I have to start this review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (herein after referred to as Rise of the Apes) with the disclaimer that I have only seen bits and pieces of the Charlton Heston films and even less of the Tim Burton version. I should make the effort to add the originals to my dvd collection but I will get around to it eventually.
PLOT: Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is attempting to find the cure for Alzheimers by running experimental trials of his 1-12 formula on apes. Will saves a baby ape (Caesar) and raises him at home. It quickly becomes apparent that Caesar's cognitive development is increasing at an advanced rate. Caesar’s existence is discovered when he hurts a neighbour whilst protecting Will’s father (John Lithgow). Caesar is sent to an ape sanctuary. Will starts work on 1-13. Caesar rallies the inmates to partake in the great escape. The apes storm the Golden Gate Bridge. The evil head of lab is killed. Caesar says farewell to Will and goes off to live in a forest. END PLOT
I don’t know how the plot of Rise of the Apes compares to the other Apes films but as a newcomer to the franchise I thought it was very strong. The science element didn't contain anything new and was as made up as ever but it played a reasonably small part of the film.
The main story wasn’t about Will and his personal quest to cure an incurable disease – the story was about an Ape named Caesar. I liked this as the more time spent with Caesar the more sympathetic I became to his plight. There were many scenes devoted to him and the apes to the point where James Franco was almost reduced to supporting cast.
I became invested in the plot and characters easily but I couldn’t help but feel, especially with the reasonably quiet ending, that this was the calm before the storm aka the sequel.
I never understand why James Franco is cast in roles yet I always find him to be very watchable. He just about pulls of the part as a scientist although thankfully his time in the lab is limited to very much non existent.
John Lithgow appeared from nowhere and puts in a decent performance as Will’s father.
Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, Danny Oyelowo and Tom Felton make up the supporting cast and all are fine in roles which really require them do to very little. If James Franco was reduced to supporting cast these guys were essentially extras.
Andy Serkis has made a career of playing non-human roles and Caesar has become my favourite. I can buy into effects like this as long as the eyes appear lifelike. Caesar’s eyes were very expressive which made his emotions real and I appreciated this aspect of the film. This coupled with the fact that Caesar could speak sign language made his human element stronger.
I had major reservations about this film as the trailer contained some unintentionally funny moments including the “pervert ape” shot. Thankfully these moments worked and were not amusing when viewed in the proper context (you were right about that Daniel!)
Despite the awful title Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very good film. I found myself completely hooked from start to finish so it gets a deserved 8/10. Expect a sequel and expect it to be bigger, louder and darker.
Screw the penguin. I want a baby ape.