Viva la simian revolution!
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo. Screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, directed by Rupert Wyatt. 105 minutes, rated M (violence). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua. ou maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!’’
So cried a typically overreaching Charlton Heston during the big reveal of Planet of the Apes, as he thumped the sand at the sight of a crippled Lady Liberty.
‘‘He was on Earth the whole time,’’ aghast audiences realised, whether it was upon the picture’s release in 1968 or those discovering the cult classic in the decades since.
I never could be sure if Heston was damning the apes for destroying the Statue of Liberty or if he was berating humankind for forsaking Earth to our hairier cousins.
Either way, it’s a tantalising treat to finally see what went down those many moons ago, when the ape first got hold of the stick and lowered mankind to its knees.
I’m not sure whether Rise of the Planet of the Apes constitutes a prequel to the old films or a fresh starting point for a new Apes franchise (likely the latter if it makes a few bob), but I do know that it’s a damn fine movie – an unexpected favourite from this year’s run of blockbusters.
Much of its success can be attributed to the stunning visual effects which – utilising Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance – ensure the apes have a weighty screen presence, but it would all be for nought if the script wasn’t smart, thoughtful and packed with pathos.
Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is developing a drug to cure Alzheimer’s, and is experimenting on chimps.
He is desperate to succeed as his father’s (John Lithgow) mind is slipping away.
As Will discovers through the infant chimp Caesar, the drug not only restores an ape’s brain cells but enhances them.
Caesar’s communication and cognitive abilities are off the charts, but before Will can get a grasp of what’s happening, his company progresses the chimp trials, with disastrous results, and Caesar comes to understand his life needn’t be spent on a leash.
The premise of apes taking over the world may have got you forking out for the movie ticket, but it is the relationship between Will and Caesar that will have you using it to dab away the warm tears. After Caesar is locked up and mistreated in a dodgy primate ‘‘sanctuary’’, you’ll be crying for cold vengeance against his and the other apes’ human oppressors – particularly Tom Felton’s cruel ape handler.
Director Rupert Wyatt does a splendid job of making such a high-concept movie so personal and thought-provoking.
Yes, there are some mighty action scenes – particularly the climatic stand-off on the Golden Gate Bridge – but what really resonates are the scenes where we see humanity, in all its cruelty and hypocrisy, through the eyes of another species.
I’m still not convinced on the casting of James ‘‘ Mr Understatement’’ Franco as Dr Rodman, who seems to accept the extraordinary consequences of his experiments with little concern besides ensuring Caesar’s safety, but he’s not the star of this show.
Hats off to Andy Serkis and the other performance capture actors, who used the same technology as Avatar but in actual environments, not sound stages.
These are the most engaging and captivating computerenhanced characters I’ve come across in a movie.
Going ape: Caesar rallies the chimps for a showdown with the San Francisco Police Department in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If only the recent Che Guevara films had been this engaging.