Tuesday, August 02, 2011

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - The Uprising

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (sci-fi thriller)
Cast: James Franco, Tom Felton, Andy Serkis, Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, David Hewlett, Tyler Labine, Leah Gibson and Jamie Harris
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Screenplay by Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa and Jamie Moss
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Caesar (Andy Serkis) planning his next move

BACKGROUNDER: Like all of its previous versions, this movie has its roots in Pierre Boulle's 1963 French novel, La Planète des Singes (Planet of The Apes or Monkey Planet) about the fall of mankind and the rise of intelligent and pragmatic primates. All in all, the franchise has spawned seven movies over 43 years, including Tim Burton's remake of the 1968 film, Planet Of The Apes.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, however, is not a remake. It is a reboot, with its new origin story set in modern-day San Francisco. Besides a fresh storyline, it boasts a technological milestone by Weta Digital - the Oscar-winning visual effects team behind Avatar – in its creation of a CGI ape that delivers unprecedented emotion and intelligence. This work is complemented by Andy Serkis, the famous 'performance capture' actor, who caught world attention playing Gollum in the Lord Of The Ring trilogy. Here, he plays Caesar, the leading primate.

Freida Pinto and James Franco

SYNOPSIS: This first instalment deals with the Evolution of the Ape Revolution. Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is experimenting with a new drug, ALZ-112, that can restore damaged brain tissue. He is intent on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s because his father (John Lithgow) is suffering from the disease. When a test on an ape goes awry, Will finds himself 'adopting' a newborn chimp, which he names Caesar.

Like in Boulle's book, this is a story of man's folly in tempering with Nature. Will discovers that the drug has a flaw but corporate greed is again the chief culprit in turning that flaw into a major disaster. Of course, Caesar, who grows up to be a highly intelligent ape, is the main player in the revolution.

HITS & MISSES: As an origin film, the first two acts are mostly plot build-up sans the fast-pace, mindless 'action' that viewers would expect of summer blockbusters. However, our interest is sustained by the commendable performances from Franco, Lithgow and Serkis as the quick-learning Caesar. Freida Pinto (of Slumdog Millionaire) provides the requisite feminine touch here as Caroline (right), a primatologist who falls in love with Will - and Caesar. Indeed, the main star here is Serkis' Caesar and the human cast, like Brian Cox as warden of an Ape Sanctuary and Tom Felton as the sadistic animal handler Dodge, are there to fulfil their roles and nothing more.

Caesar's role in the uprising is credibly documented. Since he’s not the strongest ape among the other primates, Caesar quickly realises that in order to survive, he must assert his intellectual dominance over the alpha-male ape Rocket, the brooding gorilla named Buck, and an orangutan named Maurice. Caesar soon establishes a new social order, and, at a pivotal moment, stands up and retaliates against their cruel human handlers. The beginning of the end of the human race continues right into the closing credits (so remember to stick around for it).

THE LOWDOWN: Rise Of The Planet of the Apes is not as electrifying or as magnetic as X-Men: First Class, but it is catchy enough to make us long for the next instalment.

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