Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Dir: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis
After a pretty poor teaser trailer, I really was not sure about this movie. However, the full trailer was a lot better and after very good reviews from my blogging friends, I thought I’d give it a watch.
I can happily report that I was not disappointed, far from it, in fact: Apes has got to be my favourite movie of 2011 so far.
Apes fits neatly in to what has been a summer of remakes and sequels – X-Men: First Class, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and Conan the Barbarian, to name just a few.
However, Wyatt’s contribution to the Planet of the Apes series acts as a foundation to the mythology by providing the origins for both the ‘smart apes’ as well as the virus that will cause mankind’s destruction. To Planet of the Apes novices like me, it is a useful movie that sets the scene very well.
Will Rodman (James Franco) is a San Francisco scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. The developing drug is used on a group of chimpanzees and, after an incident at the facility, the project is shut down. On discovering a newborn, whom he calls Caesar, Will rescues him and so begins to ‘take his work home with him’. Caesar begins to develop intellectually extraordinarily quickly – could he be the key to the cure?
Aside from the concise and well-written plot, the star of the film is undoubtedly Andy Serkis (Caesar) and the use of motion capture acting and CGI. In its review of Apes, Rolling Stone was full of praise for Serkis’ performance:
“To watch what actor Andy Serkis does as Caesar, the lead ape in this movie, is to witness a kind of miracle. Serkis’ performance is not a digital add-on. He’s right there on set, in his body suit, playing scenes with the film’s star, James Franco, and the resulting immediacy pays enormous dividends.”In fact, Serkis gives by far the best performance in the movie, deserving an Oscar nod from an Academy long suspicious of this ‘hybrid’ performance art. Given that Serkis worked similar wonders as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, he is way overdue for recognition.”
Do I agree with Rolling Stone’s praise? Absolutely. It is not just CGI that brought Caesar to life, but also Serkis’ talent as a brilliant actor.
As Mike said over at The Littlest Picture Show, the movie’s focus is on the plight of the apes and not the struggle of humanity. Would the focus have worked so well if the apes had been shot à la Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes? I wouldn’t have thought so. Wyatt’s imagining addition to the Planet of the Apes series works so well because the apes are so realistic.
Apes really is worth a trip to the cinema for Serkis’ performance alone.