Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(That title really is a mouthful…)

I have never seen the original Planet of the Apes films (I know, I’m terrible) so I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect from this prequel (although I do have a vague idea of the plot of the original films and I have seen the Tim Burton/Mark Wahlberg version: SHUDDER…). And initially, from looking at trailers etc., I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to be awful. Turns out it’s a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be…

We follow a young scientist called Will (James Franco) who is trying to create a cure for Alzheimer’s in the hope of saving his father. The cure is being tested on laboratory chimps that are beginning to show signs of increased intelligence for some reason. But when one of the chimps has a baby and there’s no one else to take care of it, Will takes it home and raises him. But as he grows, the chimp (called Caesar) becomes more and more clever and independent, and maybe even dangerous…

Prequels that normally try to explain just how the situations of the original films happened can be incredibly convoluted and boring (maybe just for the reason that it’s nice not to have a reason behind everything and instead keep some of the mystery going). But ROTPOTA (phew) creates a story that takes its time in setting out a plausible plot to compliment the other Apes films and that’s actually interesting and fun in the way it’s explained.

James Franco is great (as usual) as the genius scientist and John Lithgow as his Alzheimer ridden Dad is excellent too and really heart-breaking to watch. It would have been nice if the film focused more on this father/son relationship though – it feels as though they’ve run out of time to give them some proper screen time together.

Tom Felton is also good but bloody hell, his American accent is pretty awful at times. And Freida Pinto is completely underused. In fact she might as well not even be there (and most of the time, she barely is) – just another female character to introduce a needless romantic subplot. I’m not even going to include a picture of her in this review like I was going to: HER CHARACTER IS THAT POINTLESS. No offence like.

Andy Serkis is the real star though as the ape Caesar – another amazing performance capture role (and you can really see his expressions come through when Caesar becomes older and more aware of the world). Ok, so the performance capture doesn’t work that great – when they’re moving through the trees or running or whatever it looks very unreal and it’s off putting. But when they’re still: WOW – every hair on their bodies and wrinkle lining their faces looks real. Until they move again that is.

All in all though it’s a good origin story with a couple of great action set pieces, but it sometimes feels as though it’s missing…something. Some other vital ingredient that could potentially make it amazing. It may be to do with the groundwork the plot has to set out before it can really get going. The ending leaves it open for an even more interesting (and inevitable) sequel though – so the real test will be how good the sequel is now that we’ve seen exactly how the damn dirty apes get clever and mean.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on September 1, 2011.

One Response to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

  1. I wasn’t actually expecting to be as moved as I did from this material but Serkis just really channeled the inner ape within him, and nails this perfect motion-capture performance as Caesar. Good Review!

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