Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

Review by FilmFella Henry – 8/10

Rise of The Planet of The Apes is the seventh instalment in the simian series, falling somewhere between prequel and reboot. Driven by the failing mind of his father (John Lithgow), scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, with a batch of ill-fated apes as his guinea pigs. After a blunder at the lab, the animals are all put down, except for a small baby ape named Caesar who Rodman smuggles out to raise at home. Quickly realising that the creature is infected with his Alzheimer’s cure, Rodman can only watch as Caesar develops far beyond his simian brothers. Torn between the needs of his dying father, pressure from his employers and Caesar’s own desires, Rodman is caught in a tangle of obligations, which could mark the end of human supremacy.

Rather than adopt the action/adventure style of the other ‘Apes’ films, director Rupert Wyatt has gone down a drama driven route here, with a structure similar to that shown in Splice. And for the most part it works well. Caesar’s inclusion in the family unit is an interesting watch as we see him rapidly develop and adopt human behaviour, displaying similar human understanding and observations. The setup also benefits Rodman, as the obsessed scientific archetype is sloughed away to be replaced by a far more empathic father figure.

As such, when Caesar is torn from his comfortable environment and thrust into a prison filled with other simians, the difference between him and the others are clear: they are mere animals, while he is far more than that. Intelligence still advancing, Caesar observes the cruel disregard the humans show his animal brothers and contrives a plan to liberate them, both physically and mentally.

Now although we have previously seen events from the apes’ point of view in the many sequels, Rise of The Planet of The Apes is important in that it lays out a reasonable explanation for why the events in the previous films actually took place. More importantly, I found myself rooting for Caesar and his growing clan, as he represents the clear underdog in an unjust world. This could easily have become schlocky and forced, but somehow a suitable degree of intimacy and emotion has woven itself through this film, presenting a story that seems genuinely heartfelt.

Visually, the film is competent, peaking in the third act when the narrative allows for some grandiose set pieces that really showcases the intelligence of this rising uber race. Sure, the ape CGI does leave something to be desired, but to be honest, none of the ‘Apes’ films ever looked a grade above ridiculous. At least Rise of The Planet of The Apes has taken the time to invest in some fine facial detailing, which goes a long way towards making Caesar believable.

Rise of The Planet of The Apes is a worthy addition to the series that exceeded my expectations. A fun family film full of heart and excitement, this film stands out in a year of predominantly drab cinema. Tim Burton could learn a lesson here.

Review written by @filmfellahenry


About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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