I've never seen the original film, and I've only seen bits and pieces of the Tim Burton remake. I thought the idea of this film could be a fun one, but I didn't think I'd be going to see it in theater. Then all the reviews came out and said how great it was. And then, of course, I heard Tom Felton was in it (gotta support Harry Potter alums!). So, finally, I decided to give it a try.
Will (James Franco) is attempting to find a cure of Alzheimer's, primarily since his father (John Lithgow) has it. But after a major debacle, the company needs to put all their test apes down. They discover a baby chimp eventually named Caesar, and Will takes it home so they don't have to kill it. He slowly discovers that the intelligence traits of his test-subject mother have been passed on to him, and he grows up becoming smarter and smarter. Unfortunately, after an attack on a neighbor (David Hewlett), Will and his girlfriend, Caroline (Freida Pinto), have to take Caesar to a sanctuary run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his abusive son Dodge (Tom Felton). Things get worse from there.
One of my biggest concerns going into the film was the CGI, because they did look relatively fake from the trailer. And while you can still tell they're CGI and/or motion capture... they're done fantastically well. Andy Serkis is a genius with this kind of thing, and it's fascinating how much character he can bring to these types of... characters. And there were some apes I weren't sure if they were CGI or animatronic, so that's pretty dang good.
As for the other actors (besides Serkis), we're given James Franco as our lead. However, I found him much more charismatic when he was all alone in 127 Hours. He's good here, but he's not as strong as I think he could have been. His relationship with John Lithgow is great, though, and Lithgow delivers a wonderful performance. Freida Pinto is still as gorgeous as she was in Slumdog Millionaire (I haven't seen the other two she's done since), but her character isn't all that important. She's basically just there to be a love interest and that's about it. Tom Felton is just being Draco Malfoy with an American accent, but I have no problems there. I like him as Draco! The only other one I want to mention is David Hewlett, which was a great surprise. He's a long-time collaborator with a favorite director of mine, Vincenzo Natali, and I've been loving this guy since Cube. I totally didn't know he was going to be in this, and I loved it when he showed up.
The overall pacing of the film is alright. I was never really bored. My issue was that the film needed to take some more time with the emotional aspect. Sometimes things felt a wee bit rushed and I couldn't latch on to any character or feel what they were feeling. There's a point when a major character dies. Within seconds, they're doing funeral stuff, and about a minute later, the scene changes and it's never mentioned again. It's just that kind of thing. To go along with the rushed feeling, there are two or so moments in the latter half of the movie where they just kind of toss in the fact that astronauts are traveling to Mars (referencing the original film). This is important since the astronauts of the original would have needed to have left before the uprising, but it's more of a side note in this movie, as if they finished the script and were like "Oh... wait... we kinda need this in there somewhere, huh?" It could have been better if there were maybe news things in the background throughout the whole film.
All of this being said, I did really enjoy it. The action is good, the motion capture is excellent, and the acting works for what it is. It's an intense movie, even when nothing intense is happening. You can just feel the tension rising as the movie moves along, and you can tell what's coming. Another quick look over of the script could have made it great in that department, but as of now, it's just really good. And if they do make this into a prequel trilogy, I'd definitely go see the others.