The Rise of Planet of the Apes

Art & Culture

Somewhat to my (pleasant) surprise, I enjoyed this rather more than I expected to – and not just because there’s no sign of Charlton Heston. As origin movies go, it’s rather better than the originals.

I must confess to the heresy of disliking the Planet Of The Apes movies that issued out from 1968 onwards. They seemed like heavy-handed allegories, which were doubtless well-meaning in a liberal 60s way, but were fatally undermined by having Ben Hur emoting at the camera. And no, I didn’t think much of the Tim Burton movie from a few years back.

This version goes back in time to the present, where handsome young James Franco is occupying the Frankenstein role (the scientist, not the monster). He has been using a serum on chimpanzees in an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimers, which his dad suffers from. But something goes wrong, and the experiment is closed down. However, Will (Franco) takes home a newly born chimp, which he raises to be part of the family, while discovering that the serum is helping cure his dad. In due course Baby becomes Caesar, an alpha male chimp, with preternatural intelligence and strength who, inevitably, breaks the boundaries of what society will allow, resulting in his being locked away. The consequences are not happy.

The reason the film works is that British director Rupert Wyatt (who made The Escapist a couple of years ago) has realised the balletic potential of apes on the move. As a result the film soars and swings, unlike so many big budget CGI movies, which clunk and clatter. The thing is that although the CGI is used to reproduce these various primates (there’s a gorilla and orangutan among the Ape Army), the end result is greater rather than lesser humanity. I’m not saying the movie apes look exactly like animals, but they make a good approximation of something which is not human, although bearing a strong resemblance to it.Some of the best scenes in the film are those where the apes travel through the trees, or clamber up and under the San Francisco Bay Bridge, taking the movie into the realms of abstract beauty.

The film’s weak point is Freida Pinto as the token love interest in a lab coat, on hand to offer wise platitudes about messing with nature, and a warm shoulder for Will to cuddle up to. She is undoubtedly a very beautiful woman, but she has the screen presence of a table cloth. But apart from that, I would give the film a thumbs up; it should appeal to those who want spectacle as well as those who want something a little more thought-provoking.


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