By Danny Kampling
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a reboot of the popular “Planet of the Apes” franchise, which has captured the imaginations of filmgoers for the past 40 years. A previous attempt at revitalizing the popular film series occurred 10 years ago by director Tim Burton, but came across as an uninspiring remake that left audiences in a state of confusion, rather than hoping for a follow-up.
“Rise,” on the other hand, succeeds in regard to where the majority of the 2001 remake faltered. Rather than taking inspiration from the original 1968 film and the novel which it was based on, “Rise” details the beginnings of how apes took their first steps into becoming the dominate species on Earth, which was detailed in the original film series’ fourth film, “Conquest of the Planet of Apes.” The end result is much satisfying beginning to a new series of Apes films.
The “Planet of Apes” films were striking pieces of science fiction, which detailed the horrors of nuclear destruction. This has been updated in the new film with biology causing our eventual downfall, as a scientist develops a cure for Alzheimer’s disease that rejuvenates brain cells. As it in most of these types of films, apes are used as the test subjects, resulting in intelligible animals that have enough power to become the dominate species on the planet.
James Franco plays the scientist who develops the cure and takes in a baby chimpanzee, who has inherited his highly evolved intelligence from his test subject mother and proceeds to raise him as though he were he own son. John Lithgow gives a convincing performance as Franco’s Alzheimer’s stricken father, who gives the chimpanzee his name, Caesar. Indian actress, Freida Pinto, from “Slumdog Millionaire,” breathes in a new breath of fresh air as the Franco’s love interest, a zoologist aware of Caesar’s intelligence. Her warm heartedness is remissive of Kim Hunter’s performance as Zira, a chimpanzee zoologist from the original film.
The real draw for these films was the convincing manner the ape characters were presented. Since this a prequel, it makes sense that the apes have not evolved into a more humanoid state they were given in the previous films. CGI was utilized in this case, as opposed to actors in make-up, giving a convincing presentation. While the ape characters are entirely CGI, the performances are captured by actors via motion control, utilizing the same technology that brought the Na’vi to life in James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Actor Andy Serkis plays the role of Caesar and is no stranger in this field of acting, having previously played Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” and another famous ape, King Kong. Director Rupert Wyatt creates a believable environment and a stylistic directing approach, which creativly shows the long passage of time Caesar grows to full ape hood within eight years. The climax of the film details an epic battle between ape and man on the Golden Gate Bridge, which is sure to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
There are still some minor issues with the film, such as the scientists overlooking the fact that a tested ape had given birth to a child. Is that not one of the reasons why they are on constant observation? Also, scenes involving the easily upset neighbor of the scientist getting upset over Caesar’s antics become comical, even though they were portrayed to be serious. These can be overlooked, as the script could have taken a lot more bad turns.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” marks the end of the 2011 summer blockbuster movie season and proves to be one of the best films of the season with a compelling story and convincing special effects, which are often hard to come across these days. It is worthy of its predecessors and one can hope that this will spawn a new series of “Apes” films, as many seeds for follow-ups were planted.
Dan Kampling is a film enthusiast, majoring in Electronic Media at Wichita State University.