Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Written by: Amanda Silver, Pierre Boulle, Rick Jaffa
Starring: Andy Serkis, Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, James Franco, John Lithgow, Terry Notary, Tom Felton
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
(12A) Running time: 105 mins
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Hats off to the marketing team behind Rupert Wyatt’s Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they have done a tremendous job! After Tim Burton’s dreadful remake of Planet of the Apes starring Mark Whalberg and Helena Bonham Carter people had all but given up on the idea of ever watching a film with the words ‘planet’ and ‘apes’ attached to it. I will happily admit to not enjoying Burton’s remake one bit and, sadly, not really thinking much of the original film so, just a few months ago I too was one of the movie fans who had absolutely no interest in Rupert Wyatt’s prequel. I couldn’t have cared less. Thankfully though my job as news reporter for this website meant that when the news arrived about Wyatt’s prequel, I was obliged to cover the story, the Planet of the Apes films are cult after all, and most definitely sci-fi. So I sat down to cover the story on the brand new trailer debut and I was blown away and suddenly every bit of news I was covering, desperate to see what was coming next. Thankfully audiences also took note and I have spoke to a number of people who also had no interest in this film until they witnessed the superb trailer and, after that, they were hooked. The clever marketing people knew they were on to a winner and so teased us with equally brilliant teasers, clips, images and further trailers. Suddenly Rise of the Planet of the Apes WAS an important movie, and most certainly will become the surprise hit of the summer if early box office reports are anything to go by. The big question is though; does the film live up to its promise of a real, honest, dark and intense film bordering on genius? The short answer is Hell yes it does, so let me now justify that claim.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes starts as it means to go on, powerful, strong and full of incredible skill and intense quality and some of the most impressive special effects you will see all year. The opening scene sets the tone as we head into a deep and dark jungle and witness an ape being caught by poachers and taken to a research lab where James Franco’s Will Rodman is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. As the ape is caught we see the majority of the scene through her eyes, and then as the box she is in is carried off we get a glimpse of her trying to get out of a tiny window, screaming and helpless. The scene is unsettling and upsetting and if companies like Greenpeace want to put a stop to this sort of thing, they just need to play this opening clip and it would even turn the hardest of hearts. Rodman is desperate to find a cure for the horrible disease due to the fact his Dad (played superbly by John Lithgow) is suffering badly from it. Getting worse each day, Rodman wants to save his Father and allow him to again play the piano, or go out for a drive in his car without the risk of something going wrong. The drug is tested on the ape caught in the jungle and it makes her smart, very smart and Rodman sets up a meeting with his boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) to show their progress. Things go wrong, the ape attacks the staff and they are all then executed apart from the smart apes’ baby who is taken home with Rodman, he is named Caesar and becomes the family pet.
Rodman’s Dad grows a very special bond with the ape, as does Rodman and they soon learn that Caesar has taken his Mother’s genes and is also incredibly smart and so Rodman decides to continue testing by giving Caesar doses of his super drug until they reach a point where the drug is actually working to a level reliable for humans. The drug is secretly tested on Rodman’s Father and it works, for the time being. This whole build up is superb, lavishly produced, carefully executed and delivered in a way to never bore the viewer with lots of talk, more involve the viewer and, at times, blow you away. It is rare that a film has you hanging off every single spoken word, every single frame, every facial expression or interaction between characters (including the ape). You will find moments that make you feel all warm inside as you witness the ape as a baby, or moments between Caesar and Charles Rodman. John Lithgow is SO good as the Father, there are moments that will bring tears to the eyes as you witness the level of love both he and Caesar have for each other, the amount they care for each other. The same goes for the relationship between Caesar and Will and this is where Wyatt cleverly creates something truly special for his audience. It is shocking the amount of skill he has as a director after making only one feature length film, the superb The Escapist. Wyatt tells a story with the skill and dedication usually only presented as good as this by the best director’s the world has ever given us. There is talent here, real, true, raw talent and after this, Wyatt will be able to put his name to anything and sell it. This is one of those films where every frame, every God damned second is a joy to watch and I found myself in awe of every detail I saw in screen. Caesar himself is a wonderful achievement in special effects, but as the film moves into its second half, things are about to get even better, but a whole lot darker!
Caesar has grown up, he is taken to some woods on the outskirts of town to climb freely and the moment where he actually asks for permission is a beautiful scene. However, a darkness soon lingers over the film after Caesar see’s a dog on a leash and, using sign language which he has learnt, asks Will if he is merely just a pet. Moments like this will test your emotions and your morale’s as the whether you believe Will is doing the right thing or not. The film does offer up many important questions like this, including just how far would you yourself be prepared to go to save a loved one if you had the skills to do it. Later on Caesar attacks a neighbour while protecting Charles and the police are called and Caesar ends up locked up in a sanctuary for primates, and here is where things go wrong and the film becomes more and more intense and menacing, to the point of almost suffocating the viewer. Everything begins to fall apart: Charles stars to get ill again, Will has to wait 90 days to appeal Caesars release and Caesar himself is being bullied by both his fellow apes and the wardens in the sanctuary, one of them being the owners Son, Dodge Landon (Tom Felton) The owner himself, a nasty piece of work, is played by Brian Cox, who was the star of Wyatt’s previous film, The Escapist. All this new found cruelness and visits from Will and his girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto) only fuel Caesar’s building sense of hate and anger. Somehow, and with some stunning effects and camera shots, Caesar turns and the Rise of the Apes is about to happen…
You can pretty much figure out where the film goes from here, but wow what a spectacle. The storytelling in the beginning is a work of art, a work of brilliance, but as we enter the next phase where a leader is born out of a desperate ape, things really turn into levels bordering on genius. Wyatt handles Caesar’s transition better than any film involving a good guy turning bad that I have seen in years, it is a subtle but meaningful change, and suddenly Caesar’s eyes aren’t warm, fluffy and caring, but hateful. There is a story behind those eyes and a damaged soul and suddenly you will find yourself impressively scared of him. Being in this sanctuary means that all of a sudden instead of looking on in amazement at one incredibly well made ape, we have a whole gang of apes, including an Orang-utan (a character used in the Planet of the Apes) and a highly impressive silver back gorilla. We suddenly learn more about ape behaviour than any nature documentary has taught us, we feel for the apes, we (almost) take their side and suddenly the Apes rising against humanity makes sense. However, Will’s character is cleverly used to remind us that we are not all that bad and now we ourselves as a viewer have a war of conscience as to what is right and what is wrong. Morales will be tested, as will your ability to breathe as the film leads to a climax on the Golden Gate Bridge which is highly likely to be THE action set piece to beat this year!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is fantastic, it is ground breakingly good, it is, in one word, astonishing. I knew from the trailers that this film was gonna be good, but I never, ever expected it to be this good. The film lasted just under two hours and I never for a second found myself taking my eyes off the screen, at times I found myself gripping my chair as if my life depended on it, other times I was close to bawling my eyes out like a baby. I was in total awe of this film; this is a monumental piece of work that demands your respect and your understanding. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is to the ‘Ape’s’ films what The Dark Knight was to comic book films. In fact, it is safe to say that this is one of the best films I have seen all year, and so far this is most definitely the film to beat this summer. I simply cannot recommend this film enough, it has everything: superb and believable characters, stunning special effects, a score that is simply out of this world and adds almost unbearable levels of menace or excitement, it has emotion, raw honesty, the storytelling is well timed and delivered with astonishing care and attention to detail, the action is out of his world. In short, this film is flawless, it is a minor classic full of moments you will remember for years to come, full of brilliance and, more often than not, full of pure genius. Miss this film and miss out!
To read Dr Lenera’s view on the film click here
Dr Lenera’s rating rating: 8/10
[pt-filmtitle]Rise of the Planet of the Apes[/pt-filmtitle]