By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
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Along with my reviews of all of the Spider-Man movies leading to Spider-Man: Homecoming, I will be reviewing the Planet of the Apes films leading to War for the Planet of the Apes. Beginning with Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which launched us on this visually stunning and narratively enticing trilogy. Opening in theaters worldwide in August of 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes debuted with a more than a successful weekend. Opening to a total of $54.8 million on a $93 million budget, Rise of the Planet of the Apes became an instant hit with audiences and critics alike. Earning an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes began to showcase the power of visual effects in film and the ability to create an intriguing character whose dialogue consists of two lines.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my favorite films of 2011, with many stand out blockbusters Rise of the Planet of the Apes had tough competition but didn’t resist standing out above the rest. 2011 was a standout year in film with instant classics like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, X-Men: First Class, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Along with others like Drive, Warrior, Moneyball, and of course Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

With a star-studded cast consisting of James Franco, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, and of course the master of motion capture acting Andy Serkis. Starting with Andy Serkis who is perhaps the greatest motion capture actor in the world today, with his portrayals of Caesar, Gollum, and now Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars universe. He depicts the main character of Caesar in such a humanistic way. That brings this ape down to earth with how he looks at people or how he gazes at apes in the beginning as if they’re a foreign species (even though to him they are). ¬†The remarkable aspect of this motion capture work is Caesar’s facial expressions throughout the film. In which the little facial expressions he shows reflect the deep, gripping internal conflicts were going on inside of him. As in the scene in which Caesar refuses to go with James Franco’s character, Will Rodman so that he can stay behind and lead the apes.

This shot sequence is done with a close-up, over the shoulder, and another close-up. We see Franco’s perspective with Caesar’s back turned to him and the saddened confusion of this situation begins to overwhelm his facial expressions. Then we cut to Caesar’s close up in which his expression shows a regretted loss of sorts. His illustrations reflect the fact that he didn’t want to say goodbye, but he had to show how torn he is about his past and his future. This may be in overly in depth analyzation of a blockbuster film consisting of apes overtaking the city, but it’s a movie that shows the effort made by the filmmakers who desire analyzation of their creation as every filmmaker should. The brilliance continues with the excellent depiction of the apes. These visual effects are illuminating and only at certain moments reflect an aged quality.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is almost six years old, and the visual effects still hold up for the most part. The direction from Rupert Wyatt is astoundingly good. He chooses to focus heavily on visual storytelling with most of the shots using close-ups or mid shots to show the facial expressions of not only the apes but the characters as well and their conflicts. The narrative is what makes this film stand apart from the rest, with a riveting story that centers around Caesar and his growth from an orphaned child to an almost militaristic leader. His arc is thoroughly compelling from start to finish, but this begins to force the subtexts to drag a bit. Which is some of the flaws of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with Franco’s character focused on creating the cure for Alzheimer’s and that begins to become his primary focus after an inciting incident with Caesar.

This character arc starts to wear thin though due to the lack of enticement and unfocused pacing from Rupert Wyatt. He paces all of the ape sequences very well with how he centers the focus and maintains interest in the surrounding monkeys. He fails to do this with the human characters, who begin to become a bit monotonous with their depictions. Another flaw centers around the first act that start to drag as well due to its unnecessary slow pacing. The pacing starts to become a bit of a drag due to the anticipation of watching these apes become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. There is also some type casting with that of Tom Felton who begins to portray an Americanized “Draco Malfoy.” This characterization took me out of the film a bit while rewatching it before this review, but overall it doesn’t harm the movie that much. Rise of the Planet of the Apes continued to trudge along with some undeniably captivating filmmaking.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a successful hit for Rupert Wyatt who failed to land in a big way with audiences and critics. His direction is masterful, particular with his shot structure and how he chooses to place the camera on the characters. The editing is engaging with how it successfully reflects the pace and the tone of the film when it begins to pick up with its action. Remarkable performances nudge this movie above its competition and Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a film that began to fascinate me with how it chose to launch its franchise. Instead of providing a cliché origin story, it almost wants to display an inciting incident to the franchise with a thrilling and exciting narrative that reminds me of what blockbusters can do.

Rating: 4/5

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