Seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, without question, the oddest movie going experience I’ve had so far this year. About 40 minutes into the film, right around the time the audience is privy to a masterful extended CGI shot of a small chimp effortlessly maneuvering his way around the cervices of a home, I was hit with something profound. “Holy shit,” I may have say aloud, “Am I actually… enjoying this?”
Once I came to the realization that I most definitely was enjoying the film, I sunk in my chair and let a wave of calming acceptance take over.
As dramatic as this sounds, it couldn’t be closer to the truth. Me liking this film is, as you may have guessed, against all odds. It doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot going for it. A summer blockbuster prequel to a cult classic that uses an absurd amount of computer graphics to achieve its vision. Hell, even the film’s star bashed the movie in Playboy a few weeks ago. What’s to like? I’m not entirely sure, but like it I did.
You can start with the fact that Rise of the Planet of the Apes never tries (or wants) to be more than it is. It’s an Apes Gone Mad flick, plain and simple. It also helps that the special effects are damn near flawless, and the chimp movements, done by motion capture expert Andy Serkis (he played Gollum and King Kong for Peter Jackson) equate to the best performance Serkis has ever given.
It also helps that James Franco dishes out the perfect blend of melodramatic ham that he can often rely too heavily on. And it doesn’t hurt that his love interest (played by Freida Pinto) is merely that, an interest, not a deciding plot factor.
The film, about a young scientist who raises a chimp with a genius IQ, the result of medical experiments, glides on through its entirety. Even when it spends extended periods of time with only chimps, such as when they plan to escape captivity, it moves briskly and with little effort. The final chimp attack on the Golden Gate Bridge is a thrilling sequence, one that I prayed would keep going.
This is what makes Rise of the Planet of the Apes such an odd experience. You go in with your critical guns drawn, ready to bash it down with sarcastic maliciousness. But somewhere along the way, you realize you’re watching a movie that, while far from perfect, ain’t half bad.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but as far as seemingly throwaway summer action blockbusters go, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the best time I’ve had in a mainstream movie this season. B