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Director: Rupert Wyatt

Stars: James Franco, James Lithgow, Andy Serkis

Release Date: 12th August 2011

Reviewer: Lewis Filer

Those damn dirty apes are at it again! This time round we see how the whole primate revolution started in the prequel to the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes.

The monkey-lead (you’ll laugh at the reference after you’ve seen the film) is handed over this time to lesser-known director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) and featuring a cast of big names such as James Franco (Spiderman, 127 Hours), Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity, X-men 2), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), John Lithgow (Shrek, Dexter) and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong)

The film starts with Franco’s character; genetic scientist Will Rodman who works for a company called GEN-SYS. He has been developing a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by testing genetically engineered retroviruses on chimpanzees. The motivation to find the cure for the disease comes in the form of his father Charles (Lithgow) who suffers from the very same disease. The virus affects the chimps greatly; giving them enhanced intelligence, almost human like. When one of the test chimps rampages through the lab, security is forced to shoot and kill it. We then find out that the chimp believed her secretly born baby was in danger and she was only protecting it. Will cannot bear to have the baby chimp put down like all the others after the order was issued. He secretly takes it home and brings it up over the next 5 years, naming it Caesar (to be later played by Serkis using motion capture).

One day, when their abusive neighbour threatens Charles, Caesar escapes the house and defends him, attacking the neighbour. After the incident, Caesar is placed in a primate facility run by Cox’s character; John Landon and his son Dodge (Felton) who treat him and all the other apes very cruelly. It isn’t long until Caesar’s enhanced intelligence becomes a vital tool in his escape, and the escape of every primate in the facility. Armed with a legion of apes all exposed to the retrovirus, Caesar leads the revolution and starts the downfall of humanity.

The first thing anyone will notice is the special effects. A first for the franchise sees the banishment of costumes and make-up as all apes are created digitally by Weta Digital using motion capture technology. The CGI apes are no less than brilliant. Life-like and each one very different from the rest, particularly main character Caeser who is brought to life by the always brilliant Serkis. Not completely perfect, there are times you can tell that the apes are completely CGI but there are also times throughout where it is hard to tell which apes are real and which are in fact CGI. There will be a point during the film where you forget that it is all CGI, proving that this is definitely a step forward in special effects and opens the door for a new age of fantastic motion capture.

The script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who also produced the movie) is not surprisingly, brilliant. Even towards the end of the film you still see the love that Franco’s character feels for Caesar even after seeing what he has done. With some of the dialogue of the story told through Caesars sign language, there is that nice little diversion from the human world as we see Caesar ‘talking’ to the other apes.
The rest of the cast play their characters superbly, from the Alzheimer’s-suffering Charles (Lithgow) to the vile and sadistic Dodge (Felton, who is more evil than his character in Harry Potter), the handful of ‘good’ human characters completely contrast the many ‘bad’ human characters.

There are many nods to the previous films including names of apes from previous films and in particular, homage to Charlton Henston’s famous line. There are also many clues littered throughout which give ideas towards where the franchise will be taken next, as after the impending success of the film there is no doubt that it will be taken further.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is a beautiful, harrowing film that reveals the monstrous side of humanity, but also the compassion that some of us do share. Fantastically made and portrayed, with incredible special effects and a great cast, they bring the classic story of the end of humanitys rule over earth to life, it is definitely going to be a hit this summer. Well deserving of an 8 Out of 10.

With a 12a certificate it’s suitable for any little monkeys who want to see it, as long as they have their big monkeys with them.