Tuesday, 16 August 2011

CINEMA REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Or ‘Caesar Goes Bananas’ if you’d like.

After Tim Burton’s terribly boring (and confusing) re-imagining of the original Planet of the Apes, the only way this franchise could go was up. And it does so with a reboot/prequel in much the same vein as X-Men First Class from earlier this year; a film that acknowledges the movies that have preceded it but at the same time goes off on a slightly different tangent.

The story concerns the secret offspring of a genetically enhanced smart ape, and his rise in intelligence. And as much as there are actors in the movie, the real star is Caesar. Andy Serkis once again dons the mo-cap suit to bring the lead ape to life, and it’s a stellar performance, full of nuance and subtlety. If there’s a criticism of the movie it’s that we don’t really care for any of the human characters, aside from John Lithgow Alzheimer’s afflicted father to James Franco’s geneticist, and that we only care about Caesar’s plight. Most of the human characters are startlingly one dimensional, especially Frieda Pinto’s thankless girlfriend role, but it doesn’t matter as the interaction between all the apes in the movie is the real meat of it. It’s incredibly enjoyable watching Caesar grow more and more intelligent, and his role as pet, then prisoner, then leader is wholly believable given the things going on around him.

And the treatment dished out to Caesar and the other apes in the facility, makes the inevitable escape and attacks all the more satisfying as they mete out justice to those that have treated them so badly. In fact, in the standout scene of the film where Caesar confronts his main tormentor, and yells “NO!” at him, is undeniably powerful. I also felt is was important that Caesar does not let any of the apes kill anyone, apart from the obvious exceptions, as Caesar is not a vicious animal but just yearning to be something more than a common pet. To have him take out his aggressions on people who had nothing to do with his imprisonment would have lessened our sympathy for him, and we wouldn’t have cared if he achieved is freedom. That we do, is a testament to the acting, especially the facial performance, and also makes the “Caesar is home” line totally believable. You never once think “That monkey’s talking. That’s stupid.” You completely buy into it.

And now, to the action. Awesome. All of it. Watching the escapees go completely (ahem) apeshit on everyone is a joy to behold. It’s a different kind of action scene really, as I can’t remember any recent movie with monkeys fighting the police; the action is able to go to places not normally gone to in action films – the apes climbing above the clouds on the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as swinging under it to outflank the police.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is nothing new. But it’s probably my favourite blockbuster of the summer, and I would definitely go and see a sequel to this, with the setup provided in the mid credits scene, as well as the credits themselves. And also, any Apes movie that doesn't immediately bring to mind Troy McClure singing "You've Finally Made a Monkey Out Of Me" is a winner in my book.

"Dr Zaius, Dr Zaius"

4 stars.

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