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Mike Dunn Reviews - The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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The Apes Are Revolting

A solitary and angry ape, escaped from his confinement, revenge on his mind, runs down the middle of a deserted street at night. He enters his old Master's house and silently watches him sleep.

This is why I now fear apes.

Before tonight, they were harmless, playful animals that you see on National Geographic or piano delivery men in Tetley Tea Bag commercials. They weren't threatening to bite my finger off due to the unsanitary living conditions in zoos, or planning on overthrowing society because Draco Malfoy sprayed them with water. Now I'm going to be looking over my shoulder, worried that some pissed-off simian is going to be plotting my downfall. Anyway, enough about my new found agrizoophobia (that's right), let's talk prequel!

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the apes-as-overlord franchise, as well as the longest film name since The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Set in the present day, ROTPOTA has loose ties to the Charlton Heston-original Planet of the Apes but isn't wholly a prequel to it. Thankfully it has nothing to do with the débâcle that was the Tim Burton remake either. My Wikipedia searching has led me to believe that it will be the start of a brand-new retelling of the original story. Without the dramatic Statue ending I imagine, since we are witnessing our downfall in ROTPOTA, it's not gonna be such a shock.

Perpetual-stoner James Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist trying to find the cure to Alzheimer's by testing drugs on lab monkeys. One ape reacts well to a particular sample, largely increasing her intelligence. However due to a bout of monkey-rage and a security guard's gun, the Momma Monkey dies and Will ends up raising her baby, Caesar. Caesar shows advanced intelligence, learns sign language and eventually becomes a proper member of Will's family. But when fully-grown Caesar defends himself and attacks a neighbour, he is taken to an ape shelter and mistreated, leading to him encouraging his fellow apes to rise against us oppressive humans.

Andy Serkis, famous for portraying Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong in.... well.... King Kong, again dons the Motion-Capture suit to provide the movements and facial features of Caesar, and the effects are astounding. They may appear slightly off-putting at first, but as you grow to know Caesar, the uncanny valley smooths out and by the end, you start cheering this fictional ape as he does his destructive best to overthrow our society. The other apes looks so damned lifelike, I honestly thought the film-makers had taught an orangutan to sign to Andy Serkis. The special effects are definitely what makes this film stand out. It couldn't have been made without them, as we empathise with Caesar from the start, and full credit to Andy Serkis, whose fantastic acting quality is again shown through a digital character.

The other actors in the film, especially the main stars James Franco and Freida (Slumdog Millionaire) Pinto aren't really used to the best of their abilities, and are merely sideline characters to Caesar and his storyline of imprisonment and escape, which is a shame. Franco never really grows as a character, and he isn't really shown fighting for Caesar's freedom that much and Freida Pinto might as well not have starred, as she brings nothing to the storyline. The only other actor worthy of mention is John Lithgow, perfectly portraying Will's father as he slowly slips into dementia and the wracks of Alzheimer's. His face just oozes innocence and blank wonder as his world steadily drifts away from him.

Despite that most of the audience know the outcome of the film, the writers have made sure that the origin of ape and man's role reversal is one wrought with emotion, as you end up wishing the apes to be free from their oppressors and come out on top. And when a film has the power to make you want to see humanity overthrown, you know that it's made you care for these digital creations.

Now bow to your Ape Overlords! You have only James Franco to blame.

Rating – 8.5/10

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