Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

As prequels go, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is certainly one of the better ones. Rupert Wyatt’s film is thoroughly entertaining and a suitable addition to the franchise.

Trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, scientist Will tests his genetic engineering experiments on apes in his San Francisco laboratory. After a test goes wrong, an ape is killed, and Will is left to care for her baby. Little Caesar shows remarkable cognitive development skills as he grows up with Will and his ailing father. After an incident, Caesar’s outlook and relationship with humans change…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is so entertaining primarily because of its well-constructed story. Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have created a compelling narrative. Moreover, the story resonates with viewers as it is plausible. Set in the current day, the idea of genetic engineering to find cures is very contemporary. Although events in the film may be shocking, they are not totally fantastical.

Wyatt’s film provides a good combination of drama, comedy and action. For a big summer blockbuster, the use of action is restrained in the film. This factor makes the action scenes more powerful, and the violence more pronounced. The human story is unmistakably secondary to that of Caesar in Rise. Nonetheless, the construct works well to give reason for Will’s experiments and for raising the small ape. The film also features a surprising amount of humour, which effectively breaks some of the more tense moments.

Rise should be enjoyed by fans of the original film as it holds it in reverence. There are a number of references to events of the original film, making the transition between the two films smoother despite the decades that separate them. For those who have not seen the original, or read Pierre Boulle’s novel, Rise inevitably reveals the big twist. However, most viewers will be aware of it, and Wyatt’s film pays homage with an excellent use of the 1968 film’s immortal line.

The effects in the film are astounding. The motion-capture technique used by WETA are integrated seamlessly into the live action. The apes are incredibly expressive and natural looking. Wyatt’s direction is also commendable. There are some fantastic images, particularly in the second half of the film, such as the apes in the trees. Rise definitely provides a sense of spectacle.

Performances are good in the film, although the humans play second fiddle to the apes. James Franco and Frieda Pinto offer decent performances, and John Lithgow stands out as Will’s father. David Oyelowo is perfectly cast as the business-minded company head Steve Jacobs.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very enjoyable film that offers great visuals as well as an absorbing narrative.

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