Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review
This must surely rank as one of the most unnecessary films of all time. With five movies and a remake already in the bag, is there anyone on earth who ever turned to their friend and asked, ‘you know what I’ve always wondered? How did the apes take over?’ Well rest easy, inquisitive one! This is the film you’ve been waiting for! Everyone else will just shrug and wonder if it’s worth watching.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this prequel-reboot-thing is that it’s actually good. Very good, in fact, thanks to a combination of factors. Perhaps it may go without saying that the utterly flawless CGI is what carries the film, but the story and human acting go a hell of a long way too. Andy Serkis deserves nothing less than an Oscar for his role as Caesar, leader of the ape rebellion.
Scientist Will (James Franco) is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s, testing his miracle drug on apes. When the cure fails and his work is shut down, Will takes home the newborn baby, Caesar (Serkis) and discovers that the drug has increased the ape’s intelligence.
Fast forward ten years and Caesar is an established member of the family, while Will has used the drug on his father, Charles (John Lithgow), to cure his Alzheimer’s. However, when Caesar attacks a human to defend Charles and is thrown into an ape sanctuary, it sets off a series of events that can only lead to rebellion.
As has been said before, one of the main reasons the film works is because of the incredible visual effects that are on offer. Each ape is visually different to the next and each actor manages to layer in unique – and believable – simian characteristics. Thus Caesar, Maurice, Buck, Rocket and Koba are individual characters with distinct personalities. At points you could swear you understand what the animals are thinking.
Of course, as other films have shown – cough, Avatar, cough – good CGI is nothing when you haven’t got the story to back it up with. Fortunately, this is where Rise of the Apes: Ape On excels. The narrative moves forward at its own sedate pace, allowing each character to breathe, gives life for complex relationships to form and grants each actor room to really flex their muscles. Thus John Lithgow’s performance as an old man crippled by disease is both poignant and affecting; Caesar’s relationship with Will becomes a deep father-son bond and even Tom Felton’s short role as chief antagonist of the apes is engaging and watchable.
However, the story’s sedate, almost gentle pace is clearly at odds with the expectations of the studio, meaning that the film has been promoted as an action-heavy tale of war and revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a story of discovery, of revelation, of a single ape realising what it means to be free and how to achieve it. As a result, all the film’s promotional material comes from the film’s final twenty minutes, when the rebellion becomes a war. This will probably lead to many people expecting something completely different from what is actually going to take place, and thus they may not appreciate the depth of the story.
Rise of the Intelligent Monkeys might have justified itself as a good film in spite of how pointless it may have appeared, but there is one minor issue that needs addressing: there don’t need to be any sequels. The only thing that can possibly happen once the credits have role is that Charlton Heston lands back on earth and shouts at the Statue of Liberty. Please, Hollywood, the tale is done – forward, back, reimagined – there is literally nothing left to do with the monkeys. Leave it with this, and go out on a high.