Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Apes take over in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

I am of two minds on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a movie which purports to be a prequel to 1968’s “Planet of the Apes.”  As a “stand alone” movie “Rise” is one of the better studio “tent pole” films that I have seen this summer.  Perhaps, in light of the competition, my remark may be one of damning with faint praise.

The story of “Rise” is involving, featuring clearly cut good guys and bad guys (of both the human and simian varieties).  The tale is an iconic Hollywood one of an oppressed minority rising up (as per the film’s title and indicated by the movie’s trailer).  In other words, “Rise” is a crowd pleaser (at least it was for the audience with which I saw the film this past Saturday at the AMC Kips Bay Theatre, 570 2nd Ave.).  The film’s CGI (computer graphic imaging) has created apes that look realistic and great.  So, “Rise” is a good summer movie, probably fine for families.  However, it is not my “Planet of the Apes.”

The “Planet of the Apes” movies, five films released between 1968 and 1973, were very influential to me during the early part of my formative film going years.  So if you are going to lay claim to the canon, you had better do it right.

The story of “Rise” essentially recycles basic story elements from “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971) and “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972), obvious even from the film’s trailer.  A baby ape, named Caesar, is kept hidden and grows up to become a leader of apes.

I do not want to give away anything, but the conclusion of “Rise” does not quite match the promise of its title.  In other words, if one sees “Rise” and then watches the DVD of the original “Planet of the Apes,” it will take a large suspension of disbelief to believe that the events in “Rise” led to the ape ruled planet that Charleton Heston’s astronaut, Taylor, discovers in “Planet of the Apes.”  There seems to be a cinematic missing link, which will, no doubt, be filled in with a sequel or two.  While on the topic, I should point out that “Rise” gives away the, by now well known, ending of “Planet of the Apes.”  In the original’s final seconds Taylor makes a startling discovery about the strange planet on which he has landed, where the evolutionary roles of man and ape are reversed.  Should one see “Rise” before “Planet of the Apes” this “surprise” will be a foregone conclusion.

“Rise” is a well made, technologically advanced movie with a fairly good story that ultimately falls short of connecting with an iconic movie franchise.  It will probably please most movie goers, but real “Apes” fans, like me, will have issues.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Director Rupert Wyatt, 2011, Twentieth Century Film Fox Corporation, 105 minutes, rated PG-13


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 9, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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