RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Review - Best Film of the Summer!

Rise of the next big franchise (that we’re actually excited about following!!!). Rise of the Planet of the Apes is certainly the best movie of the summer and indeed a contender for best film of 2011 thus far.

rating: 5

With the recent end of The Harry Potter series and conclusion of The Dark Knight nigh, studios are sweating to create the next big thing that will spawn a series that has audiences flocking to and critics greeting with thumbs up. Enter Twentieth Century Fox with their reboot of one of their most profitable franchises of yesteryear €“ The Planet of the Apes saga €“ in the form of a remake of a prequel, no less. And while I greeted this idea with heavy cynicism and attended the press screening with some trepidation, I left with my stomach full of the sweetest humble pie I have ever eaten! The rather mouthful title Rise of the Planet of the Apes, named chiefly so long-windedly because Fox always wants to make sure 'Planet of the Apes' gets in there somewhere, when 'Rise of the Apes' would be such a cleaner, sensible title - is is far superior to Tim Burton€™s ill-conceived effort from 2001 and much more than an exercise in creating CGI apes. A masterfully plotted narrative revolves around fully developed, three dimensional characters in a riveting tale of triumph over adversary, which also acts as a commentary on animal testing in the pharmaceutical industry and cruelty in wild life sanctuaries. Superbly directed by up and coming British director Rupert Wyatt (he made the prison breakout thriller The Escapist which if you haven't seen, you should do so now!) from a script almost as intelligent as the apes, which in addition to convincing as living, breathing creatures €“ bravo Weta - steal the show by invoking a gamut of emotions, including a tear or two. James Franco plays Will, a scientist searching for anti-dote for Alzheimers that will cure his ailing father (John Lithgow turning in another flawless performance) and benefit mankind too, of course. His search seems to be near an end when an ape named Bright Eyes shows positive signs after a phase of drug testing. Will is on the verge of getting funding when Bright Eyes, in a wild frenzy, breaks free and runs amuck of the lab and bursts in on the investors in a scene of high tension and adrenaline €“ a wonderful opening set piece. She is shot dead and all testing of the drug scrapped for what is perceived to be €˜mania€™ as a side effect. It transpires Bright Eyes had given birth to a baby and her outburst was out of protection not an adverse reaction to the drug. The task of killing the baby turns to Will, who takes the newborn home to do the deed; but when his father takes a shine to the baby chimpanzee Will decides to keep it and names him Caesar. Three years later and Caesar has grown into a super chimp; his I.Q. is off the charts for an ape and his capacity to learn just keeps increasing. Convinced the drug he was experimenting on Caesar€™s mother will work on humans, Will injects his father with a dose. Hey presto! He€™s back to his old safe immediately. Will then meets vet Caroline (Freida Pinto) and the four of them live the good life taking Caesar for weekly visits to the forest and letting him roam wild. Five more years later and there€™s trouble in paradise. Will€™s father€™s Alzheimer€™s is back with a vengeance. When his attempt to drive the neighbour€™s car has disastrous results and the neighbour reacts violently Caesar responds and beats and bites the neighbour into submission. Caesar is shipped off to a sanctuary for apes where he and his fellow apes are tortured by the evil operators - Brian Cox and Tom Felton (Harry Potter€™s Malfoy failing miserable to not be typecast). Meanwhile Will is desperately trying to get Caesar free and convince his bosses that the drug he was developing can be used as a cure, it just needs more testing. He is immediately successful with the latter and a new round of apes are tested and all exhibit the same heightened intelligence as Caesar. However, by the time he is able to take Caesar home, he has established himself as the leader of the sanctuary and is getting the apes organised and preparing for a coup, not just of the sanctuary, but also of San Francisco. The third act sees the apes from the sanctuary uniting with those from Will€™s company and freeing every other ape from captivity in the San Francisco before making a mad surge for the forest Will used to take Caesar to visit. It€™s twenty minutes of man vs ape, in one of the best climactic segments of recent years, filled with a series of clever, surprise, shocking and emotive action set pieces. It was wonderfully refreshing that an hour into a big summer blockbuster I was neither bored or exasperated but actually engrossed and captivated; the filmmakers really scored with this testament to storytelling, character development and precision pacing. At one hundred minutes long this is trim, concise filmmaking. Just like Peter Jackson made us care about Dwarves and Elves and Pixar get us alongside inanimate objects on a regular basis, this film made me root for the apes. Once titled €˜The Rise of Caesar€™, it would have been an apt title as Caesar is without a doubt the star of the piece. Andy Serkis who stood in for Caesar shows his considerable talents in this field once more, with a performance to rival Golum and should bring up the aged old debate on whether motion-capture work should be more thought of as Oscar worthy. The special effects people deserve great praise; when I say the apes steal the show I do not just mean this on an aesthetic level like one might say with The Transformers stealing the show in Transformers. Yes the apes are life-like and never once anything short of convincing. The level of detail on their faces is remarkable, making every ape look unique. This is not just credit to the special effects wizards of Weta, but to the director and the writers, whose work at fleshing out character through looks and gestures like silent moviemakers of old is extremely effective in creating an emotional bond with the apes far greater than many films that star humans. If the film has a flaw it is that the apes are so good that they overshadow the human actors, which is a shame because James Franco puts in an accomplished performance, John Lithgow is solid as always and there is able support from Brian Cox and David Oyelowo. Freida Pinto€™s character is dead weight and feels crow barred in for some eye candy, and Tom Felton gets lumbered with the one cringe worthy moment of the piece where he utters the immortal line €œget your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape€ with all the skill of a blind carrier pigeon. This was the only moment I took real offence at; while I can appreciate homages to the originals, I think it would have been nice to steer clear of this particular iconic line as it cheapened the piece. Thankfully, however, it is immediately followed by an amazing moment of cinema; I won€™t give it away but it does well to cover over the cracks left by Felton€™s ineptitude. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is certainly the best movie of the summer and indeed a contender for best film of 2011 thus far. This is set up perfectly for sequels, which will see 20th Century Fox remake the rest of the old series of films. If they can maintain the quality of storytelling exhibited in this movie there will be far fewer complaints than I could have ever imagined. Surely now the challenge is to find someone worthy of filling the mighty Charlton Heston€™s spaceboots. Mark Whalberg please step back! Rise of the Planet of the Apes is released in the U.S. on August 5th and in the U.K. on August 12th.
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Frustratingly argumentative writer, eater, reader and fanatical about film ‘n’ food and all things fundamentally flawed. I have been a member of the WhatCulture family since it was known as Obsessed with Film way back in the bygone year of 2010. I review films, festivals, launch events, award ceremonies and conduct interviews with members of the ‘biz’. Follow me @FilmnFoodFan In 2011 I launched the restaurant and food criticism section. I now review restaurants alongside film and the greatest rarity – the food ‘n’ film crossover. Let your imaginations run wild as you mull on what that might look like!