Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12)
I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve always had a extreme fear of apes. From King Kong to Dunston Checks In I’ve had a horrible uneasy feeling when I see a primate on the screen. Maybe its because they represent the savagery of our ancestors or maybe its because they have those freaky hands for feet. Knowing all this you’ll understand why I was chilled by the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Scenes of apes watching people as they slept or dropped from trees to attack humans scared the life out of me. However after seeing the full movie I don’t know if I was relieved or dissapointed as you’ll read below.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes or ROTPOTA as I’ll call it from now on is a prequel to 1968’s Planet of the Apes about a world ruled by apes. If you haven’t seen it then what the have you been doing? Anyway the big spoiler is that it is earth in the future. ROTPOTA sets out to explain how this comes to be. James Franco plays a young scientist meddling in creating a cure for Alzheimer’s (hasn’t he watched deep blue sea?) by testing on chimpanzees the result of which is a super smart chimp he names Caesar. Things take a turn for the worse when Caesar begins to question his place in the world and why an intelligent creature is treated like an animal. That’s when the monkey shit hits the fan and the film gets to what it promised, a full on primate/human smackdown.
First the good points about ROTPOTA. The special CGI chimps, gorillas and orangutans are beautifully created, making you forget that no actual primates were used in the making of the film. Also Caesar himself is full of emotion making the viewer empathize with his plight. His progress from cute, childlike chimp friend to bitter, ruthless leader of the ape uprising is handled well with much of this down to another great motion capture performance by Andy Serkis. And the idea of creatures equally intelligent as humans being treated like animals is something that the film gets across without being heavy handed and the climax where our hairy friends go apeshit (sorry, I had too) actually has you rooting for them.
This confusion over who we should get behind is the biggest problem faced by ROTPA. None of the human characters aside from James Franco and John Lithgow are sympathetic in any way meaning the fear and excitement I experienced during the trailer gives way to rooting for the apes to dispatch humans in as cool a way as possible. The fact that Caesar wont allow his monkey crew to kill humans takes away much of their threat making it more like an episode of the A-Team and less like the bloody revolution I was hoping for.
For all these missed oppurtunities ROTPOTA is still a well made, action filled creature feature which knows the benefits of taking its time with building the character of its main hero/antagonist. The set pieces are well made including a standout scene on the golden gate bridge with a showdown between the ape army and some really rubbish policemen who wouldn’t have looked out of place during the London riots. There are little winks and nods to the original movie and its set up well for a sequel but next time can we have the apes bare their teeth a bit more and it might rekindle my phobia of them instead of making me want to beat my chest and climb the nearest tree. Right now I welcome our primate overlords. Hail Caesar!