Rise of the Planet of the Apes (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byTenani French2/08/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of those rare films that creates a believable world and raises questions of morality and humanity which lead us to sympathise with a non-human character. Even though we know how the story ends we understand the motivations of the apes and their path to freedom.

What's it all about?

Acting as both a prequel to the classic 1960s series and a reboot this film takes place in present day San Francisco. Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s by performing tests on apes. When Rodman discovers a baby ape, which he names Caesar, born in the laboratory he secretly takes it home and studies the chimp’s enhanced intelligence. Caesar (played in motion capture by Andy Serkis) befriends Rodman’s father (John Lithgow), who has Alzheimer’s and inspires Rodman to continue research into his cure.

After an altercation in which Caesar protects Rodman’s father against another human authorities order Caesar locked up in a primate enclosure. The highly-intelligent ape, feeling abandoned and enslaved by humanity, and in particular Rodman, breaks out and releases an airborne-strain of the cure among thousands of other apes to raise their intelligence too. Soon, with Caesar leading the apes, war breaks out against the humans and it may only be Rodman who can stop them before they overthrow humans as the dominant species on Earth.

The Good
Andy Serkis cements his reputation as the go-to performance actor for motion capture characters (after his roles as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong). Serkis plays an ape convincingly but with enough emotion and intelligence to break down the barrier between chimpanzee and human, a notion which forms the basis of the audience’s emotional conflict in the film.

New Zealand-based Weta Digital pushes the boundaries of computer effects with the animation of the apes, including Caesar. Subtleties in the eyes and face say everything we need to know, even though the apes can’t talk. Surprisingly there are times in the film where the digital characters show more emotion than their human counterparts. Overall the result is incredible.

The story is an interesting take on the original, and there are plenty of references to the classic series of movies, including one very famous quote which features at a turning point in the story, to great effect. The set up for the inevitable sequel films is sprinkled throughout (and during the credits) and really open up a world of opportunities for the future of the series.

The Great
Credit must be given to director Rupert Wyatt for ensuring a constant pace throughout the film. Not once does it feel like it’s dragging and there is enough action mixed in with the drama to keep even Transformers fans happy. Also, the decision not to film or release this movie in 3D is a welcome one.

The truly amazing thing about this film is how surprisingly sincere it is. It never preaches messages about genetic testing, animal cruelty or corporate greed but touches on them lightly enough to get the message across. You really do feel for Caesar and his reaction to his treatment by humans is not only believable, but totally understandable, which makes for an interesting mix of emotions when the apes finally start to Rise.

Worth seeing?
If you’re looking for mindless escapism in a Hollywood film you will be pleasantly surprised. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has enough sincerity to prevent your brain from turning to mush, and it’s damn fun to watch too.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (M)
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Content updated: 16/12/2019 15:15

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