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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

#287 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rupert Wyatt, 2011

A prequel to Planet of the Apes.

Short logline, but it gets the point across. The sheer existence of this film does seem a little disrespectful towards people who for whatever reason might be oblivious to the 1968 classic's infamous twist ending, but on its own it is not the worst film. That doesn't mean that its main plot isn't riddled with clichés, though - apparently, the catalyst for the planet's inevitable domination by intelligent apes starts with a scientist (a not-particularly-convincing James Franco) trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's so as to save his ailing father (John Lithgow). In doing so, he ends up in possession of a hyper-intelligent ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis pulling another mo-cap performance). What follows is a fairly standard tale involving ethically dubious applications of science, a friendly animal being misunderstood and mistreated by humans, and of course the inevitable third act where the apes eventually take over. It is not a film that is especially full of surprises, and the clichéd nature of both plot and characterisation bear that out.

What does elevate Rise... over its largely predictable narrative are the apes themselves. There are those who would think that Serkis' performance as Caesar is reason enough for motion-capture performances to be nominated for Oscars, and underneath the fairly competent CGI it shows. Though Caesar can be written off as a version of Gollum who is incapable of speech, he ends up being a rather compelling example of some admittedly tired tropes. Other ape characters are also given enough development to distance them from the fairly one-dimensional human characters - enough so that I definitely want to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just to see what they're up to next. Otherwise, this is an extremely disposable film that still feels very unnecessary despite the strength of the ape characters that is almost good enough to redeem the film.