How the ‘Apes’ took over

  • By Robert Horton Herald Film Critic
  • Friday, August 5, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

If you have even the slightest residual fondness for the “Planet of the Apes” pictures, the latest entry in the long-lived series might just be a welcome summer time-killer.

This is the first feature since 2001’s “Planet of the Apes” to pick up the story line originally hatched in Pierre Boulle’s novel and the 1968 Charlton Heston original. This one’s a prequel, jumping us back to a scenario that explains just how our primate cousins took over the Earth in the first place.

On that score, “Rise” is remarkably uncomplicated. Researcher James Franco is working on a drug to fight Alzheimer’s, and his star patient, a chimpanzee named Caesar, shows such dramatic improvement in brain function he’s soon playing chess. From the crafty look in Caesar’s eyes, you half expect him to light a pipe and begin reciting from Shakespeare.

From this one gifted chimp will grow a movement, leading to a climax that has an army of apes scrambling across the Golden Gate Bridge, as they begin their war against mankind.

Director Rupert Wyatt is best at these big, sweeping moments: There really is something kind of epic about seeing the simian heroes (no, they’re not the villains here) swarming across an American landmark. Let’s face it, flinging their own feces at zoo visitors was always a limited plan of attack.

Other than that, the film is slow-building, almost to the point of being old-fashioned, or tedious, depending on your patience level. Fans of the “Apes” series can pass the time spotting the references to previous movies.

Franco, who flopped as a recent Oscar host, can be a very skilled actor. He does not, however, seem to understand the flair required for a certain kind of genre movie, and he’s doughy and sluggish here. “Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto joins as a romantic lead, and John Lithgow and Brian Cox are, respectively, Franco’s ailing father and a sleazy primate merchant (this movie would’ve been a lot more fun if those two actors had switched roles).

And the monkeys? Yes, that. If you remember when the first movie came out, the big question was whether the audience could buy actors in evolved-ape costumes. Now the question is whether the audience will buy a straight diet of computer-generated monkeys.

That’ll be the determining factor in your enjoyment of these shenanigans. At some point I sort of got used to it, but the film still feels partly animated.

Andy Serkis, who “played” the computer-generated Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” films, does similar duty as Caesar here (that is, he acted the role so that the computer people could base their chimp on his work). And, sure enough, Caesar/Serkis gives a real performance.

The bottom line is, if you find the prospect of a gorilla jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge onto a helicopter far-fetched, you should probably stick with something more credible, like “Cowboys & Aliens.” The rest of us will enjoy this one well enough.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (3 stars)

A slow-building prequel to the long-running “Apes” series, with researcher James Franco inadvertently giving high intelligence to lab monkeys. The apes are computer-generated, and that will either make or break the movie, but for fans of the series this should prove an enjoyable enough outing.

Rated: PG-13, for violence.

Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Mall, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Metro, Oat Tree, Pacific Place, Thorton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.

Talk to us

More in Life

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

The 2022 Lexus GX has a 301-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full time all-wheel drive. (Lexus)
Updated 2022 Lexus GX 460 expands list of standard features

Navigation and a 10.3-inch multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Most Read