By Ryan Casey
The events of ‘The Planet of the Apes’universe is something that has always attracted my interest, so when Rise of the Planet of the Apes was first announced I was very much looking forward to what angle they would take on this addition to the series. A prequel to the Charlton Heston classic ‘Planet of the Apes’, and an almost reboot to Tim Burton’s take on the universe, the pressure to produce a film that would do justice to the original was certainly on, and in all honesty it does a thoroughly satisfying job.
The film's narrative begins following the efforts of a pharmaceutical company (Genesis) to find a cure for degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The drug they produce has startling effects on one of the chimps as it seems to provide her with heightened levels of intelligence. The film's main protagonist Will Rodman (James Franco) discovers that the enhanced abilities of the chimp are hereditarily passed on to its new born, Caesar.
With Caesar’s existence a secret to Genesis, Will Rodman reluctantly takes him home rather than putting him down. However, it is not long before he realises there is something special about the chimp and he begins to further his analysis of the drug by studying its effects on Caesar.
At first everything is bliss, but as Caesar matures and develops he soon realises he does not fit with the humans and their social interactions, and after being administered to a primate animal shelter, he has to fight for the right to be accepted by the apes too. Caesar at first outcasted, soon learns that what makes him different, actually makes him special, and will soon be a power that drives The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
The aspect that most impressed me about Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the believability of it all. My main worry was how the film was going to play out. How could we relate to a cast of CGI Apes, without it feeling like a Disney movie? But if anyone can bring a CGI ape to life it’s Andy Serkis and yet again he excels himself with bringing the character Caesar to life.
The on-screen performances in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were excellent. James Franco is well casted as the good hearted scientist, whose drive to cure his father’s de-habilitating illness, and his love for Caesar, is presented in a powerful fashion that draws out a feeling of empathy to the difficult situations and decisions he faces. Even smaller performances by John Lithgow, Tom Felton, and Brian Cox are great and all add to the film’s success.
The special effects in Rise of the Planet of the Apes look good, but I can’t help but feel that if the film was allocated a slightly bigger budget they could have been improved in places. Not in terms of the character designs, which are extraordinarily believable, but more with regards to the final battle scenes which seem implanted for the sake of it and are ultimately under-whelming compared to the character driven scenes of the apes.
Despite losing the outer space sci-fi element of the other ‘Apes’ movies, this film takes what could have been a pale in comparison prequel and turns it into something that stands as a movie on its own, separate from the original films. I look forward to the prospect of a sequel. 4 Stars out of 5