Honestly, I don’t even remember seeing a trailer, poster or anything else for this new take on an old classic. This is most likely because my brain put a near impenetrable mental block on retaining any information about Ape movies after the debacle involving Marky Mark and Aperaham Lincoln. In other words, I was gleefully ignorant going into this film. So much so that I didn’t even know who was staring in it.
All of this meant that when James Franco popped up as a genetic research scientist, my initial reaction was to chuckle and to think back to when Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist in a Bond movie. But in all fairness, Franco has a certain idiotic charm that is a joy to watch and, truthfully, it wouldn’t have mattered who was in his role. It’s a one dimensional paper-thin, only there for narrative exposition kinda job. And Franco’s only acting competition comes from a mammal without opposable thumbs. Unfortunately for America’s favorite stoner, he loses the acting battle thanks to a brilliant job by Andy Serkis (Gollum from those Peter Jackson flicks). Seriously, the ape gives a performance that will bring tears to the faces of girlfriends dragged to this movie the nation wide.
A big part of that are the special makeup effects, which are so amazingly life-like that I never thought twice about the realness of the Ape. An Oscar is almost assured for the designers.
It’s important to note that this is not a remake, but an origination story and a whole new concept to the long-standing franchise. Franco is researching a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and has invented a cocktail that has show promise in lab tests (on apes). Eventually, some sh*t goes bad and Franco, like every mad scientist ever, has to take his work home with him. That comes in the form of a Caesar, a baby ape, and his father, John Lithgow (who has Alzheimer’s). Everything is super peachy…for a bit.
But that’s not why this is my favorite summer blockbuster of the year so far. Basically, a misunderstanding and a forced hand leads to the ape uprising. And once the wheels are set in motion, through a series of escalating and emotional events, Caesar and the Apes go ape all over the bad guys. Funny thing, it will have you rooting FOR the apes. After all, humans are puny and dumb and evil meany-heads anyway. I know I pledged my allegiance to the Ape overlords. It seemed the prudent choice.
Joking aside, the strong suit of this movie is the emotional connection and investment that is carefully constructed throughout the film. This film takes you to a place that is rarely reached in what is supposedly a big dumb blockbuster. “Rise of the Apes” is the perfect summer film. It’s not bogged down with a whole lot of unnecessary plot points or needless sex scenes, or anything that a 9-year old couldn’t comprehend.
Simply put, “Rise of the Apes” is a damned dirty good ape movie.
Snore Factor: Z