Dir.: Rupert Wyatt
With: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Frieda Pinto
Ok, so I have never watched the original “Planet of the Apes” (bad, bad girl) but I’ve read enough about it to know that it is a classic with an unexpected (but much publicised) plot twist, original ideas and a very high entertainment factor. The first film also came out at the time when the social inequality issues were very relevant (just as they are today I suppose) and the movie had many satirical elements to it. Naturally, I did not expect the same quality level from the prequel “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” since, as we all know, most prequels and sequels are nothing more than cashing-ins without any substantial backbone in terms of plot and structure. This film, however, was a very pleasant surprise.
Although James Franco has got the official title role, the true protagonist is Caesar, a chimpanzee, created through motion-capture technology with Andy Serkis (who also played Gollum and King Kong) inside the lycra suit. I was completely blown away by the CGI – Caesar was so incredibly real, a bizarre mixture of animal movements and human emotions. His face had a wide range of expressions, from fascinated puppy-eyed face in his youthful days spent at James Franco’s house to the stern, wise and angry look of a revolutionary leader. His development from a tiny baby into a curious teenager and, eventually, into a hard-bitten adult was nuanced and fascinating to watch. You ended up siding with him as he, being incredibly intelligent, works out how to manipulate the world of humans and the world of primates.
The film was played out completely straight-faced, which I think it benefited from – there was nothing complex about the emotional drama in it, however, because the story was so interesting, the lack of nitty-gritty realism and ethical dilemmas did not seem as important. There was a healthy balance between sentimental character studies, human-primate interaction and big, loud action scenes. For a blockbuster, this had the right ingredients and the end result turned out to be highly amusing.
In fact, I noticed that the human on human interaction was much paler and more forced than any of the scenes with apes in them. James Franco’s character was a cookie-cutter good scientist, his father - the charming demented old man, his girlfriend a beautiful veterinarian (how fitting), all the other humans were evil and exploitative of nature. No wonder they got the ending that they did – here is a little heads up – stay and watch the film until after the initial credits run – there is an interesting twist right at the end.
I never liked monkeys much, they are too similar to human beings and, if they were given the same intelligence, there is no question that they would easily conquer and enslave humans – we aren’t exactly the fittest species. I am now looking forward to watching the original “Planet of the Apes” to see my theories being confirmed.
PS. There is a quote in the film where someone says ‘he is not a monkey, he is an ape!!!’ which got me confused since I thought they were the same thing. Today someone enlightened me and told me that apes do not have tails but monkeys do – just a random bit of trivia for you.