About four hours before seeing the new PLANET OF THE APES film, I realized that I hadn't seen the two most recent films, and that I wasn't going to make the same mistake I made with the new X-MEN and new TRANSFORMERS movies. I needed to see all the movies in the series in order to write a real review of the most recent installment.
Obviously I didn't have time to watch all the movies from the original quilogy (although I have seen the first one), so I decided to focus on the two most recent films, with Marky Mark and stoner-genius James Franco, respectively. By the time I got back from Best Buy after buying the two movies, I only had about three hours before I needed to be in my seat for the movie. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to use one of the greatest technologies in the history of human kind, the Fast Forward.
I fast forwarded through the first movie at about 4x and was actually able to learn a lot from it. Mark Wahlberg is in it obviously, and it seems like he plays the Charlton Heston character. The apes are in control here, but Wahlberg leads a rebellion against them. The rebellion ends when another ape comes from space. The movie finishes on an optimistic note with Wahlberg being able to travel back in time to Earth and landing near the Lincoln memorial where he is greeted by an onslaught of reporters and cops.
I didn't have enough time to fast forward at 4x through the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, so I had to go through at 32x. Although it was very quick, I did find out some important things. First, there were a bunch of apes and a bunch of humans. Second, James Franco was in it. And third... That's it. Ok so I found out some things, not necessarily interesting things. Once that was over and with full knowledge of the rest of rebooted series, I rushed to the theater (or theatre if you're feeling pretentious).
I gotta say based on the previews I've seen this movie looked... well, not great, and despite positive reviews from critics (who in the future will be referred to as "colleagues"), I was hesitant to see the film. The first fifteen minutes of the film being just apes speaking with each other did nothing to reverse my opinion of the movie, but as it went on, it got better and better.
I found myself actually relating to the apes, which I did not know I was capable of doing. There weren't any stupid gimmicky, ape moments of chimpanzees riding on segways or anything like this. It's a good old-fashioned story of two civilizations trying to coexist in a dangerous world, and the fact that one of those civilizations happens to be a bunch of monkeys is kind of irrelevant to the story as a whole. Their civilization is run similarly to the Dothraki, with the alpha-male in charge, the main difference being there seems to be significantly less rape.
The strangest thing about the apes though, is that they're much more interesting than the humans. Jason Clarke is essentially a less conflicted (and therefore less interesting) Rick Grimes, and his family is, fittingly, a blander Grimes family. The addition of Gary Oldman is unnecessary; he doesn't do much and his part could have been one of the forty "roles" Samuel L. Jackson "plays" each year. The other human characters round out the standard rag-tag group of nameless survivors in similar movies.
The movie starts and ends with the apes, and rightfully so. Caesar, the leader of the apes, is an incredibly interesting character, and you probably don't even need to fast forward through RISE to figure that out. He's essentially the apes' Moses, having rescued them from the human experimentation that caused the virus that decimated the human race. He was raised and taught by a human (James Franco in flashbacks) who knew he was an extraordinary chimpanzee. On one hand, he knows there's good in some humans, but on the other, he has seen the atrocities of which they are capable. That internal conflict is, for good reason, the centerpiece of the film, which stands out as the second-best movie with talking apes I've ever seen.