The original Planet of the Apes has become something of a science-fiction icon in geek lore. Its premise was set in a dystopian future where humans have long been forgotten and an intelligent ape society rules planet earth.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a precursor to that film and as many stories get simplified when passed down from generation to generation, this film pretty much is as simple as stories get albeit not quite as grand.
Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist who experiments on chimpanzees to develop the brain cell regenerating serum “ALZ 112” for his corporation. Unfortunately for Will, a test ape runs amok, crushing the future of ALZ 112’s support along with Will’s ambition to cure his aged father “Charles” (John Lithgow) of the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease. All was not lost though as Will finds convenient love that resulted from the termination – that love being the intelligent infant chimp known as “Caesar” whose mothers rage in the boardroom caused the debacle. Caesar (Andy Serkis) exhibits unnaturally high intellect due to the experimental serum passed on to him from his mother. Will nurtures Caesar from his home since the accident but as the ape reaches maturity, Caesar becomes ever more aware of himself as a chimp in a humans world. From there on it’s the genesis of a primate-fuelled apocalypse and explosions a plenty as an army of apes fights for freedom.
The characters are paper thin and only serve as filler for the plot until the apes arrive.The casting is also something of a mixed bag. James Franco, an actor who can never truly be taken seriously, doesn’t seem to capture the earnestness of his character. Lithgow doesn’t quite capture his role very well either, never quite reaching a good balance between kooky old guy and genuinely senile. Filling out the female lead is “Slumdog” actress Freida Pinto who plays an ape specialist and Will’s squeeze but she’s really just there to sit back and look good. Then again it’s also possible that the writing doesn’t capitalise on the cast’s talent.
Lets be honest now, you’re not going to see this movie for the boring human characters, are you? The apes are the real stars.
Caesar, unlike his human counterparts, is truly charming. The motion capture work is phenomenal as they blend choreographed authentic chimpanzee behaviour with the emotional capacity of a human. Caesar is also by far the easiest character to sympathise with. It truly is a feat despite the unsettling facial emotions they had to implement on the character.
APES’ main achievement is undoubtedly its special effects and CGI – you can really tell that they sunk a lot of their budget into those areas and it pays off as we see hyper-realistic simians of all manifestations parading through the streets ofSan Francisco, seamlessly integrated with the live footage. The apes magnificence culminates on the final action scene which makes us feel dumb because apparently apes can devise strategies that surpass human intellect despite sign language being their highest means of communication.
Director Rupert Wyatt tries his best to make a serious film but that sentiment doesn’t get carried along very well due to the absurdity of the plot. What Wyatt does provide is a movie that flows naturally with no major hiccups but at the same time doesn’t have any real “edge-of-your-seat” thrills. It’s an above average science fiction that doesn’t have the same impact on popular culture the way its predecessor has.
Rise of The Planet of The Apes never conveys any real subtlety and takes a more in-your-face approach to its painfully blunt message which rings in after a rather tepid ending that undoubtedly leads us to expect a sequel. It’s a film which delivers the goods for a popcorn filled action sci-fi flick but doesn’t really provide a truly engaging experience for anyone else.
What did you guys think? Have any of you seen the original films with Charleton Heston? Let me know if you think this one matches up!