Movie review – Hail! The prequel to Planet of the Apes

2011-08-12 12:09

Film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Nu Metro)

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Featuring: James Franco, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Frieda Pinto and Andy Serkis

Rating: 7/10

James Franco is Will ­Rodman, an obsessed ­scientist who develops a ­serum to help his father ­recover from Alzheimer’s disease.

But it is Caesar (Andy Serkis), the chimpanzee who gets an ­accidental dose, who is the real star of sci-fi thriller Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Serkis may have featured in all sorts of films, but it is his work as a motion-capture actor for which he is best known.

His first foray into this niche work was as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

He followed that up with King Kong and he is currently working on the film adaptation of The Hobbit, where he reprises his role as Gollum.

He is also Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s big Christmas movie, The Adventures of Tintin.

To achieve the emotional ­intensity and realistic actions, Serkis wears sensors that capture his facial expressions and ­movements.

The sensors then get translated by a computer, which superimposes the expressions and movements on to the creature – Caesar.

Apart from the incredible ­technological feats that make this primate almost human, the film is a cautionary tale about the ­dangers of treating our fellow creatures with cruelty and disdain.

Caesar, whom Will discovers is superintelligent, has a lovely life with Will until he steps off the porch to defend his family.

He then gets a taste of the real ­human world – of cruelty and ­cages.

It is the arrogance and lack of empathy shown to Caesar by members of the human race that force him to organise a revolt.

I did not hold out much hope for this film. Even I, a die-hard Tim Burton fan, couldn’t get excited about his remake of the classic 1968 Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston.

Burton’s 2001 ­version may have paid homage to the original, but the ape-like ­creatures didn’t have the incredible nuance of expression and emotion that Caesar has in this latest film.

Also, this film cleverly tells the story from Caesar’s point of view, which puts the audience in an ­unusual position – rooting for a species other than their own.

This, of course, is one of the underlying points of the film – that our lack of respect for the laws of nature and other species that inhabit the world has taken our civilisation to a point of no return.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is perhaps a far-fetched scenario of where we could end up as a race.

Set in San Francisco, the film makes good use of that city’s ­magnificent Redwood forests as a primary location.

It’s against this backdrop of Mother Nature’s grand design that this drama about the consequences of playing God plays out.

Look out for Harry Potter’s ­Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), who plays yet another bully and comes to a very sticky end.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes will probably not be your first choice for a night at the movies – unless you are a fan of the original – but I guarantee you will like it.

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