Okay, before I begin let’s get one thing out of the way. All together now: Sigh, not another origin story.
Now for the final installment in the Crusade’s summer of cinema:
Progress, power and intelligence–these three themes are at the heart of director Rupert Wyatt’s relaunch of this popular series in, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
Will Rodman (James Franco) is a young and somewhat naive scientist at GEN-SYS. He is testing a retrovirus on chimpanzees in hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which his father (John Lithgow) is fighting. When a drug trial goes horribly wrong, his project gets canned; he brings his work home with him, and Caesar (Andy Serkis) becomes a part of the family.
Caesar, whose mother was infected with the failed retrovirus, shows signs of above average intelligence from the beginning. Encouraged by this, Rodman decides to test the trial drug on his ailing father. It works, and for a while everything is good.
However, after a defensive, violent attack, Caesar is sent off to live in a primate house under the supervision of a less than qualified father-son duo (Brian Cox, Tom Felton). From there, Caesar, who now knows that he’s just a little different from the other apes, works on a plan to break out. Not just from the primate house, but from the label that has been placed on him.
This new take on a well-known story is fresh, smart, beautiful and, let’s face it, surprising. Someone forgot to tell this film that it’s supposed to be pure popcorn cinema.
It explores themes which we can all relate to. The power of intelligence, as well as the danger, is one such theme. Progress for progress’ sake; a theme which is reflected in the design of this film as well.
The CGI used in this film is executed perfectly. It’s used to enhance the film, and not just to show off the latest tech-toys. Simply put, it’s a gorgeous film to watch.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar the chimpanzee. Without the power of speech, Serkis uses raw emotion and physicality to speak. It’s a truly moving performance, and hopefully will gain Mr. Serkis some much deserved recognition.
Of course, there’s also some live-action acting in this performance, and leading that team is James Franco as Will Rodman. Franco is endearing as the good-hearted, well-intentioned young scientist. He balances out the occasional craziness of the film with his calm, controlled performance.
“Some things aren’t meant to be changed,” is a line which is repeated through out this film. While it is true of some things, it is not for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” This movie is in every way, better than it has a right to be. Much like Caesar, it rises well above expectations, and in this case, we can be thankful for that.
…and all you purists out there, don’t worry, you still get your “damn dirty apes.”
See what the Crusade has to say about the rest of this summer’s blockbusters (and more): The Crusade on Cinema
…just for fun: