Reviews

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Twentieth Century Fox

Mark Haddon

"It's a smart and highly entertaining popcorn thriller from British-born director Rupert Wyatt, cheerfully satirical in the tradition of this movie series, yet unpretentious at the same time."

Peter Bradshaw, guardian.co.uk

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The story of 'The Planet of the Apes' is legendary for most, either from the original Charlston Heston film or the 2001 Tim Burton re-make.  However, this 2011 prequel starts in a very different time and place, asking the question 'How did the human race end up being dominated by the apes?'.  As one might expect, this film eventually shows us how, but as usual, much is of our own doing!  It's worth noting though, the main focus of the film is not how we arrive in the 'Plant of the Apes' future.  Rather, the roots of the story are in many ways so simple: a young scientist, played by James Franco, is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's to help his ailing father.  Where do the apes come in to it?  The lab testing of course.  Even after the initial scene setting, you know this film is going to have sad elements to it: animal testing is never a happy thing in my mind, nor is a family member suffering from such a debilitating illness.  These things combined along with an element of mis-fortune cause things to take a very sinister and saddening turn.

 

 

One of the key things which stand out in this film is the CGI and the motion capture for the chimps and other apes.  Andy Serkis returns to the big screen playing the main chimp - Caesar.  The visuals of Caesar are absolutely astonishing - so much so that one of the greatest achievements of this film is the one most easy to overlook.  The movements of Caesar are so natural and realistic that one could easily believe it was a real chimp.  In my opinion, Serkis' performance here is even more outstanding than when he was Gollumn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  He may not have appeared on screen in person, but the performance is more than worthy of recognition.

 

 

The plot of the film is fairly simple and has received mixed reviews.  In my mind though, it was as complex as it needed to be.  There is a significant moral undertone to the whole film and at times I found it really hit a nerve.  The treatment of the apes is hard to see, but the 'humanisation' of Caesar makes it even more painful.  Some of the nastier characters mean that you don't find yourself taking sides.  At times, Caesar even shows more moral behaviour than some of the humans, supposedly the more 'evolved' creatures; it serves as a reminder that the right to intelligent thought brings with it the responsibility for often questioning your natural urges, regardless of species.

 

 

Alongside all of this, there is the very controversial animal testing thread - tt all starts and ends here.  It is focussed around the research of James Franco's character, Will, with John Lithgow featuring as his sick father Charles - the motivation for Will's work.  Of course, alongside Will and his genuine intentions, we have his pharmaceutical company boss Steven (played by David Oyelowo) - his only interest is the money, at all costs.  It is heart-breaking to see how little value he attributes to both ape and human life in a bid to earn bigger bucks.  To properly play strength to the animal cruelty aspect, Freida Pinto appears as Caroline, a vet and ultimately Will's girlfriend.  Although it is refreshing to see the relationship is merely an occurrence that happens and in no-way dominates the plot as it would it so many films.

 

 

This film is terribly sad and leaves you with very conflicting views and mixed emotions.  Whilst a number of things seem so unlikely, many of the messages we are left with as the credits roll could very easily happen.  After all of the action, you are left questioning many human actions and the lengths some will go to to get what they want.  To me, it served as a harsh reminder that most of what happens to us is actually of our own doing.  An excellent film and most certainly worth the viewing time.

 

 

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Reviewed on 29/08/2011 by Angela

 

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Guardian Review

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