Cinema: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
“Get your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!” Not just the most quotable line of its originator, but also the one thing which links Rise of the Planet of the Apes to the 1968 original – aside from the primates themselves, of course.
The voice which speaks that line is an unlikely one though, none other than Tom Felton, known the Muggle world over as ‘evil’ wizard Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, and unnervingly it’s accompanied by an American twang.
Felton plays Dodge Landon, a bully not entirely unlike Malfoy, who works at his father’s ape house, where the film’s monkey-like hero eventually finds himself. The story focuses on the scientific exploits of Will Rodman (James Franco), who is testing a new drug therapy, designed to cure Alzheimers, on the apes. After an incident, Rodman winds up with a baby ape, which he names Caeser, to take care of at home and he raises it as a son, teaching it sign language and converting the attic into a playground-like room, but he soon realises this animal is less than ordinary thanks to Caeser’s mother being given the drug.
Using this knowledge Rodman tests the drug on his father, played spectacularly by former Trinity Killer (in Dexter) John Lithgow, who regains his mind from the clutches of the heart-breaking disease. The ape evolution in Caeser (a motion capture performance by former Gollum Andy Serkis) quickly turns to revolution as his animal instincts kick in and the magic compound spreads.
The action-spectacular climax of the film should be the most significant moment, but instead, strangely it’s where glass house cracks. In previous films, the apes would talk as casually as their human co-stars, talking down to them as intellectual inferiors, but this film takes the realism aspect very seriously. So seriously in fact that the creatures are animated using Avatar‘s space-age technology, creating the most photo-real computer generated mammals seen on celluloid. But the suspension of disbelief is suddenly shattered as soon as Caeser utters a single word, somehow, it seems, this is a step too far.
Character takes a back seat in the final act as it becomes a jaw-dropping action-based chase through the city, and Franco’s usually impressive skills are lost as he haplessly follows the path of destruction. Still, supporting players such as Lithgow and Brian Cox, who plays Dodge’s ape house-owning dad, act as the voice of reason amid the mounting chaos. Also there’s a long-overdue return to screen for former Spooks actor David Oyelowo, who is the stereotypical money-hungry suit bankrolling Rodman’s research, and succeeds in playing it right down to the ground, making the audience almost feel sorry for him for his naivety to the situation as it unfolds.
By the end you will be entertained though and dazled by the effects, the presentation of Caesar testament to Serkis’ performance and the capabilities of today’s effects wizzards. It is though, despite the Golden Gate Bridge conclusion, a character study kore than anything else, and a moving and involving one at that. All hail Caesar!
By James Parry.
Rise of the planet of the Apes is out now courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.