Perhaps not the snappiest film title ever, but it is exactly what it says on the box – an origins story of how the Planet of the Apes came about.
Set now, or at least in the not-too-distant future, a genetics lab is testing a possible cure for Alzheimer’s on chimps. On the eve of a funding breakthrough and approval for human trials to begin, everything goes wrong, the project is suspended and all apes put down. Save one. James Franco’s Will Rodman takes home a newborn chimp to spare it from the cull and so, I thought, the scene was set.
All the above was clear from the trailers, and whilst that was indeed the take-off point for the story, Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed to very slickly weave in aspects that I hadn’t fully registered – such as what happens to all the people – and makes the apes’ eventual rebellion seem like such a natural progression whilst also being startling – one point the whole cinema gasped and then laughed in delight at Caesar’s development.
Some parts aren’t comfortable viewing – the first section in particular whilst Caesar is very much a victim of the human society he is trying to exist within is not pleasant, but it ensures that by then end, viewers will be firmly on the side of the apes. In this, Rise of the the Planet of the Apes reminded me of The Day After Tomorrow – ignoring the fact that you would most likely be one of the ones to die, a part of you half wishes that the events in the film would actually happen – revenge for animals condemned to un-lives as lab test subjects, or the return blow of a planet that that has been poisoned and exhausted by the very creatures it gives life to.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is gripping, surprising, touching and brilliant. James Franco is on top form – struggling against the plight of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father (John Lithgow) and with the ethical implications of his work. The apes are stunning – realistically rendered and led by Andy Serkis in top-class performance-capture mode as Caesar. It is always good to see a film that surprises you with its sheer class. Apes will rise indeed!