It seemed like a perfect pairing – a retelling of the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes and Tim Burton. Well, that didn’t exactly pan out. After that cinematic disappointment it cooled me on the idea of rebooting the franchise and thought it was probably better off left where it was. However, that’s not what Hollywood does and inevitably it would try to reignite the franchise going back to the beginning of the Ape story in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
And you know what? It’s pretty good! Set in modern day San Francisco, James Franco is a scientist (never thought I would enjoy a movie with that casting decision) who creates a new drug to cure Alzheimer’s and save his father (John Lithgow) who is suffering from it.
After being given the drug his father shows signs of improvement and Franco finds himself the proud owner of a Caesar, a chimp who also has the drug racing through his veins. Soon he learns this ‘cure’ isn’t what he had hoped and it affects humans and apes much differently. The makings of an apes revolt take shape with Caesar leading the charge.
Although a new Apes movie would easily generate attention and interest, I initially didn’t expect much from it and it ended up being a surprisingly entertaining film. The cast are very good in their roles – Franco, Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, but the movie really belongs to Andy Serkis, whose motion-capture performance of Caesar sells the entire story.
He conveys Caesar’s confusion, affection, sadness and eventual anger throughout the entire film. This ape is not just a CGI creation, but is a character you sympathize with. It’s another brilliant performance by Serkis following his Gollum from the Rings trilogy.
The film does the occasional shout-outs to the original with a few nods – a quote, here a reference there – but they’re fleeting and nicely handled. In the end it sets the stage for a continuation to the story, which apparently there are plans for it. It would certainly be something I’d be interested in seeing.