Leading up to the much awaited War for the Planet of the Apes, I have decided to review the other two films of this franchise that I have surprisingly never seen before. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first of these two films. Directed by Rupert Wyatt, this movie is centered around the scientific endeavours of Will Rodman (James Franco), who develops a serum that is capable of curing multiple brain related diseases. After his work is deemed a failure, Will secretly adopts a baby ape in his laboratory named Caesar (Andy Serkis), who genetically possesses the side effects of this serum making him extraordinarily intelligent and self aware. As his abilities grow, Caesar becomes a threat to man’s dominion over Earth.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes certainly brought fresh breath to this dying franchise, by showing us everything from the beginning. We get great insight into the character of Will, who is really the key to all the latter events that occur. His motivation for continuously pursuing his research into his serum (ALZ-112) is personal and well explored. His father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and his time is slowly coming to an end. Will is fighting for a greater cause. At the same time, I also have to applaud Andy Serkis for his brilliant portrayal of Caesar. Ironically he is the most “human” character in this whole film. There is nothing more challenging in acting than portraying something or someone that doesn’t speak. As an actor, you are placed at the mercy of your facial expressions and body language to elicit the same emotional reaction from the audience as you would if you were playing a character who has dialogue.
Throughout the course of the movie, Caesar displays the entire spectrum of human emotion whilst saying only four words. He displays courage, empathy, awareness, leadership and sorrow through his movements and interactions with both human and other ape characters. I got a lot from his character without him saying anything. The whole 2nd act is devoted to Caesar and his utilization of his emotional intelligence to soldier and lead the other apes. There were so many subtle messages here about the mistreatment of animals, independence and sacrifice that I found meaningful.
Focusing on the negatives for a bit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was missing a few things I would have liked to have seen. Freida Pinto plays the love interest of James Franco’s character. Her presence in this movie is brief and has no lasting impacts in terms of the way this films’ events play out. She had no reason to be here if I’m honest. Either the writers could have made her more central to the film’s key events or just scraped her character off completely. I also want to quickly plug in that the post-credits scene of this movie could have also been done better. I didn’t hate what I see but it could have been more fleshed out.
But overall, I will acknowledge that my criticisms are more like nitpicks. This movie is great. It shows you everything from the beginning so as to not over-complicate its own plot. Even though James Franco plays an important character, Caesar is really the focus of this movie. His presence is electrifying and he displays the full spectrum of human emotions through only saying four words. This franchise is really about his character and his development over time. As a first entry into this rebooted franchise, I got a lot of insight into his perona and am excited for what’s to come.