Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow. This "remake" of the original film, Planet of the Apes (1968), is actually a revival and origin film for a set of planned sequels. But, standing on its own, is it better of just different than the iconic, original film starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall?
Franco plays William Rodman, a young scientist on the verge of developing a cure for Alzheimer's disease - which his father (played by Lithgow) had been diagnosed with. After a disastrous outbreak of a female chimp escaping her holding pen at his lab, Rodman is left to raise her infant. Aptly named Caesar, we see the chimp grow over the span of several years, along with his exponentially growing intelligence. Following a violent encounter with a neighbor, Caesar is sent to live in an abusive primate shelter, where Caesar and his fellow intelligent chimps escape.
By how the film was originally touted, I was surprised that the film is a lot more drama than action, and it is a fair revival of the original. It follows the same basis of making a strong story rather than going for all flash and no substance.
However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes perhaps has too much substance. Much of the film sits on Caesar's shoulders and his son-like relationship with Rodman. The story proves itself strong halfway through the film, so the delayed climax for the actual rise of the apes feels underwhelmingly delayed. Though there are some scenes of shock and awe to keep the intensity raised, Rise of the Planet of the Apes spends a little more time on the build-up rather than the actual overtaking.
For a not-so special-effects or CGI laden movie goer like myself, the most impressive point of the film is actually the special effects. From the first appearance of Caesar to his overruling of the Golden Gate Bridge with his fellow primates, this movie has some of the more realistic CGI I've seen in a long time. For those who are fans of the original film - and the iconic characters of people dressed in ape costumes speaking perfect CGI, it is naturally hard to get those legendary characters out of your mind. Not surprisingly, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for its Visual Effects.
The film really comes together towards its ending. After a little trickery of the credits, there is a wee extension of the ending, which adds more closure that the final scenes lacked, and anticipation for the planned sequels.