Planet of the Apes has always been what Pride And Prejudice was to me as a book. I knew all about it but never actually sat down and read it from cover to cover. I never felt the need to because the visual adaptations were so many and more times than not had been faithful to the text so I was already familiar. However with Planet of the Apes et al I knew all about the best scenes and Charlton Heston‘s lines, and to be honest I was never in to the concept of talking Apes regardless of any subtext. So when I was offered a chance to see a preview of the new installment Rise of the Planet of the Apes – which (from the idiot proof title) is all about what happened before Heston landed on the primate populated Earth years later – I wasn’t excited but I was intrigued. I like James Franco for starters. I also like David Oyelowo, John Lithgow and Brian Cox.
the STORY (NB: SPOILERS GALORE – Like its that unpredictable a movie)
Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist residing in San Francisco, who is working on a disease to counteract the spread of Alzheimer’s, also a disease his own father (a fleeting but endearing performance by Lithgow) is suffering from and the test subjects are Apes.
After a few failed tries and the condemnation that the tests are incompetent and all subjects are ordered to be terminated by the labs corporate executive Steve Jacobs ( an articulate and beautiful Oyelowo) one chimp is saved from slaughter and placed in the care of Rodman. Caesar (apt name for a born leader and conqueror) becomes the principal subject in Rodman’s cure to rid of Alzheimer’s, when he realises that the genes passed down to the baby chimpanzee through his lab tested mother has given way to a chimp that can act and communicate coherently with humans. There is a clause, as there always is when you mess with Mother Nature. When one Human is exposed to the alleviates fumes the Alzheimer’s curing gas eventually kills him. Unfortunately for the Human race this piece of information goes unacknowledged ultimately resulting in the explanation for the inevitable demise of us and the take over of the Apes.
Back in 2 men and a chimpanzee land It’s not long before the happy lives of by Caesar, Rodman and his now Alzheimer’s free father start to crumble when the Chimp begins to long to be more than a test subject and pet. When the virus starts to wear off on Rodman’s father, causing the disease to return rapidly and more erratically, the subsequent events lead to the detainment of Caesar with ‘his own kind’. Like the new kid on the block he is out casted, a feeling heightened by the betrayal he feels from being locked up under the authorisation of an apologetic Rodman.
Bad guys come in the form of Animal Control unit manager Brian Cox (meh like his role in X-men) and his petulant Son played by Tom Felton, fresh from Harry Potter but, unfortunately, without much deviance from his decade long role as Draco Malfoy. He does ‘nasty guy’ well, but less can be said for his ability to do accents. When the taunts from his own kind and the humans gets too much, plus the realisation that he may never ‘go home’ with Rodman, Caesar eventually becomes pissed off enough to hatch a plan to break out, attain the virus that gave him his heightened brain smarts and share it among his own before gathering the Apes together for a revolution over San Francisco. You can guess how it ends for the Humans – badly. However the end of the film mid credits offers up a ‘how humans got wiped out’ spoiler and thus a probable link in to a sequel.
Franco is as ever watchable. He’s clearly a big player in Hollywood now with no signs of flailing (ahh Toby Maguire remember when he used to look up to you?), and though this was by no means a great script, I have no qualms with his moderate performance. Freida Pinto’s presence however is less than desirable. In short, she was pointless. Same can be said for Brian Cox whose part felt more like a stop-gap and weakly written bit part. David Oyelowo was good as the semi-bad guy but given a role a where he was expected to play a character that was clearly a symbol for all the problems of scientific research vs nature vs human race’s naive arrogant ability to attempt to fix everything with money and at the expense of animals. A tough gig to embody all of that, nonetheless it’s what was handed to him albeit in the form of a mediocre script. I never quite hated him enough to exhale in glee when he was confronted with his test victims.
Tom Felton was granted a major honor reciting perhaps the number one line (and likely one of the top in film history) from the first film but delivered it with a rubbish faux American accent.Nice pieces of film nods to the Heston era were filtered in at various scenes including a shot where in the background a TV displayed Charlton Heston in a film (not sure if it was the from THE film). Also Caesar working on a miniature model of the Statue of Liberty and, my favourite, a scene that involved a newspaper headline that a spaceship (which we see being launched in a background news coverage during the film) was ‘LOST IN SPACE’. A satisfying link that ties in to the story of Dr Zaius.
The best performance though comes from Caesar aka Andy Serkis. This man can do animal better than the real thing. I know effects were included largely but he provided the template and he did good. His role as Gollum and King Kong especially will certify that man has a skill in eloquently aiding the sometimes shady aesthetics of CGI with his carefully studied movements. I found myself rooting for the Apes by the end of it. It was exactly what It should have been (great effects, entertaining key scenes and a fitting prelude to the already cult hit eccentric predecessors) and judging from the trailer it delivered a little more in scenes between the Apes and the climatic Ape revolution ending. I’m looking forward to seeing them run the town in the future.