I’ve seen all of the Planet of the Apes films.
In all fairness, it’s quite an overrated series of films. At a push, the first, third and fourth of the original series are watchable (especially the third and fourth), but the second is crap and the fifth is quite frankly diabolical – one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I would do a review of it, but there isn’t enough time left in my life, even if I live to 128, to justify a repeat viewing.
Beyond the first five films they did a remake of the original film in 2001 which was also crap.
Now, 10 years on, they’ve done a (very) loose remake of the fourth film, which manages to be both chronologically sequential and the origin film? Confused? I don’t blame you. Let’s just say the third film involves time travel and two apes becoming celebrities in the 1970s and be done with it.
But anyway, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in essence it’s own film. A reboot of an old franchise.
So is it any good?
What’s The Film About? (Spoiler Free)
In an attempt to cure Alzheimers Disease, a talented scientist tests a new medicine designed to regenerate brain cells on chimpanzees. While the experiment has its initial problems and is officially made to start from scratch, said scientist – Will Rodman (James Franco) – smuggles out the baby of one of the chimps to avoid having to euthanise it, and takes it home.
What he discovers is that the baby chimp (Caesar) has had the effects of the medicine passed on to him through his mother. Within 3 years the chimp is almost as intelligent as a human.
The problem is that baby chimps grow up to be far bigger, and therefore far harder to hide in one’s own house, and so eventually when Caesar is fully grown he becomes ‘known’ to people (I won’t say how, but if you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know the answer) and is taken into custody in an Ape sanctuary.
Of course, it couldn’t be a nice Ape sanctuary – that wouldn’t make for a good film. No, this Ape sanctuary is run by nasty men (Brian Cox and his son Tom Felton) who mistreat the Apes for fun, and so Caesar becomes embittered towards humanity.
Well, circumstances lead to Caeser managing to expose the rest of his ape brethren to the new and improved viral strain of the Alzheimers medicine, thus making them intelligent too, and so the battle is set. It’s Man vs Apes.
Who will win?
You have to go and see the film.
It’s not that difficult, but it’s worth noting that this is by far and away the best Planet of the Apes film ever made. While the first one relied upon the shock factor of talking apes and the plot twist that it was (Spoiler Alert. Highlight to read) set on Earth in the far future rather than on an alien planet, and the rest were either cheap knockoffs and extensions of a tired franchise, or inferior remakes, this is its own film. And it’s far better written and presented.
While there is no doubt a little bit of padding, mostly relating to the stuff that went on at the pharmaceutical company, the main thrust of this film is about the evolution of Caesar, from his beginnings as a friendly and intelligent young chimp to an embittered adult with a mind for revolution.
And it all made sense.
If I was to take issue with one thing though it was that I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to sympathetic towards Caeser or not as the film reached it’s conclusion. When the apes inevitably went to war with man, I didn’t particularly feel like the apes were the ‘good guys’. Sure, there were a few nasty humans, like Tom Felton (up until it was revealed he was the son of the manager of the sanctuary, I was wondering aloud why on Earth someone like him would be hired to work there) and the guy who was a bit like Johnson from Peep Show, but apart from them, it just seemed to be a case of violent apes attacking humans without just cause. And Caesar was right in the thick of it. Basically, he came across as a bit of a dickhead towards the end.
In fact, I suppose in that case the film didn’t work as well as that which it’s a loose remake of (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). In that film, the apes were very much positioned as Black Slaves rising from oppression. I didn’t really see how the apes in this film were oppressed more than any other animal, and I’m sorry, I’m not an animal rights activist at all.
Still, don’t let that put you off. It’s still a very good film with many solid acting performances.
I’ve mentioned Felton a couple of times now, and in a way it’s sad, but I sense he’s forever going to be typecast as the snide and cowardly bully (much like he was as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) because he does it so well. James Franco is good in the lead human role too, but best of all is (unsurprisingly) the great John Lithgow, acting his arse off once again as the Alzheimer riddled father of Franco’s character.
To be honest, I always used to associate Lithgow as the guy from Third Rock from the Sun, but once I saw him in Dexter (and I would give my highest recommendation for you to watch that TV series) I gained new found appreciation for his talents. Here, he plays his role to perfection and so steals the show in my opinion.
- What about the special effects? Well, they were ok. In some cases I have to say the dreaded phrase ‘Ropey CGI’ came to mind. You could tell that they weren’t real Apes in many cases, but that’s not a massive problem. It’s a lot better than men in gorilla costumes.
- If you go and see this film, wait about 1 minute once the credits roll, because there’s one of those irritating post-credits scenes. Thankfully in this case you don’t have to wait 10 minutes to see it like in Marvel films, but I was half way out the door when it started. And it was quite an important scene as well.
- Who’d have thought Orangutans were so naturally gifted?
- Unsurprisingly, there are many nods to the original films, ranging from the name of the lead Chimp (Caeser) to the badly delivered and incongruous line “Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape”. Let’s just saw Tom Felton didn’t deliver it with the gravity of Charlton Heston.
Should You Go And See Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
At one point during the film, I was thinking ‘This could be the best film I’ve seen all year’. Ultimately it wasn’t, because I think it went downhill a little bit towards the end, but it’s still a very decent film. It flows well and doesn’t have any lulls. And refreshingly it gets straight to the point, with worthwhile plot from the very first scene.
There are some issues, as I’ve detailed above, but those are just my opinion.
Then again, it’s my opinion you’re reading.
Therefore, my judgement is this…
The film is worth going to see, and while I wouldn’t consider it a major achievement, it’s by a long way the best Planet of the Apes film ever made.