Thanks to Tim Burton’s questionable take on the franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was initially something to be wary of. Successfully reinventing a classic takes astute direction and vision, something Burton’s re-imagining lacked. Luckily, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot rather than a remake. This is a new story that pays great tribute to its forefather but journeys down a wholly original avenue. There are no men in monkey suits here, just the genius of Andy Serkis and a team of ambitious motion-capturers. Man and ape are separated by this cinema-technology that simultaneously somehow brings them closer together. When one scientist finds himself on the brink of curing Alzheimer’s, he unknowingly succeeds in implanting human empathy, emotion and intelligence into several lab-chimps. Only one of the chimps survives, growing up in the home of the scientist whilst growing in intelligence and understanding. The chaos commences when Caesar, the ape in question, succeeds in exposing fellow chimps to the vaccine/virus. Rise of the Planet of the Apes asks us to wait over an hour for the real action but we are heartily rewarded for our patience. An hour of character development and set-up grows just a little strenuous before suddenly unfolding into a dramatic and exciting final chapter. This is big-budget cinema at its best; entertaining to the max. At a suitable 100 minutes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t suffer from the tedious stretching out of story that so many other films of its kind now have to deal with. As a result, the film is paced perfectly. It allows itself enough time to do its characters justice, building suspense along the way.
The ape’s development is handled intelligently. We watch Caesar mutate steadily and at a rate we find convincing and fascinating. This gradual increase leads to the film’s most triumphant and unexpected moment that superbly introduces its epic final movement. The way in which Rise of the Planet of the Apes has been treated and delivered makes its frequently stupid plot all the more forgiveable. We aren’t convinced by the way in which medical science is handled here but are too convinced by the story’s tension and empathy to care. Distancing itself from the original Charlton Heston masterpiece, Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t need to be compared or contrasted. It stands alone as the start of a separate franchise whilst echoing the spirit and ethical discussions found in the first. Hardcore fans of the 1960s version will enjoy what lurks in the background here. Behind our main characters are newspaper headlines and television coverage that merges the old and the new in an amusing and elegant way. What separates man and ape is of course the film’s central discussion, but how we come to understand the world around us is conversed through both the inclusions of the hyper-intelligent primates and also through a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. The film is sincere and empathetic despite suffering from a few typical Hollywood clichés. We root for both man and monkey which makes for even more intense viewing. The second instalment will be arriving in UK cinemas tomorrow and looks set to build on the strong foundations its predecessor set in place. Rise of the Planet of the Apes brings a beloved concept into the modern age with captivating motion capture technology that refuses to detract from the film’s sincerity. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a well-paced thrilling blockbuster that proves reboots can still have brains.
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