In a summer chock-full of blockbuster Hollywood movies during which I saw the full gamut of films, only a few stood out as really great. You had the Good (Thor, Captain America), the Bad (Green Lantern) and the downright Eyes Bleeding from Boredom (Cowboys & Aliens), and just when I thought nothing celluloid would surprise me, I find myself shocked when I tell you, Dear Reader, that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a really good movie.
My skepticism of this movie or anything Ape-related dates back to Tim Burton’s 2001 abortion of a film, Planet of the Apes. Having grown up watching the Ape movies and TV series in reruns, I foolishly went to see Burton’s Planet in theaters. Looking back, I should have known better, but at the time all my friends were psyched and I decided to join the party and drink the Kool-Aid. In many ways I equate it to a buddy daring you to eat something you know is going to be horrible and you caving to not look like a pussy, only to never be able to get the rotten taste out of your mouth. To this day the flavor of “Pigeon Jerky” has not escaped my mind. It is tucked away uncomfortably next to the disdainful vision of Tim Burton’s “damn dirty apes.”
However, being a renowned glutton for punishment and having for the last week been reading in disbelief all the positive reviews for Rise of The Planet of The Apes, I decided to take a (pun intended) swing at the movie. I ended up loving it enough to write about it. What I thought was going to be a CGI-filled nightmare ended up being a well written and acted story that thoughtfully, and with much care and respect to the fans of the original series, reimagined the origin of the species. It was done in a way that didn’t feel like it was pandering to mainstream moviegoing audiences or trying to make a heavy-handed setup for a sequel (and there was a setup for a sequel, but it was, for once, subtle and done well).
I think it became most evident to me that it was a solid film when I overheard the teenage girls in front of me who at first wouldn’t shut up about how hot James Franco is (no arguments here, he is pretty dreamy) get past that and by the end of the movie start talking about how they wanted to go and rent the originals because they didn’t want to wait to see what happened next. I may be seen as biased, being that I write for a videogame and geek culture website, but the barometer of a teenage girl doesn’t lie.
So now, Dear Reader, I dare you, nay I double dog dare you to go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes! It will not make you forget Tim Burton’s bomb (nothing will), but it just might help to remind you of what you loved about the Apes in the first place, and get you psyched for a sequel.