When I saw that a re-boot of this franchise was coming I must admit I was seriously sceptical about it all. The Charlton Heston movie is an iconic sci-fi film of which, like all franchises, the sequels getting gradually worse! I can't remember now how many they ran to, but it was too many. The film even spawned a television series which I can vaguely remember as a kid. Suffice to say I can recall exactly the last time I saw the original! It was in 1988, and TVNZ was running the films of the whole franchise late on a Sunday night, over several weeks.
The Tim Burton re-make was somewhat savaged on its release, and I intentionally avoided it because I just refused to watch a butchery of a classic film. I have seen it since, ( twice! ), on television, and don't think it as bad as all that! I mean it had actors dressed as apes, and this was my trepidation with this re-boot, no real actors, so could this really work? as what made the originals what they were would be lacking.
First off I'm not the world's biggest CGI fan. Sure it has its place, and when done right it is great, and I do acknowledge that. But when it is poorly done it is awful. My main gripe though is that it has made film makers lazy, and CGI has just became the be all, and end all, of film making. The Green Lantern, and the last Harry Potter movie, are good examples of movies that were quite literally drowned in CGI. So it was with surprise when I watched Rise's trailers, and saw a marked lack of the dreaded curse of modern cinema! To be sure CGI was used as I doubt younger audiences would accept humans in ape costumes as us old foggies did!
Here there are real actors! They have real clothes on! They live in real houses! They eat real food!! But they are going to be overrun by CGI apes! BUT wait, this is where I will surprise, and shock you! The CGI apes are simply in a word, SUPERB!!! This would have to some of the best CGI work I've ever seen. The apes are obvious the core of the movie, and if they didn't look realistic then a dud it would be. But no, they are just brilliant, and I give credit where credit is due! They work, and hence the whole movie does...whew thank god!!
The cast is a good one which helps also. We know James Franco can act, and he was a good choice for this. John Lithgow turns in a very fine performance as a alzheimer's sufferer, and is quite believable. The other cast members are quite literally there but not there at the same time. It isn't to say they were bad, but this is an ape movie, and hence we get lots of ape time over human time!!
So here I say yes, this was far better than I thought it was going to be. I really, really enjoyed it, and had a few chuckles along the way, ( thank god there were no banana's involved! ). Did anyone else notice the nod to the original with Caesar building a model Statue of Liberty?!! Very tongue in cheek indeed! For a movie of over 2 hours I found absolutely no slow spots, and the movie moved along very well. I never felt bored or distracted.....and had no seat squirming at all! Hooray!! But, and there is always the but isn't there?! There are problems. Well there had to be didn't there?!
Whilst I praise the CGI of the apes, I scratched my head as to why at times CGI was used in the long distance shots of San Francisco, and The Golden Gate Bridge. I mean that was un-neccessay and was glaringly obvious. For some reason CGI cities never look good, and San Francisco looked awful I'm afraid. But, again that but, I will say this in its defence, the apes have a scene on the Golden Gate, and of course the only valid way of making the scene was with CGI. So by using it for the long shots the makers were just getting the audiences eye used to CGI, instead of using real imagery, and then swapping to CGI. If they had done that it would have looked reaaaaallllyyy bad.
I give credit again because it did work, and any other way wouldn't have, ( even though at times a CGI'ed Golden Gate looked a bit unrealistic ). But one thing did hit me! If you know your James Bond, then the Golden Gate scenes will remind you of 1985's, A View to a Kill, where Roger Bond and Christopher Zorin fight it out on the tall pillars! Well it did for me just because I love Bond! The other problem is the script. In essence there didn't feel like there was one. I mean in all honesty, if you watched the trailers, then you have script!! And yet the movie still worked! I think by having long ape only scenes, with no narrative, meant the movie could do this. But in all reality don't expect a strong storyline because there really isn't one, just enough for premise, as this is in all essence a prison breakout by apes!
But don't get me wrong and overplay my criticisms, because in all reality they are quite minor with Rise being a well above average movie!! The CGI apes are superb. They just had to be or clang clang would have sounded quite loudly. James Franco is very good as is John Lithgow, with the rest of the cast being virtual by standers. The script is a bit thin and yet gets away with it. I just wish I had seen the original just to see if this re-boot ties in with it. I'm thinking of the premise here, namely that of the treatment being developed becoming the cause of the virus that wipes out man kind. I'm just wondering how, and if, it ties in with the original. I can't remember if it ever came up as to how mankind was over run by the apes. It is a minor thing but it just sat at the back of my mind throughout.
Well what more can I say! This was a very pleasant surprise! It's flaws are minor, and I can live with them. But most importantly it hasn't disgraced the legendary original, and I'm fairly sure any one old enough, like me, to have seen the original, and its TV series will like this. I was a fan of the franchise then, and was sceptical of a re-boot, but I'm pleased to say, hey this was actually quite good! 7.5/10 from me!
I suppose it must be asked how does it stack up against the original. The problem is that because I haven't seen the original in over 20 years I can't compare the two. I suppose in many way with CGI being the technology of today then the original will look dated against it. But the casts can be compared, as can be the premise, and script. Will be interesting to see what comes out in the wash over the next week or so opinion wise.