Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Burying its old, decaying, dead & dusted series for good, Rise of the Planet of the Apes tries to resurrect the Planet of the Apes franchise with an entirely new vision & fresh imagination and serves as an origin story to the franchise’s well-known premise. Having no direct relation whatsoever with the chapters that came before it, this film picks up the bits & pieces of elements present in the previous films in order to complete itself and yet is able to retain its originality & stands very well on its own. Almost everything about the Planet of the Apes reboot hits its target pretty convincingly & finds it delivering on all fronts to come out as not only a promising start but also as one of the most entertaining films of its year.
As for the plot summary, Dr. William Rodman is nearing a scientific breakthrough to find his cure for Alzheimer’s disease with a newly produced drug that seems promising enough but needs to be tested on chimps first before human trials. The drug shows increased intelligence in chimps during tests but when one of the test subjects goes berserk while trying to protect her newborn, it is mistaken as the side-effect of the drug & the entire program is put on hold. Will brings the surviving infant home who has inherited the higher intelligence from his mother, names him Caesar & nurses him like his own child. But when a tragic incident occurs that makes Caesar act rather aggressively, he is taken from Will & imprisoned in a primate sanctuary where, after witnessing how he & his species are being mistreated by humans, he finally decides to take over & leads a revolution that onsets a war for supremacy.
The direction by Rupert Wyatt is smart & stylish for he has placed this story very much within the realms of the modern world, envisioning its premise as one of the possible outcomes of genetic engineering & has used very less elements of science-fiction to keep everything grounded for the most part. The script also deserves a mention for writers have made very rational choices in what to pick or leave for the origin story. Cinematography & editing is carried out in a sophisticated manner. Sound is captured with stunning accuracy & music by Patrick Doyle accompanies the events expertly. But the one filmmaking aspect that truly triumphs here is its cutting-edge visual effects from the VFX studio that brought alive Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings & James Cameron’s Avatar on the silver screen in breathtaking detail. The rendering of the apes is near-perfect here & these CGI primates look much more real on the screen than ever before. In short, Weta Digital has nailed it yet again.
Coming to the acting department, the movie features a reliable cast in James Franco, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton & Andy Serkis. James Franco plays Dr. William “Will” Rodman; a scientist who’s trying to find a cure for his father’s (John Lithgow) Alzheimer’s disease by testing a drug prototype on chimps & who himself is a father figure to Caesar. Freida Pinto plays Will’s romantic interest. Tom Felton is in as an animal caretaker at his father’s (Brian Cox) primate sanctuary who treats the apes cruelly. And although they all deliver fine performances, it’s the input of the digital apes that impresses the most & is spearheaded by none other than Andy Serkis; the undisputed master of motion-capture performances. Certainly one of modern cinema’s highly underrated actors, it was Serkis who infused life, soul & emotions into computer-generated characters like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings or Kong in King Kong while the VFX team only enveloped those characters with their digital shapes & forms. And here, Serkis once again moves, amazes & enthralls us with his flawless execution of Caesar & captured his expressions excellently.
On an overall scale, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fresh breath of life in what actually was a dead franchise & is definitely a right step in the right direction. It’s good enough to rekindle hope & expectations of a wonderful journey that this new series of films can now make in the following sequels. Andy Serkis’ remarkable performance as Caesar alone is worth your money for he truly makes you feel & invest your emotions for a computer-generated character with effortless ease. Plus, the film as a whole is hugely entertaining from start to finish & boasts all the ingredients of a quality blockbuster material that ensures a thrilling roller-coaster ride to its viewers & delivers much better than at least my initial expectations. Enjoyable, entertaining & engaging from its opening moments, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a delightful blend of stylish direction, smart screenplay, steady camerawork, careful editing, suitable score, groundbreaking visual effects & strong motion-capture performances, which in the end turns out to be an impressive reboot of a franchise I didn’t even care for. And now I can finally look forward to the upcoming sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with much excitement.