Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto and John Lithgow. Directed by Rupert Wyatt. 105 minutes. PG
If I had to judge this film prior to seeing it based on its title alone, I probably wouldn't see it. Talking apes waging war on humanity? Monkeys are cute but that's just not appealing. But after seeing this trailer, there was something deeper to it, something sinister and uncanny. And it didn't disappoint.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is like Deep Blue Sea with chimps. Will (James Franco) is a scientist genetically experimenting on chimps, giving them injections to increase their intelligence, in efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. He's also fuelled by the hope that he could one day reverse the disease in his father (John Lithgow). One day, things go terribly wrong. When an ape escapes and ravages the lab complex, Will's research is shut down and the apes are put to sleep. All except one, baby Caesar (a CGI-ed Andy Serkis), who Will reluctantly takes home. Predictably, Will becomes to attached the chimp and raises him until Caesar has an outbreak and is sent to chimp pound. Caesar, now full grown, is mistreated to the point where he can't handle it anymore. Then things turn dire.
I couldn't say how much of the credit goes to Serkis and how much to CGI artists, but what makes this film so compelling are the apes. More human than the humans, it's hard not to sympathize with Caesar when he's taken away from home, when he feels betrayed and when he's deeply infuriated. But mixed with compassion for the apes is also fear of them. While one half of you wishes you could be there to hold Caesar's hand, the other half wants to keep a very safe distance in fear of their unrestrained power.
Franco also does well as will, but after the likes of 127 Hours, Milk and, yes, even Pineapple Express (let me add, one of the funniest films I've seen in the past 5 years), it's expected. Which is why it's so tough not to be a fan of his. There's an Oscar waiting for him. Maybe not for this film, but we all know they've already inscribed it.
Two others I'm glad to see on-screen: Tyler Labine and Freida Pinto. It's nice to see Tyler Labine (Breaker High's Jimmy) in a bigger role, showing potential I never noticed before. Brampton represent! And as for Pinto, it's great to see an Indian actress getting mainstream Hollywood roles and playing them so well.
Story-wise, the film also delivers. A combination of emotion and tension keep you glued to the narrative. It's pegged as an action flick which usually doesn't lend much to story-telling, but a film that grapples with what exactly it means to be human can't be taken lightly. And it isn't. A-