Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Review

Revolution? It’s the only solution.

Well, that’s what Serj Tankian used to say.

Of course, success in this capitalist circus we’ve engineered tends to blunt our revolutionary zeal.

But it seems evolution is Twentieth Century Fox’s solution, to judge from the way they seem intent on reinventing their Planet Of The Apes franchise.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is the latest reboot of the classic seventies flick, arriving hot on the heels of Tim Burton’s interpretation of this premise last decade. The difference this time around being Weta Digital, the groundbreaking special effects team founded by Peter Jackson amongst others.

Having rewritten the limits for credible and realistic cinematic sleight of hand, most notably in James Cameron’s Avatar, Weta’s involvement could well signal the first of many films to be re-imagined for new audience, as film studios will no doubt be keen to, ahem, ape Avatar’s similarly groundbreaking box office receipts.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes opens with a scientist watching over a chimpanzee attempting to complete the Tower of Hanoi; a test of a creature’s innate intelligence and problem solving skills.

The scientist is Will Rodman and he’s christened his newest test subject “Bright Eyes” on account of their green transformation after taking his newly engineered compound.

Bright Eyes is the latest in a line of primates Rodman’s been experimenting on as he strives for a medical breakthrough that would represent human kind’s most significant advancement in treating mental illness.

After some startling results with his latest formula, which also carries significant implications for human evolution, Rodman presents his findings to a board of trustee’s.

Unfortunately, his presentation coincides with Bright Eyes developing some aggressive side effects seemingly from the new compound; breaking free from her restraints and running amok through the laboratory and, inevitably, Rodman’s presentation.

Predictably enough, Rodman’s project is shut down and all of his test primates put down but it turn’s out Bright Eyes behaviour may not have been down to her drug cocktail after all.

Rodman finds a baby chimp in his favourite test subject’s former quarters and, instead of destroying him, takes the primate home.

Quite how any scientist could fail to tell the difference between a pregnant and non-pregnant ape is swiftly glossed over, hollywood style, as we follow Rodman and the newly christened Caesar’s evolution as parent and ape respectively.

But as Caesar grows, so do his abilities and intelligence, way beyond that of a regular chimpanzee; leading this particular primate on a perilous journey of self discovery as he struggles to reconcile who or what he truly is.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes ticks all the requisite box of a solid summer blockbuster. The script is pretty decent, with knowing nods to classic lines from past Apes’ films. James Franco and Frieda Pinto, also known as that fit one from Slumdog Millionaire, lead a strong cast that also includes Tom Felton doing his Malfoy thing as a cruel zoo keeping assistant.

Andy Serkis, who else, inhabits the part of Caesar convincingly enough to ensure that his primate’s story is the emotional centrepiece, as we follow Caesar on his journey from the laboratory to the top of his evolutionary tree.

In spite of this, and the fantastic special effects, I can’t help but feel this particular story isn’t really worthy of another retelling.

Apes taking over the planet in the original film wasn’t great because of this act or idea, rather it was the brilliant twist at the end that turned the original into a pop culture phenomenon.

Sadly, this cinematic dna hasn’t been passed down to Planet Of The Apes progeny.

Jonathan Campbell

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August 2011
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