Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

Review by FilmFella Lozz – 8/10

Ten years on from Tim Burton’s disappointing stab at the primate legacy comes Rupert Wyatt’s go at it. With only 3 previous movies to his name, he has created a grounded, more subtle drama out of the subject matter. Leaving remnants of ape action of the past well behind, this, Rise of the Planet of the Apes could well be the shock hit of the year. If not that, definitely the summer!

James Franco is the main man playing Will the scientist, who appears to have spent most of his working life attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, which just so happens to be what his dad (John Lithgow) is suffering from. After testing this new drug on chimps in the lab, it seems to improve brain capacity, development and re-generation – the chimps get smarter. Will inadvertently rescues a baby chimp, when the operation mistakenly gets the kibosh. He takes him home and raises him, but before he knows it, Caesar the chimp starts showing signs of intelligence far beyond what is expected. He becomes completely self aware, protective of his surroundings (and family) and learns sign language. However, when he is torn away from the life he has been used to and dumped into an all ape environment, tormented physically and mentally, he rebels and builds an army.

Andy Serkis has found himself a nice little niche in the market; playing a character and then having the CGI whizz kids put something else over the top of him. The first time, of course, was Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies and then he followed it up by becoming the chest-beating King Kong. In preparation for acting like an ape, he lived with gorillas, learning their physical attributes; gestures and movements. It allowed for a completely realistic animal character, especially as seen as the animal qualities weren’t fabricated. It made him the ideal choice; well, only choice, when it came to taking on the role of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And although the CG simians in this aren’t quite as crisp as Kong, the expressions and actions, especially considering Caesar, are top notch. It made it easy to care for him and see his side, even though he could be seen as the major antagonist.

Franco is adequate in the role as leading man; (although it could be argued that Caesar is the central male character). Frieda Pinto (of Slumdog Millionaire) is the nice vet lady; ummmm….that’s pretty much all there was to her character. But Brian Cox is John Landon, the ruthless sanctuary owner showing a good lack of emotion towards the animals; enough for us to hate him. But not quite as much as his son, Dodge, played by Tom Felton (Draco of Potter), who’s an absolute bastard. These latter characters are the ones who play a huge part in Caesar’s uprising and disgruntled attitude towards the humans.

The transition from cute little ape, swinging around on light shades, to leader of the revolt is a fascinating watch. Witnessing him becoming angrier and sly, together with his increased intelligence is the most captivating part of the entire movie. Constructing implements out of twigs to fiddle locks and his strategic planning is intriguing; but all of these things combined with his humanity allow us to not only empathise with him, but route for him. There are even moments that make you want to stand up and cheer for him.

Patient storytelling and confident direction makes this movie the triumph that it is. Falling back on action as a summer blockbusting device is lazy, and Wyatt doesn’t allow this to happen, even when the build up to the finale eventually erupts. There are one or two silly things that I won’t dwell on, and they are only very mere dents on what is a competent and exciting movie. A sequel could well be on the way, but if Wyatt’s not back onboard, I hope they don’t bother. This is the surprising stand out movie of the year, so far. Go see it. Hail Caesar!

Review written by FilmFellaLozz

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