This movie was pretty tremendous. I had heard it was good, and I expected to at least like it, but it's seriously one of the best movies of the year thus far. The thing about this movie, though, is that it's really hard to talk about what I liked so much about it without giving away some pretty major spoilers in the process, but I'll give it my best shot.
To give a basis of the story, this is the prequel to the classic Planet of the Apes. While trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, scientists are experimenting vaccination on apes that increase their intelligence. After an experiment gone wrong, the program is shut down, and the apes in the facility are forced to be put down. All except one, Caesar, a baby ape with the cure in his genes, who James Franco's character sneaks out and brings home to raise.
Despite the more action-oriented trailers, this movie really is more of a drama than an action flick. A lot of time is spent building our main characters, really showing the father/son bonds that are present, most notably between Franco and Caesar. As we watch our characters grow and evolve, we really are taken on an emotional experience, from the enjoyment of the simple things in life, the pain of loss, and the desire to find one's place in the world and be free. And when we start meeting more of the apes, the movie even turns into almost a silent film for a while, and yet it still remains completely engaging. You become truly invested in all of these characters, even the CGI apes. And this is all well before we really even see any of the big action set pieces.
And when we do get to the action, it's a whole lot of fun. Caesar has a habit of striking bad ass poses throughout the movie, and he's more than willing to flaunt this habit of his as he leads his army of apes through the city. But the movie goes in a completely different rout than what you'd expect in order to explain just how the apes managed the take over the world. A much fresher and, quite frankly, more satisfying rout, which leaves you actually rooting for the apes.
As I mentioned before, all of the apes are done using CGI. And while it's almost always obvious that those aren't real apes we're seeing there, the CGI is so good that it's never distracting and doesn't take you out of the movie. Some of the shots are simply mesmerizing, particularly some of the scenes of Caesar just swinging around trees. The apes were recorded using the same motion capture technology they used to film Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and Andy Serkis gives us one hell of a performance as the head ape, Caesar.
But like I said, the things that really make this movie stand out are things that are hard to describe without giving away some of the movie. It's the little things, the subtleties in this movie. For instance, this movie makes several subtle nods to the original film, though how we actually get from this film to that one isn't blatantly explained. This movie doesn't hold your hand. It gives little hints throughout, with just a little more of an explanation during the credits, just enough to help out anyone who may have missed those hints, without being overbearing. And I really appreciated that about this film. Where so many other movies assume its audience is made up of mindless monkeys, this one really treats the audience with respect in that regard.
I really can't say enough good things about this movie. I told my friend I went to see it with that this movie alone is so good, it makes up for all the disappointing movies I've sat through this summer. A lot of people have been skeptical about this movie, and rightfully so. But please don't fret, this movie rises up and delivers the goods in a huge way.