Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Starring James Franco, John Lithgow
The Planet of the Apes series was one of those campy fun sci-fi franchises that was fun, not particularly deep or complex, just entertaining. There was always the heavy handed moral message in the films but the execution of the message was often unintentionally funny making the films all the more entertaining. Like so many franchises though the series continued to degrade as it progressed both in storytelling and production before it finally hit a wall. Tim Burton attempted to revitalize the franchise with a new film a few years ago but fantastic special FX couldn’t save a horribly written and directed film. It was inevitable that Hollywood would give it another go at some point so now we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a pseudo remake of the film of the same name from the 70’s.
Like the original film this one is a prequel to the events of Planet of the Apes, the story of what brought our world to the state it was in during Planet of the Apes. This one can’t really be called a prequel though because it feels like the start of a new franchise. So it is possible that we may see Planet of the Apes in the future. There are plenty of little nods to the original series including the name of the first ape, actually a chimpanzee, to gain intelligence; Caesar. James Franco is a scientist desperate to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease which is rapidly taking over his father who is played by John Lithgow. In an attempt to move the testing forward at one point Franco tests his new drug on a chimp named Caesar. The chimp quickly begins to gain intellect far beyond any ape and even beyond that.
The drama is actually well rendered in this story for such an over the top concept and the CGI is solid for the most part. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis who became somewhat typecast in the role of motion capturing creatures after his amazing portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. Like that previous film Serkis gives his fully CGI character a sense of uniqueness and reality not common to these sorts of characters. The overt moral message is still here from the original films but it’s delivered with a teaspoon of sugar rather than jammed down your throat like the previous franchise. This is a summer movie so yes there is action and it’s fairly well executed and exciting. Overall, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an extremely entertaining film and a solid start to the franchise.
The film isn’t perfect though. It’s mostly predictable in its story and there is an issue with Franco’s character and that of his boos completely switching points of view by the last act of the film. With that said though, there are some nice story twists and some incredibly powerful and dramatic moments throughout the film. Fans of the original will appreciate this update and those who’ve never seen the original films will enjoy it too.