Perhaps I’m misremembering the incredible buzz surrounding Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was first released. It’s currently sitting at a still-too-high 83% on Rotten Tomotoes but my recollection was that the film was being talked about by everyone has being a real triumph. Or maybe it was a triumph but simply one over low expectations. Rise is certainly better than I would have otherwise expected a Planet of the Apes reboot to be. While the first Apes is masterful and chilling, every other incarnation has been a bit too silly (and light, compared to the first). This prequel is working in some interesting backstory for how the original came to be but outside of that and some impressive effects wizardry it doesn’t amount to very much.
The movie’s pacing is totally disjointed making the entire first third of the movie feel like exposition rather than introduction. There’s an interesting character for Franco to play somewhere but either he’s not being given enough leash to push it or he just figured he didn’t have to play this one too hard. Meanwhile, Freida Pinto has nothing interesting to say or do. It’s a great mystery as to why she’s even in the film. Or rather, why the character is. It’s clear why anyone would want Pinto to be in their movie.
It’s a shame that the opening is so rushed because there is a neat story to be told here. Franco develops what will become the impetus for genius monkeys as a cure for Alzheimer’s. Jon LIthgow plays his afflicted father to great effect. But the setup of how Franco ends with the Caesar (the ape who is the true protagonist of the film) at his home is too dumb to ignore. I hoped this was to be an aberration but the second half of the film just gets sillier and sillier.
The aforementioned effects, though, are incredible. The movie lost the Oscar to Hugo which would be a Crash-as-best-picture level robbery if the award were bigger. The motion capture of Andy Serkis (previously Gollum and Kong) is terrific and the animation of all of the apes is awesome. Bright spot but nothing more. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is in preproduction. I’ll have that to not look forward to.