With the release of War For The Planet Of The Apes just around the corner, I’ve decided to look back and review the previous two instalments of the franchise. Kicking things off with the Rupert Wyatt-directed Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, check out my review below!
Release date: August 11, 2011
Cast: James Franco (127 Hours, Pineapple Express), Andy Serkis (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire)
Director: Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist).
Story: Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist in San Francisco, is experimenting with a drug that he hopes will cure his father’s (John Lithgow) Alzheimer’s disease. After his work is deemed a failure, Will becomes the guardian of Caesar, an infant chimp who was exposed in-utero to Will’s drug. Caesar displays unusual intelligence, and Will decides to continue his experiments secretly. But as Caesar’s intellect and abilities grow, he comes to represent a threat to man’s dominion over Earth.
Thinking back to the release of this movie, I remember not knowing what to expect when I walked into the theatre. For a start, I had never really seen any of the original films and the trailers failed to build my excitement, but there was one aspect of this movie that captured my enthusiasm, the Apes. Obviously, Andy Serkis is well known for being the master of motion capture and the way he was able to bring these Apes to life was and still is incredible. Serkis offers a powerful and beautiful performance as Caesar, delivering a complex character that easily outshines and overpowers the human characters. This film could easily have become a movie about the villainous Apes who bring an end to human civilisation but because of Serkis’ performance, we’re able to sympathise with the Apes and actually side with Caesar in the final act of the film.
Possibly the most troubling aspect of this movie was James Franco. At the time, we had never really seen Franco delve into this kind of role and I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to lead this kind of production, but of course, I later learned that Franco isn’t the lead in this film but is instead, an amazing partner for Caesar. Franco delivers one of his best performances and along with John Lithgow, really helps to sell the relationship between Caesar and his human parents. The connection between these characters is easily the most entertaining and captivating storyline in the movie, and it’s because of Franco’s stellar performance that we’re able to believe in that relationship and want that connection to survive throughout the film.
Looking at the narrative of the film, there really couldn’t be a more interesting introduction to this world. The notion of mankind being the ones who create their own destruction was incredibly entertaining and I thought the way in which the Apes are made more intelligent through science was a really surprising approach to this concept. Certain aspects of the film felt forced and unnecessary, such as the relationship between James Franco and Freida Pinto’s characters. There really wasn’t any need for a romantic relationship in this film and I wish the director had focused more attention on something else and concentrated more on the Apes in captivity. Probably the biggest issue I had with this film was the character portrayed by Tom Felton (Harry Potter). Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed how Rupert Wyatt was able to place Caesar in captivity and tell that side of the story but I felt like this character, in particular, was slightly over the top and Felton wasn’t given the opportunity to portray anything other than the typical douchebag character. While the film might not be perfect (no film is), there really aren’t many things to complain about. Looking back at the film through 2017 eyes, there still aren’t many aspects of the story and the characters that I would change and that’s a testament to the creative team behind this project.
This is an extremely enjoyable and fun movie but also an extremely well-made and well-told story. The building of suspense throughout is something that you rarely see executed correctly in Hollywood and the character of Caesar is easily one of the most interesting and (somehow) one of the more relatable characters in recent history. What makes this franchise and this film stand out are the performances from both the human characters and the Apes. Like I mentioned above, Andy Serkis has been able to develop one of the most interesting characters of all time and it’s really exciting to see how this character develops and grows up in our world. This film and this idea shouldn’t work. We shouldn’t love or care about these Apes but we do and it’s a credit to Rupert Wyatt and Andy Serkis for building this narrative, with these monumental characters and telling an entertaining, emotional and deep storyline.