Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Released: 2011
Director: Rupert Wyatt

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto

Apes will rise – and I’m on their side

Until recently the new Planet of the Apes film completely passed me by.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been terribly interested in the whole series that I missed news of its production.  I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen the 1968 original, although some of the iconic imagery and dialogue has made its way into my sub-conscious.  I didn’t particularly enjoy Tim Burton’s 2001 version so even when I did hear about this new film I wasn’t really interested.  Then I saw the trailer and I was hooked.  I had to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

As suggested by the title this is a prequel, this is where we discover how the apes became so smart that they could take over the planet.  As you might expect it’s all due to the stupidity and arrogance of humans.  I’m with the apes – I want them to take over, they couldn’t mess up more than we have.

James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a scientist desperately seeking an Alzheimer’s cure, particularly as his father suffers from the disease.  Thanks to his company’s research on chimpanzees Will has made a major breakthrough. Before more tests can be carried out, a female chimp who has been subjected to experimentation attacks a board meeting.  Research is stopped and all the chimps are destroyed except the female’s new born baby.  Will sneaks the baby home, names him Caesar and raises him like a child.

Over the course of the next 8 years Caesar’s intelligence grows rapidly.  He is able to communicate with Will through sign language and while he obviously loves Will and his family, resentment at his captivity and belief that he is merely a pet increases.

The most striking aspect of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the amazing effects by WETA Digital.  WETA have crafted groundbreaking visual effects for a number of films including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and Avatar and have excelled themselves here.  The apes have been created using motion-capture technology and for the first time actors were able to participate on location instead of in front of a green screen.

Andy Serkis who creates the role of Caesar is magnificent.  There needs to be a new award category for motion-capture acting just so that Serkis can receive all the honours that he deserves. Between the performances and the special effects the apes are infused with more humanity, compassion and emotion than the humans.

Other performances are variable.  John Lithgow is heartbreakingly brilliant as Will’s father Charles, James Franco is ok as Will but nothing special.  I don’t particularly get all the James Franco adoration.  Freida Pinto is beautiful as Will’s love interest Caroline but completely superfluous.  Tom Felton will have to avoid being typecast as the mean boy, but Dodge Landon is certainly a lot buffer and more attractive than Draco Malfoy – although equally stupidly named.

There are some nice nods to the original film.  Caesar is shown playing with a model of the Statue of Liberty, Felton repeats Heston’s “damn dirty ape” line and a news story tells us there is a craft lost in space – which nicely sets up a potential sequel.

A couple of points did play on my mind a little.  No-one other than Caesar and a neighbour’s child age at all during the film and Will’s age bothers me throughout.  When we first meet him he has been leading a major research project for 5 years, which becomes 13 years over the course of the film.  James Franco is 33 – was Will a Doogie Howser-like child prodigy?

I thoroughly enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it was much better than I had anticipated and now I’ll be finding a copy of the original and looking out for news of a sequel.


PS: I hope that by the time humans have developed the technology to launch manned missions to Mars we have stopped experimenting on animals.  It’s a primitive practice that doesn’t belong today, let alone in the future.

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  1. Hi Louise,

    (This is Custard, losing my moniker)

    I came out of this film with a very similar feeling to you. I thought it stood up very well in the summer blockbuster selection. As a FX film it should get a nod from the academy too, truly amazing work by WETA.

    Serkis/Caesar is most definitely the best thing about the film. I had goosebumps in the final act!

    Thanks for this great write up

    • The FX were stunning, although I thought the close-up stuff was better than the wide shots. Despite not actually appearing Serkis acted everyone else off the screen.

  2. Hi Louise, I love your tagline… ahah, yeah I’m on their side too :) This is an excellent movie, blew me away completely, especially Andy Serkis’ performance. Hope he gets his well-earned recognition come award season.

  3. I really wasn’t expecting much when I first heard about this film but having seen the trailer my hopes rose. Now, after reading your review, and a host of other positive reviews and comments, I’m going to have to see this asap.

    It is probably worth watching for Andy Serkis alone.

    • Absolutely you should go to see it – like I said I wasn’t really that fussed on it but I thoroughly enjoyed it. And as Ruth and Scott say, Serkis is brilliant.

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