An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a reboot of the film franchise that ran from 1968-1973. It is unconnected with Tim Burton’s 2001 “re-imagining”. The Burton film was a critical failure and despite being a literal box office success it is not a film that inspires fan love. So this new origin story is aimed at an audience that may have vague memories of the original films, but many will be more or less new to the storyline.
James Franco plays Will Rodman a scientist who is searching for a cure for Alzheimers disease. His quest is personal because his father (Lithgow) is in the early stages of the condition. Rodman discovers a cure that he tests on chimpanzees. Through a complex series of events, his cure ends up boosting the intelligence of a baby chimp that he names Caesar. Caesar lives with Rodman and shows remarkable intellectual development.
This part of the story is all new material. The family relationship between Rodman senior and junior and the new arrival Caesar is touching and gives the film its emotional core. By comparison Rodman’s relationship with hot vet Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) feels tacked on. Pinto is further lumbered with the thankless role of the nag who repeats the message: “There are some things that Man is not meant to know”.
The road from here to Caesar leading the Rise of the Apes, is a winding one that I won’t pre-empt in this review. Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have crafted a very detailed journey for Caesar and Rodman. For what is basically a popcorn movie, the filmmakers have done the grunt work of unfolding the tale steadily.
Some may find the finale of the movie somewhat shorter than they are used to. Many blockbusters have gigantic end sequences that simply don’t know when to quit, perhaps with the idea of giving an audience more bang for its buck. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, by comparison, has a big set piece finale, but it feels proportionate when compared with recent movies like X-MEN FIRST CLASS or TRANSFORMERS 3. I felt it was the perfect length.
Andy Serkis’s (Gollum in the RINGS movies) delivers a noteworthy motion-captured performance as Caesar Once again, Mr Serkis does an amazing job in creating the soul of the character inside a brilliant piece of computer generated imagery.
Director Rupert Wyatt does a good job with his second feature film. I found much of the first three quarters of the movie unremarkable visually, but it really hits its straps in the last quarter. There are some stunning visuals and cleverly worked out sequences as the Rise begins.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is an entertaining ride for audiences who are fresh to this story. It runs for 106 minutes and opens in Australian cinemas on August 4. I rated it 3/5.