Those damn dirty apes hit cinema screens in 1968 with the original Planet of the Apes, further making its impact with various sequels and a forgettable remake. Come 2011 and it’s now time to retell the origins of the initial conquest. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt and stars James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox and Tom Felton. More importantly, the film boasts a superb performance by the great motion-capture actor Andy Serkis, known for his roles in Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake and Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The film’s premise fits well within the frame of an ape movie, taking a slightly fresher direction this time round. Franco’s character Will Rodman is attempting to find a cure for Alzheimers, partly due to his father’s struggle with the disease. Using apes as test subjects for the corporation he works at, he discovers a potential breakthrough which may finally be the cure for the degenerative disease. This transformation is soon noticed in an adopted chimpanzee named Caesar, whose intelligence bewilders Rodman and his father. However, due to some unfortunate incidents, things begin to take their toll on the bright chimp and Will.
A series of events then soon lead to the inevitable ape breakout which begins their steps towards a primate revolution as a result of their new evolution. It’s a fantastic set-up which doesn’t seem to falter on being too unrealistic, retaining elements which make for a convincing storyline. The beginning sequence grabs your attention immediately and from there additional sequences make for the most exciting scenes of this year.
Take Tom Felton’s parts especially, whose penultimate scene will have the audience collectively gasp in awe. The film is comprised of these great scenes which have been put together brilliantly. Credit goes to Wyatt for producing the best bridge sequence in an action film in years. These particular parts are backed by some neat scientific explanations and drama, which involve the chimpanzee Caesar. It’s not easy to maintain a level of emotion to such a story whilst balancing action fluidly, but somehow the film does so effortlessly.
The chimpanzees look incredible, along with the orangutan and gorilla, who are both visually impressive beasts. Caesar is without a doubt the star of the film though, which isn’t very surprising as Andy Serkis perfects the movements and mannerisms of Caesar with great ease and precision, as he has done in the past with various characters. Herein lies the problem however, as these amazing CGI chimpanzees completely overshadow the homo-sapiens performances.
Franco is known for his unique acting and he is perhaps the strongest lead behind the chimpanzees. Lithgow also fits nicely as the suffering father but that’s no surprise, it is Lithgow after all. Unfortunately though, Freida Pinto is pointlessly included as a random love interest for some reason. Sure, she was great in Slumdog Millionaire but she has no significant importance with the story. She is shoehorned in as the generic love interest which typically gets included in a blockbuster film for no reason.
Felton manages his role nicely as the evil employee of an ape zoo, but hopefully the actor will consider much lighter roles in the future as he is in danger of becoming a tiresome typecast ‘villain’. Brian Cox is always a welcome actor in any film but perhaps his involvement with Wyatt in the past meant that he had to be in the film. He held some importance to the story, but his character soon disappears into the distance once the chimps get back in the focus.
This is the problem with Rise of the Planet Apes. It is however, not an issue to bother about too much. The film manages to be one of the best blockbusters of 2011, with perfect CGI and acting, especially on Serkis’ behalf. It might have a slow momentum at first but when it does finally kick off and the revolution starts, it begins with a bang.
It’s an impressive prequel to a series which was soon led down the wrong path, as it also opens itself up for further developments to the evolution of the apes. It is a welcome addition to this year’s roster of films, presenting itself as a surprisingly entertaining fare, with all the right elements to keep you on the edge of your seat.