Planet of the Apes was very important to me, and probably to most kids of my generation. I remember asking to stay up to watch the movies on CBS, and their creaky continuity. I remember the lame TV show. I remember the girl across the street who got the Mego PotA treehouse for a gift. It's instilled in my childhood, like the "Brady Bunch," Marathon bars, and the "Six Million Dollar Man," PotA was the 1970s.
All that said, you can imagine my disappointment with the Tim Burton remake, and especially that effed up ending swiped from a bad Kevin Smith comic book. When I heard they were making a prequel to it, my heart sank. A prequel to a bad movie is never a good idea, and besides, let's get real, the original prequels to PotA weren't that great either.
In truth, prequels rarely work, especially when we already know the story. Viewers might just give a pass to a prequel because it's not going to tell them anything they didn't already know. I already know the origins of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, you don't need to tell me again. In most cases they aren't even needed, and sometimes even hurt the property. Case in point - Star Wars.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised me though. It hooked me first with an intriguing trailer before throwing the title at me. I wanted to see it before I even knew it was PotA. Finally, I've got hold of it on DVD. Let's see if my instincts were right.
From the start, there are homages , both verbal and visual, to the original series of movies. Much like the preview, the movie itself grabbed me right away. James Franco, in less than annoying mode, is a geneticist searching for a cure to Alzheimer's, testing on apes, and inadvertently succeeds with a chimp named Caesar that he raises himself. John Lithgow gives a wonderful performance as Franco's afflicted father as well. Andy Serkis does his usual as does Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton, so much for typecasting.
If you know the mythos, you can connect the dots, but there is still a strong emotional story here, not just a this-is-how-we-got-here vibe. The CGI effects make for the needed realism of the tale. While the ape masks and make-up of the original PotA were state of the art for the time, sadly now, they are just, well, ape masks and make-up. These apes look real and emote real, it's very stunning. In fact it's a tribute to the power of CGI done well that the scenes of Caesar and other apes are so hypnotic.
I really dug this flick. When all hell really breaks loose, and the apes begin their 'rise,' I was ten years old again. Yeah, it's that good.