Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A friend of mine once participated in a medical drug trial while she was living in England. According to her, the risk was high but the money was good. The results of the trial could change the lives of millions of people around the globe, but it was reliant on a brave few poor Australian expats. Human drug testing is a legal version of Russian roulette, but it’s essential in making huge medical breakthroughs. It makes you wonder how many humans and animals have given their lives or suffered dramatic side effects in the name of medical science.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ tells the story of Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease who is testing his drug on apes. After the apes start showing signs of intelligence, the project is tabled for human testing but cancelled after an incident involving a primate. An intelligent chimpanzee named Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the last ray of hope, and Rodman secretly raises the chimp at home while carrying out tests on his father Charles (John Lithgow). The results set in motion the fate of mankind, and a tussle for the top of the food chain.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ is a prequel to the ‘Planet of the Apes’ series that began in 1968. ‘Planet of the Apes’ started out as a B-grade science fiction film that evolved into a cinema classic, with one of the greatest endings of all time. The sequels failed to be as memorable, and wallowed in low budget hell. ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ has a budget in the millions, but it’s still little more than a schlocky science fiction film that has more in common with the sequels than the original.

All the apes in the film are created using CGI from Weta Digital and motion capture. It’s an outstanding achievement in computer generated effects, aided by performances by Serkis and a talented team of actors. The apes are believable and are emotionally engaging as characters. Around awards time, expect Weta Digital to pick up every single award – they are the best in the business and are fast eclipsing Industrial Light and Magic as the leading special effects studio.

The film does well in honoring its place in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ universe and they do a great job of filling in the gaps as to the mysterious cause of the demise of the human race. There are tiny nuggets of canon that will send chills down your spine and if you’re a fan of the series you might need to bring a change of underwear.

The film works well when it tackles the ethical implications of medical research and animal cruelty, and the plot is heavy with these notions. The ideas are fleshed out nicely in the first half of the film, and will certainly make you cancel your next trip to the zoo. However, things start to fall apart in the final act, when things get silly. Director Rupert Wyatt tries to inject doses of action, but he plays it too safe and the results are dull. After so much hype, it’s a dud finale that barely scrapes by in the closing moments.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ sets out to be a grittier take on the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise in hopes more films can be made. The problem is it’s really a B-grade science fiction film that should revel in those origins.

3/5

‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ opens in Australia, 4 August 2011 and the United States of America, 5 August 2011.

Fox

The Popcorn Junkie

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