REVIEW /// RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Reboots never seem like a good idea. Sam Raimi’s Spiderman franchise is barely five years finished and it’s being rejigged and restarted; God help whoever has to follow the Nolan & Bale Batman trilogy, whilst the Hulk has been rebooted three times in the space of a decade. So this, along with “the prequel curse” (how do you make a prequel interesting when the audience knows what’s going to happen?) and the fact it was released at the arse-end of the summer blockbuster season didn’t not make for an encouraging build-up to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. However, Rise has turned out to be one of the funnest and most intelligent blockbusters in years. Hell, even the credits are interesting to watch.
Set twenty minutes into the future, Rise follows scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) as he develops a cure for Alzheimer’s in order to help his afflicted father (John Lithgow). After one of the chimps the drug is tested on goes suitably apeshit, Will takes her newborn baby Caesar home and raises it. Turns out the drug seeped into the baby’s genes and he’s a genius. Naturally having a full-grown chimp in a suburban neighbourhood is never a good idea, and eventually the adult Caesar (Andy Serkis) is taken away to a primate sanctuary. From there, it pretty much all goes to hell for us homo-sapiens.
The CGI and motion capture used to create the apes is phenomenal, particularly with Maurice the orangutan who looks spectacularly lifelike. The film is infinitely better for having James Franco in the lead (human) role, instead of Tobey Maguire who was first choice. Franco makes for a more interesting watch, if a slightly more “Hollywood” scientist. In fact there isn’t a bad performance in the film, human or ape, save for the pantomimey drug company boss, and Tom Felton’s wobbly redneck accent (Felton seems destined to play evil little bastards for the forseeable future).
As an origin story, there’s plenty of different tangents for the franchise to spin off into. The ending is ambiguous enough to spin at least another film or so out before the human/ape war kicks off, whilst we’re lucky enough to be far away from the talking, walking, anthropomorphic apes of yesteryear, for a few instalments anyway. There are plenty of in-jokes and nods to past films in the franchise (that line, Caesar putting together a toy Statue Of Liberty) which should keep old fans happy. Get used to seeing these simians on the silver screen because I have a feeling this could keep going for some time.