Rise of the Planet of the Apes (May Contain Spoilers)

With all of the prequels, sequels and reboots coming out of Hollywood in recent years (and quite likely, for the foreseeable future as well), after a while they can tend to become a little like background noise – you know they’re there, but tend not to take much notice of them. A few of these films that have tried to pin themselves to the success of others have proven to be worth watching and genuinely add to what the originals had to offer, and some just tend to let everyone down and ruin what could have been something great. Luckily, Rise of the Planet of the Apes sits firmly in the former.

Taking place many, many years before the original Planet of the Apes (and just to clarify, I am talking about the original Charlton Heston version, and not Tim Burton’s re-imagining. It may have had better visual effects, but still, that’s just not an excuse anymore…), Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes everything back to the very beginning of the simian revolution, and ties up all threads that led up to how apes became the supreme beings on Earth. It all starts with Will Rodman (James Franco), a brilliant scientific mind who is on the verge of creating a cure for Alzheimer’s disease which has struck his father (John Lithgow) very hard. The most successful ape in his trials manages to break free and gets shot right before a presentation, but leaves behind a baby ape with the chemical cure passed down genetically. What Will soon finds out is that his chemical isn’t just a cure, but enhances brain activity as well, and so he studies the ape he’s named Caeser and along with his love interest Caroline (Frieda Pinto), teaches him things no normal ape could comprehend. Eventually, Caeser is an ape with an extraordinary mind and has proven that Will’s cure for Alzheimer’s works. But as his boss (David Oyelewo) begins work on a stronger version of his cure, Caeser gets put into an ape sanctuary where the handlers (Tom Felton and Brian Cox) are cruel and merciless, and the other apes fight for dominance. Before long, Caeser unites his fellow apes together and plots an escape from their prison to the freedom of the outside world.

I can’t really express how impressive and generally exciting Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in a way that is short and sweet enough to mean I don’t go on forever about every little bit, so I’ll try and stick to the basics of what I liked, and just say that it definitely lived up to my expectations of it (I also want to mention that I avoided making any monkey-puns during the writing of this review. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the fact that you end up being very sympathetic towards an animal main character, as Andy Serkis manages to bring some amazing effects and facial emotions to the character of Caeser. You end up truly feeling the plight of this creature and partly feeling that him leading the apes on a revolution is somewhat deserved. Then you remember “Oh wait, I’m a human, I should really be on their side”.

The effects in general are amazing, as well, as each ape manages to take on some kind of personality and play a part towards the end, and you can see how parts of what happen in ROTPOTA leads into the hierarchy of the original.

What I perhaps liked the most about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though, is the very end parts. Not only do you get to see Caeser with his fellow (now smarter) ape brethren in the freedom of the forests where they belong, but midway through the credits we are all treated to an explanation of how humans died out from the virus created by the stronger version of the Alzheimer’s Cure, and how it spreads throughout the globe, showing how it wasn’t apes themselves that killed off humans, but a virus instead that left Apes as the dominant species. This tied everything together neatly into one, very solid storyline and one amazingly visual film.

It’s actually hard to find too many things I can really fault Rise of the Planet of the Apes on. One small thing perhaps would be the scene on the San Francisco Bridge when a mounted policeman is charging a silverback Gorilla. Now while I admit that I’m no scientist when it comes to animals, it seems to me that no matter what kind of horse you’re riding, if it were to see a gorilla running at it it would almost definitely turn and run the other way and not carry on running! But, as I said, this is a science fiction film and is only really a small flaw in an otherwise brilliantly put together film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets 9 out of 10 for having incredible visual effects an tying everything together in a well-rounded way that also manages to lead in nicely to the original films and have a good script and acting at the same time. It’s a lot to be able to pull off in one film, but Rise definitely seems to have covered all the bases.

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