Since the 1968 original movie starring Charlton Heston as the bewildered American astronaut who literally falls in the midst of an ape-ruled Planet Earth, the franchise spawned five other films, two TV series and a line of comic books. Apparently, the subject is very appealing to modern and (still) enslaved humans, because almost all of them have being wildly popular.
When I heard they were in the process of re-launching the franchise (or re-booting, as they call it now in our 21th century computer influenced jargon…), I was very curious as how they were going into it, considering the huge commercial success of Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the original.
So after the initial shock at the awfully bad name they chose (the original title was going to be Caesar and the Rise of the Apes which I liked a lot more…), I thought that putting together James Franco and Andy Serkis was not such a bad idea; Franco‘s latest film was that performance tour de force that is 124 Hours and I’ve never being able to shake off the feeling that the best character inThe Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was Serkis’s Gollum. When I found out that Weta Digital was the FX Company, I started to get a little excited. Then I learned Freida Pinto was in it and that made the movie a must see.
The plot precedes the original tale by several centuries and tells the story of Caesar, an orphaned chimpanzee subject to experiments with a promising new drug that could possibly cure Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug, of course, is a lot more successful than expected, and turns Caesar into a genius strategist that leads the Apes in the research facility where they are locked to a mass break out. But that is putting it too simply. Truth is, that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, during most of the length of the film (and despite the great action scenes of the last half hour) a touching drama about what makes a person…well, a person. What is the primary drive behind humanity: superior thinking or more noble sentiments?
This parallel between the increasingly human Caesar and his human handlers is only achieved thanks to the solid performances by Franco, the always professional John Lithgow and specially that powerful actor that is David Oyelowo as the necessary corporate goon.
But of course (just as in The Lord of the Rings), Andy Serkis steals the movie with his motion-captured Caesar. Naturally, a portion of the credit for Serkis’s performance belongs to the FX team from Weta and if you’ve ever seen eitherAvatar, King Kong or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you know what I’m talking about.
All in all, director Rupert Wyatt delivers a well told, agile and touching movie with a whole bunch of nods to the original 1968 classic and manages to end it with a Bang in a final battle in the streets of San Francisco that has nothing to envy to any action movie.
By Uky Mendieta