Film Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (M)

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Starring: James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a case of the trailer not doing the film justice. Taken out of context, shots of a scared looking man in the foreground as a shady figure swings past behind him and James Franco talking to an ape in the woods looked utterly preposterous. And what is with that title? Is the planet rising? Or the apes?

Clunky title aside, this is the surprise blockbuster of the American summer. Having seen the film, it is understandable that it would have been hard to capture the film’s themes and pathos in just over two minutes – especially if the marketing department want to appeal to as many teenage boys as possible.

This is one of the most thoughtful and cleverly scripted films so far this year; something I did not expect to get out of a movie about cranky apes. In addition to the tight script is the phenomenal special effects that bring these animals alive.

In San Fransisco, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) heads a team that is experimenting with genetic engineering to try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Their work is paying off with one chimpanzee they are experimenting on showing unprecedented intelligence for that species.

When the chimpanzee escapes and causes havoc in the lab, the team is shut down. What they discover is that the animal’s behaviour was not out of aggression but protection for its infant. All the chimpanzees are put down but Will takes the youngster home with him to save his life. Over the years the chimp, named Caeser, displays increased intelligence, suggesting a genetic inheritance.

While Will is able to raise Caeser as his own and develop a strong bond, it is clear that Caeser is not in the right environment. A confrontation with a neighbour lands Caeser in a compound with other chimpanzees, apes and orangutans. Despite being with his own kind, it is a struggle for him to fit in, especially in the very unnatural environment. Unhappy with their mistreatment, Caeser sets the wheels in motion to rise against humans and reclaim their place in the world.

Up until the “rise”, this is a surprisingly intelligent film that takes it’s time developing character – and not just the human ones. Caeser is the centre of the story as he struggles with a confused and confusing upbringing; raised as a human but hidden away. There are many touching moments as he grapples with the changes he encounters and tried to make heads or tails of his existence.

The final third of this film is alternately thrilling – with some great action set pieces – and laughably bad. Subtitled signed conversations between animals, the discovery of vocals and a chimpanzee riding a horse are a few moments that are sure to induce more giggles than anything else. Look past the mouthful title and underwhelming trailer and give this “rise” a go.

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