As a big Planet of the Apes fan, it was hard not to get excited about the latest film in the series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In this 2011 update on the classic series, James Franco stars as a genetic scientist attempting to find a cure for alzheimers disease. This drug is tested on an ape, resulting in highly increased signs of intelligence. Being a Planet of the Apes film, it’s never going to be that straightforward and soon a battle for supremacy begins between humanity and these super-Apes.
Director, Rupert Wyatt gives us an incredibly realistic and fresh approach to the Planet of the Apes saga. Rise reflects on humanity’s scientific advances whilst also taking into account other social questions such as the morality behind animal testing. Despite covering similar ground to the fourth entry into the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Rise feels like it has a far more believable and grounded approach.
Rise is being marketed as an action movie, however, there’s not a large amount of action in the film (about 1/5th of the film is the apes ‘rising’) – it’s far more of a scientific drama. There’s some wonderful performances with a strong lead performance from Franco, an underused appearance from Frieda Pinto and an excellent heart-wrenching turn from John Lithgow. In fact, it was a joy to see John Lithgow back on the big screen in a fairly major role. Much praise should also go to Andy Serkis, who’s fantastic as Caesar, the main ape – he’s unbelievably convincing.
When the film does get down to the action sequences, they’re are visually impressive. There’s a powerful scene with Caesar’s mother attempting to escape the research facility, as well as a spectacular climax on the Golden Gate Bridge. The motion capture apes look phenomenal, but call me old fashioned – I’d rather see the campy rubber ape masks of latter years.
There are several little tributes to the original films with Tom Felton murdering Charlton Heston’s iconic ‘damn dirty ape’ line and several characters named after the film’s original actors. However, as much as Heston was a big part of the first and second films in the Apes series, Roddy McDowall had a far bigger lasting impact on the series and it would have been nice to see him get a little mention. Despite these references to the original series, Rise feels incredibly detached from the original films, it feels far more like a glossy Hollywood production and it’s hard to believe it is allegedly connected to the original film.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is fairly enjoyable addition to the Planet of the Apes series. It feels very realistic and features some touching moments and strong performances. However, in my opinion does not have the same fun and enjoyable feel that the original series, and even Tim Burton’s reimaging had. However, a sequel is likely and the series does have time to grow. Rise may be a more mature and intelligent entry into the series but part of me still dreams of a Spartacus styled Planet of the Apes film, like that proposed by Adam Rifkin in 1988.
– A Digital Copy of the film
– Deleted Scenes
– Mythology of the Apes – Featurette
– The Genius of Andy Serkis – Featurette
Reviewer: Andrew McArthur
Rated: 12 (UK)
DVD Release: 12/12/11
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Stars: James Franco, Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow and Brian Cox
Originally posted at Silverscreenslags