Variety‘s Peter Debruge — the guy who wrote an impassioned thumbs-up review of the reprehensible Crazy, Stupid, Loveseems unsettled by Rise of the Planet of the Apes offering a “curious chance for humans to revel in their own destruction.” He also wonders if audiences “[will] mind witnessing the annihilation of their own species” as “there’s something undeniably subversive in asking auds to cheer” as humankind begins to lose the battle for earthly dominance.

And yet for a film that “could have been a disastrous gamble,” Rise of the Planet of the Apes “makes for an impressive, if predictably downbeat prequel to a franchise famous for unhappy endings,” he says.

What the hell is Debruge talking about? Rise isn’t the least bit downbeat. It doesn’t have an unhappy ending. There isn’t the first hint of trepidation about humans being annihilated on-screen….nothing. And the revelling is not about our defeat but from sharing the spirit-lifting triumph that kicks in when the apes break out of their cages, Spartacus-style.

So Debruge likes “upbeat”…is that it? The man likes to feel happy and cuddled and reassured, which is apparently why he went for Crazy Stupid Love. He doesn’t like mankind being threatened by apes. He’d rather get a nice hug from Steve Carell or Ryan Gosling.

At least Debruge understands that the Andy Serkis‘s performance as Caesar-the-chimp is a very significant score. “So nuanced and specific is Serkis’ performance that his digital avatar shows far greater emotional range than any of his human co-stars, even without the aid of dialogue,” he writes.

More interesting is Sasha Stone‘s view that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is 2011’s “best film so far.” I wouldn’t go quite that far but I admire any critic or columnist sticking their neck out.

“The best movies you never see coming,” she writes. “Expectations weren’t running high [for this film] — the thinking was it would be as campy as the old Planet of the Apes movies or worse, as bad as the Tim Burton one.

“What most weren’t expecting, of course, was that the Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be so character driven. Because the technology is now seamless, there is very little separation between our awe and our emotional reaction.

“Half of the exhilaration here is [director] Rupert Wyatt‘s sleight of hand. It isn’t so much that the apes are faithfully rendered and seemingly real — so real you can’t believe you are not watching reality — it’s how he keeps the action moving. It’s that the director has such a command of the pace and the action, the film only slows down when we must head back into the human world and follow those stories. But any time it’s on the apes it exists in startling rapid-fire time.

“What’s most frightening about it in the end is how it reminds us that we’ve trapped even ourselves in a prison of our own making. When the apes decide they’ve had enough, something in us makes us wonder what would it take before we too have had enough?”