In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow.
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
At the story's heart is Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains human-like intelligence and emotions from an experimental drug. Raised like a child by the drug's creator, Will Rodman (James Franco) and a primatologist Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), Caesar ultimately finds himself taken from the humans he loves and imprisoned in an ape sanctuary in San Bruno. Seeking justice for his fellow inmates, Caesar gives the fellow apes the same drug that he inherited. He then assembles a simian army and escapes the sanctuary - putting man and ape on a collision course that could change the planet forever.Written by
20th Century Fox
Despite Caesar ordering Buck not to kill any humans, the battle on the Golden Gate Bridge ended with him throwing a human off the bridge. See more »
As the escaped apes approach and climb the radio towers on Twin Peaks, downtown San Francisco can be seen in the distance looking to be about 10 city blocks away. Several seconds later this same angle is shown, and the buildings of downtown now look to be over 1 mile away. See more »
[administering chimp intelligence test]
Okay, okay. Here you go. And let's go again.
[gives Bright Eyes treat and clocks timer]
Which one's this? Number nine?
Yeah, this is number nine. Bright Eyes, we call her. Are you watching this? This is unbelievable.
[Bright Eyes does the tower fast]
Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
[grabs treat and eats it]
How many moves was that?
[...] See more »
The end credits appear over a map, showing the virus spreading around the world. See more »
Against all odds, this must be the best "blockbuster" I've seen all summer.
Summer 2011 will go down in history as one of the more disappointing seasons in many years when it comes to movies. This is the time of year that people rush out in masses to see the latest action extravaganza, and to be fair, some films have delivered on that promise -- "Harry Potter," "Captain America" (though I have yet to see either of them and am simply relying on general reactions) -- but there's been a whole lot of disappointments, too, and the worst part is that people still seem to be flocking to them, almost out of necessity than wont ("Transformers 3" and "Pirates 4" both made over $1 bil worldwide, which is amazing, because they both sucked).
I think the last film anyone expected to reverse the trend this summer was a prequel to a franchise that has been consistently poor over the years since its original incarnation in 1968. Indeed, the first trailer for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" focused on ape carnage and mayhem, and although a subsequent one highlighted the dramatic underpinning of the film, it seemed like Fox was just trying to turn around its marketing and fool people into thinking there was more than meets the eye.
Alas, the second trailer turned out to be a far more accurate reflection of the movie than anyone would have expected. "Rise of the Apes" is most likely the best film of the blockbuster season, full of heart, carefully crafted and professionally delivered on every level.
Sure, the story has its fair share of clichés -- the "evil caretakers" played by Brian Cox and Tom Felton seem bad just because the film requires them to be, and Felton's performance in particular is so over-the-top that it's almost a caricature -- but because of how the film is packaged, and because it spends so much time focusing on the character of Caesar (played magnificently by Andy Serkis), you are willing to overlook many of the flaws. You care about the characters and the story, even when you kinda know where it's headed and feel like it's a variation of a prison break-out movie with apes in place of humans.
The human cast, as has been noted by many critics, is nothing to write home about. James Franco doesn't exactly phone in his performance but it's not the sort of role that is going to be lining him up for any awards. Toby Maguire was originally lined up for the project before he was dropped (he reportedly came to Fox with script notes, and they promptly cut off discussions with him), but Franco does seem a more natural fit, and does well enough in a role destined to be sidelined by the apes.
And the apes are awesome. No, we haven't quite mastered fully realistic CGI yet -- especially when it's mixed with live actors. (WETA claims that the technology here is superior to "Avatar," but it's not as convincing, perhaps because the CGI so rarely interacted with human actors in "Avatar," and thus we were able to accept the fantasy world more willingly.) However, this is some of the best seen to date. Serkis (who previously played King Kong in Peter Jackson's remake) translates a brilliant performance, for which the film owes a great deal; Caesar is really the crux of the whole thing, and a poor or less realistic performance would have undermined the whole thing. It's the subtle stuff here that makes a difference -- the emotions captured in Caesar's facial expressions, or the glint of sympathy in his eyes when John Lithgow's character begins to suffer from Alzheimer's. There's a moment of genius in that particular scene where Caesar exchanges a sad, knowing glance with Franco's character, and it's eerily touching.
Director Rupert Wyatt follows blockbuster blueprints from beginning to end, but by enriching the first three-quarters of his film with character development and an actual *story* (something so many blockbusters these days seem to be sorely lacking), when the big action sequence arrives at the end, you're invested in what's happening -- and you actually care.
I confess to never having watched many of the "Apes" films. I do recall seeing the Tim Burton remake in theaters a decade ago, and even as a 12-year-old kid, I thought, Wow, this sucks. "Rise" is infinitely better, more creative and more emotionally stirring -- as aforementioned, it's nothing completely unique or novel from a storytelling standpoint, but it's well-crafted in an old-fashioned, refreshingly familiar way, and the addition of groundbreaking CGI makes it a "must-see" rather than something to catch on television. Fox isn't known for pleasing fans with their remakes and sequels (whether it be Die Hard or Wolverine), but Summer 2011 sees two of their biggest properties successfully reinvigorated: first "X-Men First Class," and now this. For my money, "Apes" is better -- perhaps the best blockbuster of the season -- which I never in a million years expected to say.
Without spoiling anything, the film sets itself up for a sequel. Considering it's on track to smash expectations and take in $55 mil this weekend alone, it's pretty much a sure-thing that it will happen. Hopefully the follow-up takes heed of this film's strengths and doesn't abandon the character development in favor of boisterous action sequences. The fact that audiences are reacting strongly to this movie is an indication of what's been lacking all summer: stories with characters we care about. Go see this if you want to end a disappointing summer on a positive note.
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