Sunday, August 21, 2011


Franco bonds, believably, with Serkis' Caesar
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Rupert Wyatt's socially aware, achingly humane update of the venerable Fox franchise, is a supreme reminder never to assume. I mean, who thought that this seemingly well-worn series could be rehabilitated in such a clever, sophisticated way?

Wyatt and his scenarists Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver surmounted this challenge by honoring the soul of Pierre Boulle's original French novel, "La planète des singes," while bringing a timeless modernity to the piece.

The Biritsh filmmaker has also contrasted the free-wheeling '60s of the original film with the unfortunate conformist mentality that pervades the so-called New Millenium, giving this update a '50s aftertaste.

James Franco is utterly convincing as a San Francisco scientist/idealist, with both a mission and an agenda, who is experimenting on chimps to find a cure for the Alzheimer's disease that afflicts his father (John Lithgow). And Wyatt brings a certain element to his film, one essential to all films, that has fallen in disrepair in recent years - namely, exposition.

He takes his time creating the timeline that will take baby Caesar, a chimp from Franco's high-tech pharmaceutical headquarters (named Gen-Sys), to his home where Caesar bonds with his father, to the animal refuge which is anything but. Here, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" becomes a shrewd take on the prison-film genre, and the innocent, loving Caesar (brilliantly played by a digitally costumed Andy Serkis) becomes a hardened inmate. Think Eastwood in Don Siegel's "Escape from Alcatraz."

All of this plays as a commantary/allegory on the fate of all captive animals, including those who we think are comfortably domesticated.

The film's big setpiece is a standoff between Caesar and his fellow escapees and gun-toting authorities on the expansive Golden Gate Bridge (there's never any question which species is the superior one) - a huge action scene amidst a film that's largely spoken. The dialogue penned by Jaffa and Silver is often quick, alert and literate, but there's one word here, a mere monosylable, that speaks volumes. Memorably.


Mark Silverberg said...

Count me in as another “Rise of the Plaent Apes” partisan. Good movie; not so good title, however. It’s a far greater film than its prredecessors, mainly for its unfussy, earnest approach. It also demonstrates a rather authentic and lived-in sense in its plea on behalf of animals.

It’s a very leveled movie that achieves a real gravitas as it progresses and its purpose becomes clearer.

Jim Andrews said...

The performance of Caesar is rivetting. Should win an Oscar for best performance.

Caz1310 said...

Everyone who I know who has seen this has raved. And they're not POTA fans either.