Monday, 15 August 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Poster
For those who absolutely hated the Tim Burton remake of the original Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes film, never fear – this is not a remake. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an incredibly clever look at what came before – what happened to make the humans subservient to their all-speaking, all human-esque ape rulers.

The answer comes in the form of James Franco. Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist researching a new drug that could cure Alzheimer’s which is currently being tested on apes in his lab. Bright Eyes, the chimp that has shown a remarkable increase in brain function, is to be the reason why the drug gets pushed into human trials – until she goes on the rampage, ruining Rodman’s chances of taking the drug further. What Will doesn’t realise at the time is that the reason Bright Eyes has just gone crazy was because she was protecting her baby. Will takes the baby home and soon discovers that the drug that was in mum’s system has passed down to her baby. He keeps him and raises him at home along with his own father Charles (John Lithgow) who has severe Alzheimer’s himself, hence Will’s mission to find a cure.

What follows is an incredibly moving and action packed tale which examines the grey area between what is morally right and wrong and what happens when the bigger picture is not examined closely enough. The baby ape, Caesar, grows to be incredibly intelligent and compassionate – thanks to yet more phenomenal acting by Andy Serkis.  In Will’s defence, Caesar is allowed a fair amount of freedom to be himself.  However, by raising him with humans and allowing him to be an ape at the same time, Caesar is stuck between two worlds, unable to really fit in either one.  It is not until he attacks a human (out of love for Charles) that his reasonably happy home life is shattered and he is sent to a facility for apes. It is here we meet boss John Landon (Brian Cox) and son Dodge (Harry Potter star Tom Felton) who are not nearly as appreciative and understanding of Caesar’s brilliance as Rodman is.

Though there is nothing bad to say about the cast of secondary characters, they just don’t grab the screen as much as the central cast. Rodman’s boss is all about the money and not about the ethics, and his love interest, Caroline (Freida Pinto), adds very little to the story and seems to be there simply to give him someone to talk to while his dad is getting gradually worse. Strangely, though, their performances actually enhance the film by focusing the attention on the emotion behind the plot at all times.
The three main actors are incredible. John Lithgow is simply stunning as the confused old man battling with a horrific disease and his shifts between lucidity and confusion are heart-breaking to watch. James Franco is also brilliant, as he battles to do right by the people he loves (and by people I do mean to include Caesar). He sees that he might be hurting one to save the other but his constant inner battle is done with such simple grace and elegance that it never feels overly dramatic or sentimental.

But the absolute central focus of the story, the action and the core of the film itself has to be Andy Serkis. He brought life to Gollum in Lord of the Rings and has now brought humanity to Caesar. The man can ACT and deserves recognition for it!!! Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes could easily have been an action film with breath-taking fight sequences and very little plot. But thanks to Serkis, this film has not just plot, but heart. It manages to strike a beautiful equilibrium between action and emotion, making both aspects that much more compelling to watch.

The inevitable “rise” of the apes is chilling and gripping stuff as they start to get organised, stand taller and plot and the effects at this point will have you wondering what is real and what isn’t. There are little references throughout to the original but don’t be put off if you haven’t seen it – it will still all make perfect sense. It has humour, honesty and action sequences and a finale that is jaw-dropping … and when I say jaw-dropping I am not speaking metaphorically – there was actually a part where my jaw dropped!

Future film makers take note – this is how all blockbusters should be made! The question remains – when the apes rise, who will you be rooting for?


1 comment:

  1. I think I agree with almost everything you say. I thought John Lithgow was brilliant and Andy Serkis was stunning. I'm just not convinced by James Franco. You're spot on about the supporting cast, Frieda Pinto is gorgeous but that's all she was here - gorgeous and a sounding board for Will.

    And when the apes rise - I'll so be on their side....