I had had quietly been looking forward to this for a while. Ever since the first teaser trailer showcasing the Weta designed Apes, which would once again see Andy Serkis donning the motion capture unitard.
Prequels are a tricky thing, on the one hand they can add to the mythology of a series or been seen as a shameless cash cow. There’s no denying prequels are very popular today, X-Men: First Class, The Thing and next years sort of Alien prequel Prometheus.
Only a decade ago Tim Burton had tried to revive the Apes franchise, whilst it was a commercial success ($362 Million unadjusted), it was a critical disaster. So my expectations were low for this new Apes reboot.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist), Rise is essentially a reworking of Conquest Of The Planet of the Apes (number four in the series). This time round it’s the workings of animal testing while searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s. James Franco play Wil, he heads up the research team but has a personal agenda, his father is in the late stages of the disease.
After Wil’s test subject ‘Bright Eyes’ (just the first of many references to the original) goes off the rails and gatecrashes a board meeting, all the other test subjects have to be put down. Unknown to Will and his team, Bright Eyes was pregnant. Will takes the infant home with him as a short term solution. It becomes clear that Caeser is just as intelligent as his mother, if not more so.
I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this film, the cast were good, Franco makes a solid leading man in a big movie, Freida Pinto isn’t given much to do but makes the best of her screen time, Tom Felton in his first post Potter role and he is playing Malfoy minus the bleached blonde hair, Brian Cox is Brian Cox and John Lithgow plays Will’s father, what can I say other than he should be in every film.
The relationship between Wil and his father is the emotional heart of the film, this then extends to how they except Caeser into their family. There were more than one occasion when I may of had something in my eye.
The action set pieces were exiting and the special effects consistently impressive. Best of all it was in glorious 2D, so you could actually see what was going on. Andy Serkis has become the godfather of motion capture performance (sorry Jar Jar), here he delivers his best work to date. I truly hope his performance isn’t overlooked by the Academy come Oscar time. He gives Caeser life on the screen, every bit as much as those brilliant people at Weta.
Perhaps even more shocking is the films budget, not hugely inflated but a modest $93 Million, for a summer blockbuster that looks stunning, has so much heart, tells a good story and is actually very good, that’s money well spent.
If you haven’t seen it yet see it now, next to Super 8 it’s a true highlight of the summer.