Cert: 12 A Runtime: 105 mins Director: Rupert Wyatt Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo and John Lithgow
Evolution becomes Revolution
In 1968 the world was amazed by Planet of the Apes starring the late Charlton Heston, with a few sequels, a television series and a remake of the original in 2001 by Tim Burton. The Apes franchise has been around for nearly 40 years, earlier this year we were introduced to the first attempt at a prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Many people have been skeptical about it before the release this weekend, but being me I gave it a go.The plot is rather simple and I don’t want to get into too much detail. An ambitious scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is developing a cure to Alzheimer’s disease. Using chimps as part of the development of the drug Will realises he can cure the disease that has taken over his father Charles Rodman (John Lithgow). After Bright-Eyes (Will’s main test subject) escapes her cage and attacks a board room meeting she is put down, due to this Will discovers a baby chimp in Bright-Eyes cage. He takes the now called Ceaser into his home and realizes he is a very intelligent ape as he has been genetically developed while being carried by his mother.The older Ceaser grows the more intelligent he becomes, after Will has no choice but to put him in an ape sanctuary Ceaser starts to hate humans. He now attempts to start a revolution against the humans by using the very drug that created him to create a race of super apes and bring down the humans, will the Apes Rise ?
The one thing that always made the Planet of the Apes a bit campy was actors in make up and monkey suits. So in one instance, here’s where technology, specifically the use motion capture technology as seen in Avatar, can almost single-handedly justify revisiting an old franchise. But the apes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes don’t just look amazing — they have souls. So does this script, which delivers one of the summer’s biggest surprises in terms of pure entertainment and depth of storytelling.Unlike the Transformers franchise, where giant steel-crushing robots have gotten lost in inane plots driven by pointless human characters, Rise of the Planet of the Apes keeps the primates as an almost exclusive focus. Somewhere close to the midpoint, humans even take a back seat to the captivating ape-centered story arcs crafted by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Not only do apes most definitely rise in this movie, but they also do so with clear tremendous purpose. The story of how a potential cure for Alzheimer’s went out of control couldn’t be more crystal clear, as is the reasoning that inspires an ape named Caesar to incite a rebellion. I do belive that James Franco was the outstanding human in the whole film, he was a very good leading man. His actions and expressions especially with Ceaser were very compelling and heart warming as the paternal love between them is very precious. Franco can be proud of his work, not sure if it’s his best film but it’s close to 127 Hours.
This origin story plays out for most of the film, but Caesar ends up becoming the focus. Although he says nothing, he generates incredible sympathy through consummate mo-cap actor Andy Serkis . Add to that the burgeoning scientific moral dilemma and Rise of the Planet of the Apes builds quite the captivating story. The turning points for Caesar that result in and arise from his inhumane captivity all wield the impact that pivotal moments should carry in all films. Despite a story that originated almost 45 years ago, the script lays this perfect and scientifically reasonable foundation for the Planet of the Apes we already know. The only thing that feels like a reach is the speed with which the apes develop certain tactical abilities once they all receive the drug.Director Rupert Wyatt definitely understands the script handed to him as he provides the appropriate magnitude to these effective plot points and knows how to create mouth-agape moments. When Oyewolo’s character arrives at the lab cafeteria to find a bunch of tables overturned, Wyatt pans up to reveal he’s surrounded by apes. There’s no reason to think they weren’t there waiting for him, but we’re caught off guard just long enough to know he better make a run for it. Those are the glory shots that make a true blockbuster.
Much of the action used to promote the movie comes in the film’s final act, which uses all the slowly building tension from scenes showing cruelty toward the apes in the second act to fuel the fire. With such strong motivation accumulated during these first two chunks of the film, the action doesn’t have to be that explosive or visceral in order to be effective. Apes tearing humans limb for limb would have certainly made for a more interesting film to say the least, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes manages to get away with the tamer action due to all the powerful setup and Wyatt provokes some imagination-inspired gore. In addition, the fact that the apes just knock people unconscious serves the script’s efforts to show how — just like humans — some apes are violent and evil in nature while some are sympathetic and merciful. The film expertly muddles our perception of who to root for in this sense.Considering prequels inherently risk their quality on the fact that we know the end result, it’s impressive that Rise of the Planet of the Apes maintains our interest consistently throughout. The ending does leave something to be desired because it ends just as the battle between apes and humans seems to be going somewhere, but even though I’m not sure what would happen (or what the title would be for that matter), if the sequel picks up right where this left off I will be watching.