Although at first glance this looks like a stand alone, full reboot of the classic “Planet of the Apes” series of films, on closer inspection there are a lot of little hints that this is actually pretty closely related to the original 1968 film starring Charlton Heston. Forget the Tim Burton reboot in 2001, this film is not related to that at all.
Set in the present day, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is experimenting on chimps, trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease to save his father (John Lithgow). His new drug shows amazing results healing the brain and as a side effect it seems to be boosting the intelligence of the apes. After a lab mishap, his chimps are destroyed except for one newborn who has inherited the effects of the drug from his mother. Rodman takes the chimp named Caesar home and continues to study him while he raises him. When Caesar is taken from Rodman and sent to an ape shelter, he uses his intelligence to help organise the other apes and the revolution begins.
The film is heavily influenced by the 1972 film “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (part 4 in the original series) but handled in much more realistic way. Gone is the camp production design, rubber masks and over the top, subtle as a brick parallels to slavery. Here we have nuanced performances and a very realistic chain of events that make you buy into the sci-fi concepts. Director Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist”) obviously believed, to his credit, that these apes and their performances are as important as the human characters. You feel the raw emotion from these apes, you feel their frustration, you feel their anger.
Credit must also be given to Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital who have created their most impressive CG creatures to date. That is a big statement considering they are the same company that brought us “The Lord of the Rings”, “King Kong”, “Avatar” and the soon to be released “The Adventures of Tintin”. Even though Caesar and the rest of the apes are CG creations, they have real personalities. Using the latest in Motion Capture (Mo-Cap) technology WETA has truly brought living creatures to life on the screen. Using special mobile Mo-Cap equipment, WETA was able to capture veteran Mo-Cap actor Andy Serkis’ (who supplies an amazing performance for Caesar) performance as he actually interacted with the live actors on set, this allows for much more realistic interaction between actor and effect.
Everything works in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, simple as that. I enjoyed the film very much and I recommend it as a great adventure film that also asks deeper questions about man meddling with nature and our treatment of what we deem as lesser creatures. This is highly recommended viewing and I really hope that they continue the series into a reboot of the original 1968 film. Yes, I actually said I wanted to see a reboot, that is how good this film is.
It opens in cinemas today, so now you know what you have to go see on the weekend.
- David McVay
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Rupert Wyatt and is written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver suggested by novel “La planete des singes” by Pierre Boulle. It stars James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine and Andy Serkis. Released by Twentieth Century Fox.