Posted by: greercn | August 17, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Pierre Boulle’s book “La Planete Des Singes” (Monkey Planet) influenced and changed how science fiction was discussed. It was a mainstream success as soon as it was published in 1963.

Concepts of space travel, scientific investigation, humanity and power all combined to make it a thrilling read. The 1968 Charlton Heston movie followed the book’s plot, but stripped away much of the subtlety and depth.

This summer’s slew of “origins” stories shows that yearning for a simpler past is a prime driver of current blockbuster films. Concepts and plots have been pretty basic, of late.

So I am utterly delighted to report that “Rise” goes straight to the spirit of the book and combines concepts about science with deep searching for the nature of what it is to be human.

It’s easy to follow and highly entertaining. If you want a little more depth and plot than is usual, you will find it here.

James Franco does another amazing turn as Will, our Everyman caught in a difficult situation. His work inventing a new drug to cure Alzheimer’s has special poignancy as his father, played extraordinarily well by John Lithgow, is suffering.

Awesome stunts take your breath away. Really, you will never see anything like the way in which San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is used. The opening sequence, in which monkeys are stolen for lab experiments, truly mine some pathos and put you on the side of the weaker creatures.

Andy Serkis as Caesar provides a miracle of CGI and a gentle and rounded performance that proves his mastery of making creatures feel very human.

“Slumdog’s” Freida Pinto plays Caroline, although she is not very integral to the plot.

The big surprise in the smaller roles is Harry Potter’s Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) who is unrecognisable and pitch perfect as an American villain. Brian Cox is very good as his screen father.

David Oyelowo plays the manager of the research facility and has some gripping moments.

Many of the scenes remind you of director Rupert Wyatt’s 2008 movie “The Escapist”. That knack with amassing the threatening crowd and the rush of people forward are both reprised to great effect.

Stratford Picturehouse was not packed out, which is a shame. “Rise” is one of the best movies of the summer and has so much intelligence and wit going for it.

Clearly, it’s the start of a new franchise and, as a set up for a sequel, it bodes well.

I missed the presence of the strong female characters of the original movie, so I hope Wyatt is able to get over his “all guys together” thing and bring in great women in future movies.

Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have co-written a great script which you can think about further, or not, as you wish.

Patrick Doyle’s music enhances key scenes and the cinematography by Andrew Lesnie has a superb use of landscape to enhance character. Motifs thread the whole together beautifully, as when Caesar is in captivity and draws the window of his home with Will on the wall. 

Do go see it. After seeing so many aliens and dinosaurs, monkeys are quite a refreshing change. If you are Canadian, you will spot some very familiar film locations too.

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