Sunday 13 July 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I review Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the first film in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring Andy Serkis, James Franco and Freida Pinto.

With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just a week away from hitting my local cinema, I decided to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes in order to see whether it would be worth my time going to see the sequel or not. I did the same with Transformers: Dark of the Moon recently and whilst that film disappointed, Rise... turned out to be a quite the opposite, proving to be a worthy reboot and despite a few problems was actually very entertaining.

The film acts very much as an origin story for the original Planet of the Apes movie, and it tells the story of Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains human-like intelligence following the injection of a drug by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco). However, when the apes that are part of the experiment with Caesar are killed, Will is forced to look after Caesar as his own pet with the aid of primatologist Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto).

It isn’t long before Caesar finds himself put back in an ape sanctuary in San Francisco, and he finds himself wanting justice for his fellow apes. The resulting course action changes the course of humanity forever, and allows for a very entertaining movie that is certainly worth seeing, and an example that Hollywood, from time to time, actually can get movies right.

Like superhero movies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is effectively an origin story of Caesar. Its focus on the human characters allows us to have a window into the film, with James Franco’s Will Rodman getting as much as the screentime as Serkis’ Caesar. However, when we get to see the apes in action it’s something that works really well, with some fantastic use of CGI that helps the movie look very good.

Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar is great and gives a fantastic performance that is incredibly strong. The digital FX of his character is handled incredibly well and it’s great to watch the development take place. The human cast are fairly good as well – and Harry Potter fans will no doubt enjoy an appearance from Tom Felton who plays essentially the same character that he in those films – Draco Malfoy. The main human actor James Franco pulls off Will Rodman fairly well and although the human cast aren’t really the smartest that you’ll ever see, it still allows for a fairly entertaining film.

The film itself builds up to a big climatic action sequence that is handled very well. Its pacing and the build-up are good and in another weaker film the switch to a blockbuster action movie could have felt out of place but the tone and how it unfolds keeps it enjoyable. There isn’t anything on a global scale action wise with the film set pretty much entirely in San Francisco, but that works to its advantage.

Unlike the Transformers movies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t overstay its welcome. At 105 minutes it’s a good length and works well. Whilst the focus on the humans can sometimes lead to a soap-ish feel, that’s pushed to the side in the third act in favour of a great finale.

So it’s safe to say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is probably one of my favourite movies of 2011 (Certainly up there with the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Raid) and can be highly recommended. There’s also no way I’m not going to see the sequel now – because it promises to be a lot of fun.


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