Rise of the Planet of the Apes (4 stars)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Expertly mixes intelligence and spectacle to hugely impressive effect

(12A) 106min

After the folly that was Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes in 2001 many questioned the wisdom of trying to breathe new life into the franchise when this prequel was first announced.

But Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes an intelligent, sometimes exhilarating and even poignant look at the origins of the story that pays clever homage to the classic 1968 original while potentially re-establishing the franchise as a force once again.

The story focuses on a scientist (James Franco) who attempts to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s that will help his ailing father (John Lithgow) by testing it on apes, thereby giving one in particular, Caesar, a hyper intelligence and an ability to communicate with humans.

When Caesar is eventually placed into captivity and abused by his new owners, however, the stage is set for rebellion.

Wyatt, who previously directed the little seen but highly rated The Escapist, proves himself highly adept at marrying headline influenced narrative with the visual spectacle required of a blockbuster.

The early part of the story will be familiar to anyone who has seen the recent Project Nim in its account of the human interaction with Caesar, while issues of drug testing on animals and corporate greed are also thrown into the mix. It lends the film a credible and highly relatable core.

The effects, meanwhile, are astonishing and Andy Serkis’ motion capture depiction of Caesar enables audiences to really connect on an emotional level with the central players and probably even root for the apes.

There are flaws, including one-dimensional villains (Tom Felton and David Oyelowo especially) and occasional heavy handedness, but in most respects this expertly mixes intelligence and spectacle to hugely impressive effect, while the clever nods to Charlton Heston and company merely supply the icing on the cake.

General release from Thu 11 Aug.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • US
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
  • Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
  • Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, Andy Serkis

Intelligent and at times exhilarating prequel to the 60s cult classic, adeptly handled by Wyatt, who mixes headline influenced narrative with all the visual spectacle required of a blockbuster. Franco plays a scientist on the hunt for the cure for Alzheimer's whose experiments result in a test ape developing human-like…

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