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The Establishing Shot: Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review


Thursday, August 11, 2011 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

rise of the planet of the apes reviewFinally a big summer film for adults as well. Rise of The Planet of The Apes is easily the most entertaining big summer film I have seen this year.

As with many film aficionados of my age the original Planet of the Apes holds a special place in our museum of memories. With one of the most memorable endings on screen ever - the original Planet of The Apes is one third of my Sci-Fi triumvirate from the Bronze Age. Coincidentally all 3 star Charlton Heston, are examples of reactionary counter culture of the late 1960s brimming with gritty subversiveness and explore different dystopian futures.


The first, the original 1968 version of the Planet of The Apes, the second 1971s The Omega Man and finally from 1973 Soylent Green. All 3 absolutely astound examples of great science fiction but only Planet of The Apes has spawned a legacy of thought provoking and complex tales:

Planet of the Apes (1968)
An astronaut crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telekinetic humans.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
The world is shocked by the appearance of two talking chimpanzees, who arrived mysteriously in a U.S. spacecraft. They become the toast of society; but one man believes them to be a threat to the human race.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
In a futuristic world that has embraced ape slavery, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost twenty years of hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Ten years after conquering the Earth, ape leader Caesar wants the ruling apes and enslaves humans to live in peace. But warning factions of apes led by a militant gorilla general as well as various human groups threaten the stability.

Planet of the Apes (TV Series 1974)
Two astronauts and a sympathetic chimp friend are fugitives in a future Earth dominated by a civilization of humanoid apes.

Return to the Planet of the Apes (Animated TV Series 1975–1976)
While on a mission, three astronauts in their space ship get caught in a time vortex. They return to Earth in the year A.D. 3979 and discover that intelligent apes are now the highest form of life.

Farewell to the Planet of the Apes (TV Movie 1981)
A feature length television movie made from two episodes of the cult American television series "Planet Of The Apes": "Tomorrow's Tide", directed by Don McDougall and "Up Above The World So High", directed by John Meredith Lucas.

Back to the Planet of the Apes (TV Movie 1981)
This is not an original made-for-TV movie, but two episodes of the 1974 TV series "Planet of the Apes" edited together.

And in 2001 Tim Burton re-imagined Planet of The Apes and replaced the gritty underlying darkness with gloss and clean visual style. Although there were some brilliant elements overall Tim Burton’s Planet of The Apes left me unsatisfied - not only when compared to the sentiment of original but as a standalone film.


So what would Ruper Wyatt’s Rise of The Planet of The Apes hold? As the title and the trailer let us know that Rise of The Planet of The Apes is a prequel and chronicles the story of how the apes rise to power.


Rise of The Planet of The Apes is so deftly handled I was astounded to see that Director Rupert Wyatt‘s only previous big screen effort was The Escapist a much smaller non CG film with oodles of talent but a world away from the Blockbuster that is Rise of The Planet of The Apes. Rise of The Planet of The Apes is highly entertaining and whilst it is counter productive to linger in the past or source material it contextually ties into the Apes series smartly whilst being original – something reboots/ redux / reimagineerings /sequels struggle to do successfully.

There are some flaky bits "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape" but overall Rise of The Planet of The Apes is very well balanced between emotion and physical action and despite the fact that over a 100 of the characters are digitally created in phenomenal photorealistic detail the graphics are never the focus of the film rather a vehicle to enhance the story.

Rise of The Planet of The Apes is an origin story wherein we explore the roots of the rise of the apes. Will Rodman (James Franco) is some sort of brain/genetic hot shot at a super pharmaceutical corporation predictably apes are needed in to test a new drug called “the cure” that will, well I’m unsure of exactly what it is supposed to do but it’s the kind of drug that will help humanity / stop mental degeneration / build resistance to virus / all of the aforementioned. If you are drawing comparisons to the awful Deep Blue Sea at this point I don’t blame you as Deep Blue Sea had super scientists using CG sharks for their experiments, the sharks got smart and complications follow. Rise of The Planet of The Apes is nothing like Deep Blue Sea, Rise is far smarter and the characters are well rounded allowing performers to live their roles.

Franco’s character has an emotional stake in developing the miracle cure, as we do by proxy, as his father’s (John Lithgow) mental faculties are deteriorating. This is wonderfully counter balanced by the increase in intelligence of Caesar, a remarkable simian that Franco secrets home after his drug trials go haywire. This all comes to a memorable tipping point when Franco’s character, his father and Caesar are sitting at breakfast and Lithgow’s character’s relapse becomes apparent to all. Caesar and Franco’s character look at each other with understanding glances - this scene was genuinely touching and be the bit that will always epitomises the film for me.

From this emotional hub we witness the Rise of The Planet of The Apes and the pace of the story increases, the tension mounts and eventually action breaks out.

I’m unsure if I enjoyed Rise so much because it fits into the larger Apes universe so smartly and treats the original series with respect making no attempt to sweep it under the carpet. Or if it is the clever way the story is structured to give the characters focus and the story and action rolls out from there.

The fact that I have not made any special mention the CG apes or motion performance capture of the bulk of the characters which are simian is a testament to how excellent and seamless it is. Most noticeably Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Rise of The Planet of The Apes is easily the best film I have seen so far this Summer. It stays true to Pierre Boulle’s original exploration of intolerance and the differences in society, but feels fresh and original. It replaces the dark grittiness of the original with clean polished visual style and atmosphere as it grounds the story well in a personal and emotional journey for the first half before all hell breaking loose.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in UK cinemas from today Thursday 11 August, 2011

rise of the planet of the apesRise of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review


With a rebel yell!
Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond. When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. 

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