Editor’s note: We all love movies, but rather than ask a syndicated columnist who has never visited our beautiful High Desert, we commissioned our own local movie critic: Nolan P. Smith to review films and give us a local perspective. Enjoy!
High Desert Daily
(Victorville) Those damn, dirty apes are back again, but in a way you never saw coming. Now, an Apes movie was made in 2001 and met with mild success, would an origin story of the smart apes really be worth a shot?
Debuting as a UK novel in 1963, Planet of the Apes went on to become a smash hit film in 1968, starring the likes of Charlton Heston. With many sequels to its name, including the Tim Burton directed 2001 film, was another entry into this world needed? I can say for everyone on the fence about this one: I thought the same thing. Yet, upon watching the film, I walked away knowing I just saw one of the best films of 2011.
Set in modern day San Francisco, the story focuses around Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), a man of the verge of creating a gene therapy that can cure Alzheimer’s disease, a personal issue as he desperately searches for a cure for his father (John Lithgow). This is what sets in motion the entire film, as chimpanzees are tested with this virus, and desired results are seen. The serum can help repair the mind, as well as improve it. One of the tested chimps has a child, Caesar, who becomes the star of the entire story. Snuck away by Rodman and raised as if he was a member of the family, Caesar shows an unexplained intelligence level, as well as very humanlike emotions and he bonds with Rodman and his father. Caesar is “played” by Andy Serkis, who also brought to life such CGI masterpieces as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and King Kong in the Peter Jackson remake.
Of course, there has to be a turning point, and there is. I don’t want to spoil anything for moviegoers, so I will just say that the build to that point is an emotional one, and it is one that sets the stage for the rise of the apes. Franco and Lithgow both deliver outstanding performances, but it is the loveable Caesar that stills the spotlight. His face wrought with emotions that we all feel, this movie really connects an audience to an inhuman character with ease. By the middle of the film, you will find yourself cheering for Caesar, hoping that the chimp wins in the end. The action of the up rise is spectacular and a little horrifying, as we can all see how out of luck we would all be if this film ever became a reality.
For me, this was not only the best of the Planet of the Apes franchise, but one of the best films of 2011. The story was spot on, the action delivered, and the ending felt earned and deserving. If the franchise continues to produce films of this caliber, they can count me amongst the fans waiting in line at the midnight opening showing.