Ape ho, ape hum
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Direction: Rupert Wyatt
Actors: James Franco, Andy Serkis
A cult favourite at the time of its release back in 1968, the first Planet of the Apes spawned four sequels and a remake. But there was one avenue that remained unexplored: a prequel to the original film.
Ergo, this latest incarnation. Aiming to harness the blockbuster possibilities of the sci-fi parable by the French novelist Pierre Boulle, British indie director Rupert sets the cautionary tale in modern day San Francisco.
A brash young geneticist (Franco, disappointingly vapid) has been developing a cure for Alzheimer's. When one of his simian test subjects goes ape during a presentation, she is put to sleep. Against the odds, the scientist decides to raise her newborn chimp on his own.
Christened Caesar, the increasingly aggressive primate is confined to an animal sanctuary. Next: the genetically enhanced Caesar orchestrates an uprising against the human oppressors.
Not surprisingly, the militaristic simians have the upper paw in the ensuing conflict. The finale with the ape troops wreaking havoc on the Golden Gate bridge is thrillingly captured by cinematographer Andrew Lesnie. However, the pontificating over the dangers of genetic tinkering and corporate greed tends to get tiresome. Most of the human actors, including the feckless Freida Pinto as a primatologist, are relegated to actions edge. Ultimately, it's Andy Serkis who dominates the show. Through the magic of motion capture, he creates a remarkably expressive chimpanzee that communicates recognisable emotions. Though it lacks the creative spark of its progenitor, Rise… is still worth a visit.