Directed by Rupert Wyatt. Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Andy Serkis.
It’s a prequel for God’s sake, how good could it possibly be? I’ll tell you: special effects kings WETA Digital and second time director Rupert Wyatt have crafted such a sharp, well-paced, arousing and disturbing piece of science fiction that you will be blown away. You’ll want to go watch those other Ape movies and sympathise with the evil gorillas that enslaved humanity and Charlton Heston (in the 1968 original).
Yes it has got lucky miss slum-bitch millionaire Freida Pinto. Yuck. Sure James Franco is cute and a great actor (not in this film though). He’s the conflicted scientist Will Rodman who’s frantically searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s for his ailing father Charles (Lithgow).
Experimenting on chimpanzees Will accidentally creates a super ape dubbed Caesar by his dad. But since the experiments lead to disastrous incidents, his programme is shut down and Caesar is smuggled away to live with Will and his dad, sort of like an adopted son. He grows, learns, enhanced by the radical formula (sort of like the super pill in the film Limitless) that makes him more human than some may like.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a pretty typical sci-fi story. But how it has been crafted is totally unique. For one, the CGI apes and animals in the film are fascinating. Life-like, sensitive, with an ability to evoke empathy, they’re almost – dare I say it for fear of offending them – human! And what’s even better is the filmmakers give the main character Caesar (Serkis) time to evolve and grow on you. The ‘main’ actors Franco and Pinto are props to the narrative. In fact, Caesar acts better than both of them (poor Freida, overshadowed by a monkey).
This film is scary, the music is spellbinding, the pace is furious at times and then almost dream-like as you see the apes connecting with each other, as you see Caesar go from a tame ‘pet’ to a creature who realises humans mistreat his kind and each other and develops a hatred for them.
WETA Digital is responsible for the wizardry behind films like X-Men: First Class, District 9, King Kong, Avatar and Lord of the Rings. Andy Serkis is an award winning actor/director (he played the Gollum in Lord of the Rings) who attached to motion capture sensors has delivered a moving performance as Caesar. The eyes, the facial expressions, every movement so nuanced that you forget even the film’s human actors who pale into insignificance.
I’ve always said The Hulk gets it wrong time and again because filmmakers and Marvel choose to use CGI instead of a human actor (like Lou Ferrigno in the original). If they use WETA and Serkis next time, they’ll probably prove me wrong.
Sure the film is also a comment on human experimentation on animals, about how several minorities in history have been subjugated at the hands of so-called ‘superior’ classes and about how sometimes, the ‘different’ need to stand united and resort to rebellion.