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Andy Serkis’ Caesar: Ten Years of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

Caesar led the charge in reviving a once-dead franchise.

By MovieBabblePublished 3 years ago 3 min read
20th Century Studios

This month marked ten years since one of the last decades’ most beloved characters first swung onto the big screen. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes we saw the birth of Andy Serkis’ Caesar, a chimp who was taken from a laboratory to avoid being put down after his mother, in an act of defense, went on a rampage throughout the facility. This film presented itself in a very unique way for those who are familiar with the Planet of the Apes franchise. It was modern, set in contemporary times, and in a stark difference to the films that preceded it, did not utilize makeup and prosthetics for the look of the Apes. This film is notorious for being one that surprised audiences back in the summer of 2011. After the poor reception of Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes, this film and the franchise overall did not have a high amount of energy and excitement going for it. The best way to describe the production and release of this film is acknowledging that it faced a clear uphill battle towards greatness and audience acceptance.

This was one of the movies that consumed me when I was younger. My dad, who was a big fan of the original films from the 1960s and 70s, thought we’d give it a try on-demand a few months after its initial launch in theaters. For me, the rest is history. I absolutely fell in love with this movie, showing it to all my friends (and forcing them to get their parents to rent it on VOD when I went over). It’s safe to say many of them became enamored with it too. Was it the uniqueness of the storytelling in that we follow a CGI chimp for the better part of the film? Was it the cool visual effects and incredible San Francisco bridge set piece in the final third? Or was it the way that this movie (despite being rather predictable in its outcomes) took so many twists and turns in how it presented itself? I’d like to think of it as a combination of all of that, and more, of course.

Uphill Battle and Visual Effects Breakthroughs

From the start, it was difficult to get this film green-lit. Aside from the difficulty of convincing the studio to put up money to revive a seemingly stalled franchise, the technology needed to get this film made was a huge question mark. The use of CGI to make the ape characters look as realistic as possible had only been made possible with rapidly advancing technology seen in films like The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and Avatar. Where Rise was different was actually shooting these CGI performances on location, instead of in a studio setting with green-screened walls, floors, and objects all around the room. This breakthrough in visual effects technology was made possible for the first time with this film, and since has been used countless times in Hollywood blockbusters, most notably in the two sequels to Rise.

Eventual Success

The summer of 2011 was full of pleasant surprises for moviegoers. Films like Fast Five, X-Men: First Class, and Rise all helped to revitalize formerly beloved franchises in major ways at the box office. As Rise opened in cinemas all over the world it was met with instant acclaim not only from audiences, but critics too. The film dominated the late-summer box office and silenced, or rather won over all those who questioned if the film was even necessary in the first place. What made this film so successful? How did it win over audiences and lead to an eventual trilogy? One word: Caesar.

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