What Works: Disregard the trailers. This is not a full blown apes vs. man action movie. This is a mostly character-driven story that centers around Caesar, the Ape that ultimately went from rescued orphan to leader of the Apes. There is a strong emotional center, with a two-pronged approach. Caesar and his maturity/development into “adult,” as he is first raised by, and then rebels against, his scientist/adopted father, played capably by James Franco.
The second is his realization that he — and his fellow apes — have been forced into being “pets,” rather than a “free” tribe allowed to follow their own destiny. I will not give any spoilers here, but Andy Serkis, who provides the motion capture performance for Caesar, gives the character — and the movie — its true heart.
‘Rise’ also takes its time to develop. For us to believe — or suspend disbelief — that these Apes could ultimately secure their freedom with human-level intelligence (and perhaps even greater than that), we need to follow the journey, which has more setbacks than success. We get that. There are a few gaps in logic here, but it is a journey that’s well worth the ride.
What Doesn’t Work: As good as the motion capture was at times, the Apes looked a bit too computer generated at others, which was a slight distraction. Also, the secondary characters, for the most part, were just caricatures, rather than full blown individuals. The “evil tormentors” and corporate baddie were too generic, and some very good actors were mostly wasted.
If I had any frustration with ‘Rise,” is that as much as I enjoyed it, this could have been a classic, and it doesn’t quite get there. With a little more time on the script to flesh out the additional story threads, this version could have risen to the level of greatness.
Final Thoughts: One of the better popcorn sci-fi action movies I’ve seen in quite a while, ‘Rise’ re-instates the ‘Apes’ franchise with a winning formula, with a central figure you can really care about. And while it didn’t reach its full potential, missing out on some opportunities for greatness, I’ll gladly come back for more.
My Score: 7.5 Stars out of 10