(Rupert Wyatt, 2011)
In spite of its clunky, tell-all title, Rise of the Planet of the Apes defies the general consensus of reboots rarely challenging the usually high qualities of their original exemplars and offers a fresh spin on the story of apes overcoming their homosapien counterparts, a story spread thin over six films previously. Unlike Tim Burton’s failed attempt at redoing whats been done already with his unsubstantial take on Planet of the Apes (2001), Rupert Wyatt’s interpretation covers fresh ground by effectively going before the events of the first film and explaining how, and more importantly, why the primates rose to become the dominant intellect on the planet. The crux of Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ intentions is to build a significant amount of tension before an eventual payoff, even though its title and our predetermined knowledge of what’s come before (or after) takes a slight wind out of its sails.
Stuck in autopilot, James Franco plays second fiddle to the motion capture technology which has fully come into its own in terms of bringing to life the CGI-rendered primates, lead by the films arguable protagonist Caesar; a genetically-modified ape with human sensibilities who eventually goes on to lead the simian resistance, played by mocap regular Andy Serkis. Eclipsing mostly every other human character, especially the useless Frieda Pinto and the snarlingly one dimensional, villainous father-son duo Tom Felton and Brian Cox, Serkis scales down his previous experience of monkey imitation in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) remake and delivers a remarkably soulful and humanistic portrayal of this conflicted character, who begins as an outsider but slowly embraces his natural instincts and takes a stand.
It would have been very easy for Wyatt to dissolve the first half’s slow-burning narrative flow into an all-out action spectacular, but he tactfully sidesteps the cheap visceral thrills of Burton’s adaptation and delivers a streamlined finale that never outstays its welcome, meshing gravity-forgetting sequences with thought provoking and incredibly striking imagery of ape vs. man. Rise of the Planet of the Apes ends by setting up its guaranteed sequels, and based on Wyatt’s efforts with this assured reboot, that is by no means a bad thing.