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Wick's Review

Created Aug 10, 2011 10:31PM PST • Edited Jun 04, 2022 02:58PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    What we have here is a Great Ape movie, perhaps the greatest ape movie. What’s to challenge it? Or them? More than just superapes, these are simian Humphrey Bogarts. The FX wizards having bestowed them with facial tics, they squint and grimace like great moviestars of yore.

    In service to a diabolically delicious plot, the apes entertainingly scramble all over the Bay Area, from Twin Peaks in San Francisco to the crown of Muir Woods to a never more iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Winning!

    People are the movie’s Achilles’ heel, both in their expressions and intentions. Led by cute couple James Franco and Freida Pinto, the human stars are curiously less expressive than the apes. Perhaps that’s inevitable. W.C. Fields said “Never work with animals or children.” Caesar the chimp hero is a child for most of the movie and a most extraordinary animal throughout.

    Intention-wise, the movie’s depiction of humanity ain’t pretty. Some are selfish, others mean, most stupid. So what if that’s how Hollywood movies often depict people these days. It’s a damn poor reflection of the human race, even if it’s necessary to get us to root against our species and for the apes.

    OK, it’s just a movie, one that brilliantly sets the stage for apes to take over Earth by destroying humanity, as they must for Charlton Heston to someday discover the Statue of Liberty while walking the beach.1

    We humans love to be thrilled, making us satisfied victims of a summer blockbuster that rises as high as RotPotA. We submit, happily.

    1 Apologies if that’s a spoiler for anyone under 50, but it’s kinda basic cultural literacy at this point.

  3. Good 3.0

    James Franco and Freida Pinto disappoint, he a brilliant scientist who mostly pouts, she a vet who mostly poses, both regularly boggled at the obvious consequences of their actions. Sure Hollywood canon requires that actors live in-the-moment, but these two live a beat behind.

    That said, Franco fares better than Pinto, though he’s shaping up as more an ensemble star than an above-the-title leading man.

    She’s got a face for the ages, but does nothing to prove that she’ll be more than a beautiful flash in the pan.

    John Lithgow gives a great performance as Franco’s dad, a proud man brought low by Alzheimer’s who is then raised to an elevated state of brilliance by his son’s bio-engineered drug. Given only a few short scenes, Lithgow the old pro shows the other humans in the movie what great acting looks like.

    Then there’s Caesar, the leader of the pack: inhuman actor Andy Serkis and the geniuses behind the motion capture and other FX make Caesar a revelation, his expressive face reminiscent of Bogie’s Fred C. Dobbs from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, his mercurial character understandable and admirable. Bravo!!

    Finally, an appreciative boo-hiss for Tom Felton, who has a knack for characters we love to hate. Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, sadistic ape keeper in RotPotA.

  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5

    Franco good, Serkis/Caesar really great.

  5. Female Stars OK 2.5


  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5

    Lithgow and Felton great, others just OK.

  8. Great 4.0

    Setting a new sci-fi benchmark, this prequel extraordinaire answers questions that have hung in the air for decades while setting up a cartload of sequels. Bravo!

    Interesting that Project Nim appeared in theaters right before RotPotA, which is a Project Nim on steroids.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Great 4.0

    Brilliantly anticipates the earlier sequels by credibly creating a scenario where apes will rule the world and also by wittily using one of Charlton Heston’s lines from the original Planet of the Apes.

    Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

    I also liked how the jerk next door became a repeated foil for all that was going wrong with Caesar. Funny, and necessary to advance the larger plot.

  11. Music Very Good 3.5
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Climbing to the crown of Muir Woods, gazing across the Marin Headlands to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco beyond was magnificent. Nearly outdoing it is a scene from atop Twin Peaks, though the pièce de résistance is the final confrontation on the world’s most beautiful bridge.

    The Bridge scene becomes an instant classic.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.8

    Apes in danger, people in danger, some blood.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Brutal 2.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.7
  18. Supernatural 3.2

    What do you get for just under $100 million these days? You get countless FX types, hundreds maybe thousands of them. Oh yeah, you also get 80 stuntmen. The results are extraordinary, a new benchmark in sci-fi movies.

    Not that there aren’t some obvious reality liberties.

    • Controls around human trials of a complex wonder drug are laughably notable by their absence.
    • A wonder drug that dramatically grows brain function is clearly something Hollywood obsesses about. Pity for them that cocaine doesn’t fill the bill.
    • California Highway Patrol and SFPD are made to look like dumb fascists.

    On the plus side, the movie leaves us with a clear logical path to the first sequel of this generation. The advanced drug that works wonderfully on apes turns out to kill humans. Hmm, how’s that going to play out in the next movie…

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.9
  20. Biological Supernatural 3.7
  21. Physical Surreal 2.9


Subscribe to Rise of the Planet of the Apes 5 replies, 1 voice
Sep 10, 2012 11:10PM

Regarding modern marvel’s Review
“To compliment andy serkis on his work as caesar is going to be an understatement no matter how i try; lets simply say that its a revelation and the man deserves every accolade he earned or will earn.” Here, here! Best actor in the movie.

Aug 25, 2011 8:04PM

Regarding BigdaddyDave’s Review
Dostoevsky. Cool.

Aug 7, 2011 10:39PM

Regarding izzio’s Review
“I pray the sequel won’t be called something ridiculous like Return of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” :-]

I also liked “10 points from Slytherin.” Funny.