Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The title is long, but the film is short – and packed full of mindless action for all the family
If this Planet of the Apes origins flick came as a surprise to movie fans (who are all too aware that Hollywood has run out of ideas, but didn’t Tim Burton revisit Apes only a few years ago?) then the characters in Rupert Wyatt’s film are as predictable as tomorrow’s forecast – which is for rain.
The villain of the piece is Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), Chief Executive of Genesis, an American pharmaceutical company where the bottom line is everything. But Jacobs is not American. Neither is he Russian, German, Mexican, or French. With the BP oil spillage disaster still fresh on America's mind, today’s Hollywood villains are English.
It will probably stay that way until the Scots ban Texan governors from Glasgow, or Ukraine expels McDonalds. Then, the bad guys in big-budget summer fares like Rise of the Planet of the Apes will be Scottish, or Ukrainian, because Hollywood film producers are just that dense.
They also expect that the rest of us are equally dense. That is the reason that films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes are made at all (and with $55m recouped thus far, maybe they are right?).
But with so much bad stuff going on in the world right now – and I think we would all agree that it's one of the baddest times in human history – I really don't mind switching off my brain for 105 minutes to enjoy the ride. You'll all be happier cinemagoers if you do the same.
So there's this scientist, Will Rodman (the ubiquitous James Franco) who works for Genesis and who, within five minutes, proclaims to have developed a cure for Alzheimer's: the wonder drug, ALZ 1:12 (no time for backstory here).
Will's avaricious bosses go all misty-eyed at the prospect. That is until Bright Eyes the doctored ape smashes through the glass wall of the conference room and destroys Will's dreams in an instant. Naturally, Jacobs orders the remaining test apes to be put down and the ALZ 1:12 operation discontinued.
Will's father, meanwhile, is at home suffering from alzheimer's. Will saves a baby chimp from the chop and brings him home for his father to play with. Inevitably, Will treats his father with ALZ 1:12; the baby chimp, Caesar, turns out to be super smart; and a love interest, Dr Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto) is introduced.
It's pretty shallow stuff, until Caesar bites a dude and is installed in a local animal welfare-type facility, where Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter (Tom Felton in a plaid shirt as the sadistic George Landon) bullies him relentlessly. That's when Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets good.
Feeling abandoned by Will, and very sore from the guard's water cannon, Caesar plots the revolution. First, he must subdue his fellow simian inmates and form a hierarchy. That done (via some rather ingenious techniques), he gives his crew a dose of the good stuff: ALZ 1:13, Will's latest concoction.
When Caesar finally comes up against the guard, and Patrick Doyle's score dissipates for a second, what comes next is both shocking and hilarious at the same time. The chimps have taken over the asylum – now for the rest of San Francisco...
It was a smart move to have recruited motion capture veteran, Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and the monkey in King Kong). Serkis pulls of the range of emotions as the troubled Caesar via movement alone, and has one close to tears when Caesar's cell door slams shut for the first time.
The CGI effects aren't half bad either, and all of the monkeys on screen – from meek bystanders to the crazed soldiers up front – are remarkably lifelike and individual in both personality and features.
By the time the zoos have been emptied and the Golden Gate Bridge blocked off by the cops, you'll be forgiven for beating your chest along with Caesar and his gang – 'Enough of this oppression!' you hear yourself cry. 'You've made your bed, you capitalist buggers!'
All the while, even as Caesar et al trash cars, knock over buses and beat the cops senseless, very few people actually die: rarely do the apes deliver the killer blow.
And what the producers are trying to say here is that the rampaging hordes are not as bad as society thinks. They have a reason for destroying half the city but are decent enough not to bite people's faces off. If we, society, were not so bloody intrusive, there would be no reason whatsoever for them to throw manhole covers at passing police cars... Because Rise of the Planet of the Apes has a message, goshdarnit. And that is it!
But this is neither the time nor the place to discuss the societal problems that caused the rising. This is the time to ponder the ramifications of that rise, which will no doubt be played out in the forthcoming sequel. And I will be there, in the cinema, drooling onto my shirt, munching ungodly amounts of popcorn, as the apes rise further still and the bad men get their comeuppance. And I will enjoy myself. Then go home.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is on general release now.