Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar is home
It’s a myth that August is a dumping ground for studios. In recent years we’ve a number of excellent films in that month The Bourne Ultimatum, Inglorious Basterds, District 9 and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and now we can add Rise of the Planet of the Apes to that as well.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of James Franco’s Will Rodman, a scientist developing a cure for Alzheimers by testing it on chimps and apes. He claims he’s found the solution but due to an accident at the facility, his research is sent back to the drawing board and the test apes are killed.
One chimp escapes that fate and comes into Franco’s care. He takes him home and raises it while also giving his Alzheimers suffering father (John Lithgow) the serum which appears to halt the disease in its tracks. The young chimp – now called Caesar – develops an extraordinary intelligence but when Caesar intervenes in a fracas between Lithgow and a neighbour, Caesar is sent to an ape retreat and from there engineers an escape for freedom.
What’s makes Rise of the Apes so interesting is the importance given to its simian characters. Director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) tells the story from Caesar’s point of view as Caesar develops into a leader of apes, struggling at first before becoming a figure that leads by example.
The apes are genuine characters: funny, dangerous and angry, each one has an identity. They exist within the environment, interacting with each other and the film’s at its best when they’re on screen. The CG is remarkable, if not wholly photo-realistic.
The human characters suffer in comparison. Franco is game for the scientist that can’t see beyond his own choices and sets the world on course for global meltdown, but his acting feels neutered in some scenes. Lithgow fares better as the Franco’s father who struggles wih Alzheimers, giving the audience a reason to care in the human drama.
The rest of the cast suffer from thin characterisation that makes then too easy to dislike such as David Oyelowo’s business man who’s motivated by greed and success or Tom Felton’s character is your standard bully while Frieda Pinto has a very forgettable role Franco’s girlfriend.
Rise of the Apes delves into the difference between doing what is necessary and violence for violence’s sake. The apes want their freedom back and once the end title plays, it’s difficult not to be happy at the end result.