Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring : James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton
Studio: 20th Century Fox
When the decision was made to reboot the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise within the modern industry, skeptics assumed that this was based on commercial revenue and not artistic quality. However, this is not the case with ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, with the finished production assuming a fresh take on the wider cinematic history of the franchise, while also paying homage to what has come before. In only his second feature production, Rupert Wyatt has crafted a brilliant reimagining/prequel to the classic piece of film history while also implementing state of the special effects in a fully realised digitally created character.
Rise of the Planets of the Apes frames symmetry between the opening and close of the film, with the apes first depicted as hunted species utilised for scientific research before surpassing their captors and becoming earths’ dominant race. This idea of symmetry is positioned throughout the entire narrative, with the films plot taken from two different perspectives. Firstly the human component – which utilises the science elements of the sci-fi genre – is headed by researcher Will (James Franco) as he desperately attempts to cure his fathers Alzheimer’s. Experimenting on chimpanzees, Will realises the affects of his virus upon his ape subjects. This results in one particular ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) developing intelligence to the point of questioning his very existence and the relationship between humans and animals.
This existential development is the films second perspective and through careful edits, is shown to be well balanced within the progress of the plot line. With no real antagonist, except the pantomime villain that is Tom Felton’s zookeeper, the film struggles to create a conflict that is meaningful. Instead the film relies on the personal development, and the switch in power between the two leads to create a tension from which the film progresses. With a slow build up of this tension, the plot is enthralling to watch, and places an emotional core to individual character arcs. The entire film feels realistic throughout, which gives a grounding to what is depicted onscreen.
James Franco brings a gravitas to his scientist role, while simplifying the jargon of the job so as to become relatable to the wider audience. A counter to the rest of the humans that feature within the production, his character carries the strongest motives and the more intimate moments. As Caesar, Andy Serkis is perhaps the most human out of the characters that feature. Bringing qualities such as friendship to his motion capture performance, his role always counters those which he interacts with. This brings empathy to his character arc which adds to the attachment of his CGI character. This further highlights the talent on display in the creation of the character, with the whole effect bringing a ultra realistic depiction to the ape. Although this realism is found within all other apes that feature, Serkis stands out due to his brilliance in bringing life to this pivotal role.
Brian Cox and Tom Felton are cast in this film to push in some conflict to proceedings, but are one dimensional and underused in favour of Caesar’s personal development as a character. John Lithgow is also engrossing within his performance as Franco’s dad, depicting the harshness of the his characters disease, which brings an emotional attachment from the audience in his suffering.
This film is entirely deserved of its technological acclaim, with some of cinema’s best ever usage of CGI found within the storytelling component of this production. A standpoint from where every future motion capture performance should be compared, the quality on show within this production has created highly realistic and believable creations that are interesting to watch throughout the entire narrative. A film that broadens the wider Planet of the Apes franchise, this film is an effective relaunch of cinematic history. Although some shot choices can be seen to be played safe, others are beautifully framed to depict key aspects within the context of the wider film production.