Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

For anyone whose interest in the Planet Of The Apes franchise stretches no further than having seen the 1968 original on telly or Tim Burton's ill-advised "re-imagining" (a word so awful that it still hasn't been allowed out of its inverted commas), another entry in the dead-horse-flogging series is a less than tempting prospect. A largely unknown director untested on massively-budgeted tentpole flicks? A title that pushes the very boundaries of syntactical tolerance? CG MONKEYS?
Well, fear not. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes isn't just worth 105 minutes of your time, it's the best of the summer blockbusters so far. And yes, I know I said that a week ago about Super 8, but that was a week ago.

Let's not get carried away: this film is a little bit silly. John Lithgow plays a sufferer of Alzheimer's, the severity of which is signified by whether he's brushed his hair forwards or backwards. A group of about twenty angry monkeys very quickly becomes an army of hundreds with little explanation. Freida Pinto is the least convincing scientist since Denise Richards played a hot-pants-wearing nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough. But come on: this is a prequel to a film about talking monkeys who've taken over the world. If you want art, GO AND WATCH THE TREE OF LIFE, GRANDAD!
I will make a meme out of this image if it kills me

What's pleasing about ROTPOTA is its surprises. I didn't expect it to be so much of a prison breakout movie, and director Rupert Wyatt (only other feature: prison breakout movie The Escapist) crafts a clever, tense sequence in which the pecking order in chimp chokey is dramatically altered. I didn't expect James Franco's character to take a back seat to a monkey, but he does and it works. And I didn't expect to be so convinced by a bunch of pixellated primates: Caesar the CG baby chimp is alarmingly cartoonish but by the time he grows up to be a man-monkey, Andy Serkis and FX boffins WETA create a character who holds his own against all the human acting talent involved. Even Tom Felton.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is very clearly designed as the first in a series of prequels, and I'm perfectly happy with that. It's entertaining and smart without taking itself too seriously, and although you know where it's heading (the clue's in the title), the fun is in finding out how it gets there. It even includes a credits sequence that isn't just part of the story, it's probably the film's ballsiest move, and by the time it's all over you've almost forgiven the bit with the monkey subtitles.

Oh yeah, sorry: there are monkey subtitles.


  1. Alfred Hitchcock said "...actors should be treated like cattle.", so directors have no trouble using other members of the great apes family. AND they work for peanuts.
    Most of the anthropomorphic films like Avatar & ROTPOTA are really allegorical. This lets the director use dialoque and action which if shown by humans would be considered racist or sexist.
    Just a thought, how wonderful would it be if the feral gangs of London kids had a tiny spark of respect for their fellow humans. They seem to demand respect from us while forgetting that respect cannot be bestowed. It has to be earned. Slowly. Very slowly.

  2. I wasn't actually expecting to be as moved as I did from this material but Serkis just really channeled the inner ape within him, and nails this perfect motion-capture performance as Caesar. Good Review!

  3. I love that this movie carried over the tendency of the '70s films to be ham-handedly socially conscious second, and entertaining first.

    Far and away the best "Planet of the Apes" flick since the very first one, and I don't know that it's terribly far off the mark from that one.

    Definitely one of the year's best movies to date.

  4. You must have been stoned when you watched this film to put in in the top ten of 2011. I look at the other films in your list and cannot believe you actually wrote this is a smart film. The script is of the worst, laziest kind - nothing makes sense. The (little) dialog is atrocious, the characters are the worst stereotypes imaginable and the whole story has no point whatsoever. The music is bad, the cutting is bad. Please watch it again and tell me you're ashamed of your review to restore my faith in you.