The original Planet of the Apes is one of the most successful B movies ever made and still has a massive cult following, it is a classic of the 60s. The original, starring Charlton Heston, was followed by four sequels, a remake (directed by Tim Burton) which is regarded with distaste by film fans and critics alike, and now a prequel/reboot. The prequel/reboot is being regarded as one the finest films of the series since the 1968 original.
Intended to be a prequel (some say reboot) to the original, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins the tale of how the apes gained control of planet Earth. Will Rodman (played by James Franco) works as a scientist in San Francisco, the company he works for is attempting to discover a cure for Alzheimer's disease of which Will’s father (played by John Lithgow) is a sufferer of. After the subject ape the experimental drug was tested on goes on what was suspected as a rampage the drug is halted and the chances of production was zero. However when a baby ape, Caesar, (played by Andy Serkis) was discovered in the rampaging ape’s cage, Will Rodman brings him home in order to save him from death and to continue the experiment to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. One of the side effects of this drug was a rise in the intelligence levels of the apes that were tested on and this ability was passed on from the mother ape to Caesar. Caesar begins to demonstrate skills well beyond his human counterpart and after attacking a neighbour he is taken away.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes starts off with a breathless abduction sequence that is done with efficiency, it is also done swiftly and the actual abduction takes about one minute. The abduction is done with such speed, precision and power that it's actually quite scary and you can feel the fear and the panic that the apes are experiencing (just like how us humans feel fear). It’s a really good, effective scene and possibly one of the best in the whole film and sets the motions off for what is an exciting summer blockbuster. English director Rupert Wyatt is a relative newcomer to Hollywood having come from directing Hollyoaks to the modest The Escapist and now at the helm of a huge summer blockbuster handles the pressure exceptionally well creating a fast paced, thought provoking film allowing the viewer to think about the pros and cons of animal testing.
The human characters are terribly underdeveloped; never do you care for Will Rodman and his girlfriend Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto). Caroline Aranha’s introduction into the story seems pointless, her character brings nothing to the story and I don’t see what her character contributes, apart from being a love interest which is never really expanded upon. However while some of the characters are best described as cardboard cutouts, Tom Felton (in a typecast role) Freida Pinto and Brain Cox are examples, the relationship between father, son and Alzheimer’s disease is handled rather well and does create some authentic emotion. James Franco does a decent job, Pinto might as well be a figment of your imagination due to the fact that her character is poorly written but John Lithgow is the highlight of the non GCI cast. The script remains reasonably well written but stumbles in terms of developing character among the supporting players.
While we never connect to the human characters as much as we should, Will Rodman’s relationship with Caroline Aranha is never given a minute of screen time, we do have an emotional connection with the superbly created GCI ape which is half Serkis and half GCI. Using performance capture technology (which Serkis states is acting as much as a role without the use technological wizardry is) Andy Serkis delivers a superb performance creating a character with far more emotional content than any of the human characters. This is down to Serkis and the special effects team (the very same who were behind the creation of the exquisite planet of Pandora in Avatar) who do an outstanding job at presenting the apes as real as possible (they, of course, could never have used a real ape otherwise that would be slightly ironic considering the message they are trying to present). The special effects are indeed convincing and excellent also the battle sequences between man and ape are superb and the Golden Gate Bridge set piece is absolutely sensational. However, as The Rise of the Planet of the Apes falls into more disaster movie territory some of the themes and discussions it raises (animal testing is wrong) are replaced by the huge spectacle but the movie nevertheless remains entertaining.
Andy Serkis shines as the ape Ceasar who is the only character the audience connects to, James Franco is decent in the lead role and Freida Pinto is forgettable as well are some of supporting cast (Brain Cox for example) but all things considered the spectacle and the excitement result in Rise of the Planet of Apes being a fine film which contains one brilliant piece of dialogue which is a wonderful reference to the original. I bet you can guess what it is. Sequels are promised as director Rupert Wyatt is more than happy to do them.