Based on the preview of this movie, it looks like a pure action film. It’s not. The preview is somewhat misleading in that.
Sure, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, and Freida Pinto, has some impressive action—at the end. Of course, there are a few more exciting action scenes that reveal some imaginative and effective tactics on the part of the apes, but they should not be considered the bulk of the movie.
So what is the bulk of the movie?
And what an apt name. From infancy, born of two genetically altered parents, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the primary ape of the movie, goes above and beyond the average man or ape. He is capable of great violence when he sees the need but also exhibits kingly restraint. His strategizing and ability to lead rival his counterparts on the silver screen, and his love for his human family and later his nation of apes is moving. In short, the character of Caesar was so well done and impactful that I had to look up the name of the primary human in the film and the fact didn’t bother me.
One of the brilliant elements of the film is that almost everyone is sympathetic in some way, and for that, even if we disagree with some of their decisions, we understand them. When Caesar attacks the next door neighbor to stop what he perceives is an assault on his family, we know it’s going to turn bad, but we understand. When Will (James Franco) performs a series of questionable acts in his quest to cure his father (John Lithgow) and others of Alzheimer’s, we sympathize even as we wince. Only the pure villains lack sympathetic characters and earn our cheers when we watch them die.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is also not lacking humor for all its dark elements. Of particular amusement are the conversations between Caesar and his orangutan friend, who must often remind Caesar that humans don’t like smart apes. Other points of humor involve Caesar outsmarting his human captors.
So what should you expect when you go to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Expect to be transported into a story that resonates with the human part of us that both wants to find likeness in others and yet fears it. Expect to be taken on a journey of heartbreak and triumph through the eyes of a special and very relatable ape. Expect to laugh. Expect to wince in sympathy. Expect to scoot to the edge of your seat in excitement. Expect a darn good story.
For those of you who have seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, what did you think? For those who haven’t, what were you expecting out of this film? What other movies this summer have captured your appreciation?