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Movie Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton, Brian Cox and John Lithgow
Director: Rupert Wyatt
20th Century Fox
Certificate: 12A
Running time: 105 mins
Opens 05 August 2011 (US), 11 August 2011 (UK)


When scientist Will Rodman sets out to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, humanity’s arrogance sets off a chain of events that leads to intelligence in apes and a challenge to our place as the dominant species on the planet. Caesar, the first intelligent ape, is betrayed by humans and rises up to lead his species’ spectacular race to freedom and the ultimate showdown with mankind...

If Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes was a “re-imagining” of the 1968 original, then this film is surely a “re-imagining” of 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Its premise is similar, as the intelligent chimpanzee Caesar, an orphan and the first of his kind, is raised by a human guardian (in this case James Franco as Will Rodman), but is ultimately captured and imprisoned with other apes, before he leads a rebellion against the primates’ human oppressors.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not part of the continuity of the first five movies, nor is it a prequel to Tim Burton’s effort, though it can be viewed as an alternate prequel to the first film. There are numerous fan-pleasing nods to previous Apes pictures, such as Caesar constructing a model of the Statue of Liberty, Charlton Heston showing on a television screen, and a spacecraft heading for another planet in the news. Several details about the rise of the apes are as described by Cornelius and Zira in 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes, including the pivotal moment when Caesar says, “No.”

Unlike previous entries in the franchise, which relied upon pioneering make-up effects to realise the ape characters, Rise of the Planet of the Apes uses the latest motion-capture technology to bring the creatures to life, led by Andy Serkis (the go-to guy for mo-cap simians, having played Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga and the giant ape in King Kong) as Caesar. Though almost always distinguishable from the real-life apes that also feature in the picture, Serkis’s computer-aided performance is undeniably effective, and is especially emotive during the chimp’s early days.

Of the human cast, James Franco (Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) is sympathetic as the driven scientist, while Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) is the compassionate primatologist Caroline, whose character instructs us about real-life ape behaviour. Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) is up to no good once again, while Stargate Atlantis fans will recognise David Hewlett in a supporting role - both characters get what they deserve. The reliable Brian Cox and John Lithgow also appear.

The film outstays its welcome. Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa’s plot doesn’t seem to know when to end. There are several points during the second half of the picture when you think, “OK, I get it”, and the narrative could have cut to the astronauts returning to find the Earth dominated by apes - a scene that never happens, by the way (though I had fully expected it), presumably because such a development is being reserved for potential sequels.

Despite flagging towards the end, there is plenty to go ape about as this movie rises to the occasion.


Richard McGinlay

Screen shot

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