will definitely check out this one. I’m a bit of a blogging newbie; is there a button I have to press in order to subscribe to your blog? Cheers.

    Olly – at the top of the sidebar you should see a spot where it says “Subscribe today and get all The Spin!” Or if you are logged into WordPress – at the very top menu bar when you are visiting any blog on WordPress, there should be a button that says “Follow”. Click that and you’re subscribed! –DHS

  52. WETA IS behind James Cameron’s Avatar. They applied the same techniques, rendering, et al on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. 🙂 those guys are the greatest.

    Dig your review!

    Wow – thanks for pointing that out! For some reason I thought Cameron’s peops were their own little unrelated group – but it totally makes sense that it’s the same amazing folks! –DHS

  53. nice review, I think you just convineced me to see this movie, it premiered in Sweden yesterday =D

    Lee – hope you enjoy it! –DHS

  54. […] This is both heartbreaking and inspiring to watch as, through clever directing you find yourself routing for the apes and ashamed to be part of the human race that have caused this pain. The graphics and special effects are very impressive and two more thorough reviews on the technicalities of this film can be found here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/8696312/Rise-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-review.html and here https://theschleicherspin.com/2011/08/10/rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes/. […]

  55. I really enjoyed the movie. I think rebooting the franchise for a different generation is good. Especially that the 2001 remake was just plain awful/

    Totally agree with ya, Danny. –DHS

  56. Thanks for the review. I rarely get the chance to watch movies so I have to choose them wisely.

    I hope I can guide you in the right direction going forward. –DHS

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