Power to the Apes!
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Producer: Peter Chernin
Cast & Crew: James Franco, Tom Felton, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Plot Summary: An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Will is a doctor trying to cure Alzheimers, a disease that afflicts his father. He’s working with monkeys to create a benign virus that can get into the brain tissue and restore functionality. After his research is shut down, he’s left with just one chimp, the child of his most promising subject, and Will raises him at home. Young ‘Caeser’ is incredibly intelligent for an ape, and over time he continues to mutate and evolve, looking less like a chimp and moving on from sign language to actual speech. Eventually Caesar ends up leading an army of apes in an uprising just as a catastrophe strikes mankind.
Review: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” falls right into that exclusive par excellence league of reboot franchises with staunch cult followings – I’m talking about “X-Men: First Class”, “Star Trek”, “Batman Begins” and “Casino Royale”. Whether you’re a fan boy or a first-timer, when the final credits have rolled, it’s bound to leave you thirsting for more.
Director Rupert Wyatt has squeezed out the very best in CG from Weta Digital (the same guys who with their digital wands magically mastered the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Avataar” and the 2005 remake of “King Kong”). Andy Serkis, Gollum and Kong in both those movies, has once again proved that the virtual creature, Caesar, is a better actor than his real life counterparts (James Franco and Frieda Pinto). Sensitive and oh-so expressive, the audience readily laps up his performance. You ride his emotional rollercoaster and feel his curiosity, anguish, anger, happiness, sorrow and pain. His slow-burn anger makes him an oddly handsome, almost like the Daniel Craig of primates. Courtesy modern day technology, he’s certainly the most real looking ape of the Apes series ever. The heavily made-up men in body suits and grandeur fantasy lands of the lifeless, artificial Tim Burton version (Planet of the Apes, 2001) have been done away with. What you get is a genuine, crisp & grounded prequel reboot blockbuster. During Franco and Frieda’s woodland make-out session, Caesar curiously looks on, desirous for his very own female companion. You gasp as he approaches Freida, but thankfully he proves himself as the truly ingenius protégé and prefers hugging Franco. The verdict is out with the apes (CG or else) would rather go gay when it comes to delectable chocolate boy Franco (drool!) over the dusky Indian export (giggle!). So lady luck Frieda’s come a long way from her Slumdog days and is making waves in Hollywood. She’s bagged a sizeable role here but unfortunately shares zero chemistry with her co-star (no doubt one of Hollywood’s sexiest men). Sigh! Let’s just not talk about her acting.
Oscar-nominee James Franco (“127 Hours”) plays geneticist Will Rodman who, backed by his own personal motive, creates ALZ-112 for a corporate money-hungry firm. This brilliant brain-enhancing serum cures his dad (John Lithgow) of Alzheimer’s .The extraordinary breakthrough though comes with a lab disaster which results in the termination of the program. Rodman is unable to put down baby chimp Caesar, the green-eyed anomaly carrying the enhanced genes passed on by his mother.
In the years that follow, Caesar grows from chimp to human but belonging to neither category. His primal instincts lead to one dastardly protective act which lands him in prison hell of the primate world. Here for the first time he interacts with other primates and realizes his supremacy. Each of the variety of primates he encounters (including an elderly Orangutan) has clear cut characters, replete with emotions and attitudes. Finally, it dawns on Caesar to revolt and free ‘his kind’. In a rather cheap rushed up manner, the story compromises on its credibility as Caesar steals the ALZ-112 and gases out the prison for the apes to wake up the very next morning with super intellect.
Caesar leads them onto a city wide rampage with the final climax of mass destruction and a spectacular showdown on the Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco.
Finally, the Apes Series have risen and redeemed the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle. Wyatt has shown Tim Burton and his other directorial predecessors exactly how it’s done!
Verdict: Packed with the very best Blockbuster ingredients, this prequel reboot successfully creates a wholly engrossing, fresh and enormously entertaining Sci-fi end-of-the-world story that will tug at your heart strings as much as it will scare the living daylights out of you.