Tuesday 6 December 2011

Today's Review: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

I saw the original Planet Of The Apes some years ago. I remember it well because I was preparing my art portfolio for GCSE and simultaneously trying to memorise some Latin poetry, since I forgot I had an exam the next day. Needless to say I associate that movie with feeling pretty stressed out, but I aced the Latin test, so that's okay. Anyway, I don't remember too much of the movie, apart from the iconic scene at the end of course.

So when Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes came around, I didn't feel I should be outraged at the ruining of a classic franchise, mostly because I haven't seen the other four original films, which might all be terrible, but also because I feel more attached to that terrible Tim Burton version than the first one. But still, it looked like another one of those terrible Hollywood reboots.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes starts out with a man named Will (James Franco) working on a cure for Alzheimer's. His team are using chimpanzees to test the formula on, and despite one ape getting pretty smart, there are complications, and Will ends up rescuing a young chimp from being put down and takes him home. It seems the formula has been passed on from his mother's genes though, as he quickly develops great intelligence and skill. Given the name Caesar, he grows up living with Will and his Alzheimer's stricken father (John Lithgow), growing quite close to them in the process. But inevitably, he has problems getting others to accept him, and after a few outbursts he is imprisoned with several other apes. Understandably Caesar is a bit pissed off about that, so he works on setting the record straight.

I don't feel too bad relaying that much of the plot, because the trailer basically reveals everything that happens in the movie. Even that poster up there depicts one of the climactic scenes. I really hate it when trailers do this, but it did make me quite excited to see the movie, and this movie was really good.

One thing I liked was the way the scenes played out, developing into a grander scale. We start off with the nice home life of Will and Caesar, and the relationship they form, but it all quickly escalates into city wide carnage as events unfold. While the focus is mostly on the human characters for the first part of the movie, they are all pushed aside as Caesar develops into his own character. Hats off in particular to Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, albeit via motion capture. His expressions are often scary as hell, and the way he moves leads me to question if his mother was actually a monkey. I guess he's had some practice playing King Kong, but man, he does a good monkey. Caesar is clearly the star of this movie, his character progression is absolutely flawless, because despite his spiral into villainy I could not help but understand the changes he was going through, and Serkis' performance is outstanding in making the character so relatable.

The rest of the actors, not as great, but good. Lithgow turns in a great performance as usual, but Franco's character kind of fizzles out as the plot develops, and a strange appearance by Tom Felton with a bad American accent stalls proceedings a little. The other problem I had with this movie is the way that things are wrapped up. I won't spoil anything too much, but with all the build up I expected the payoff to be greater, and can't help but feel they rushed through a lot of stuff that could have been explained with another 20 minutes or so. There are already talks of a sequel, even a whole series, so I guess events can carry on in those, but the ending to this movie felt a little sour.

All in all, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a big surprise. As far as modern Hollywood prequels go, it's probably one of the best I've seen, definitely up there with X-Men: First Class. Thanks to the critical and commercial success it obtained, sequels are likely, so hopefully the quality of production can be kept up, as I look forward to seeing the next chapter.

My rating: 4/5

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