August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

"An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy."

I'm not what you'd call an expert on the "Planet of the Apes" franchise although I've seen all the films (and the TV series) so you'll just have to bear with me as I go outside the horror genre for a few moments.

Having just watched "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" reboot (or whatever other term you want to use for this remake of "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes"), I absolutely loved it. It was much better than Tim Burton's crappy remake from 2001, had as many nods to the original as a fanboy could hope for, and even created a few unresolved hooks in the plot in case of any sequels.

Since this is a new film, you may not want to read anything else after this paragraph as I can't avoid giving a few spoilers. You just have to know that the CGI monkeys in this were amazing. I almost forgot that I was watching computer graphics at all as these were the best example of them that I've ever seen.

One thing which was very different to the original films was how this Caesar was an accidentally created mutation caused by injecting his mother with a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Apparently the writers decided to ignore the time-travel story which tied the other films together. Unfortunately, this may prove to be the undoing of any attempt to make more sequels but the alternative timelines were never exactly set in stone anyway.

I did like the fact that this was more about "creationism" than any bogus evolution story and also that the reason for this all kicking off to begin with was the Frankenstein-esque obsession of James "Son of Green Goblin" Franco's character (whose name I can't remember) who wanted to cure his senile father (John Lithgow).

There were a lot of other recognisable faces in this film including Brian Cox, the girl from "Slumdog Millionaire" and even the kid who played the evil blond Draco in the Harry Potter films. I don't know the names of everybody (and don't really care enough to look them up) since "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was all about the monkeys and, in particular, how much emotion a computer generated version of a chimpanzee could convey. It was a lot and I was very impressed.

Of course it was all a load of sci-fi silliness really but, strangely, it was very easy to suspend disbelief enough to accept everything on screen as if it was real and just enjoy the ride. I picked up on all the famous lines from "Planet of the Apes" (1968), noticed the mission to Mars spaceship had been lost, and gleefully accepted the potentially apocalyptic virus. Basically, enough was done to fit "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" into the existing series should a sequel never be made.

It was also very satisfying to finally see that spiteful Harry Potter kid get his comeuppance as should anyone who is cruel to animals. I really enjoyed that bit. I loathe anything to do with Harry Potter too so it was a double bonus.

Obviously this wasn't a horror movie so I've only reviewed it for the sake of keeping current. There were a lot of references to how dangerous chimpanzees are which I don't think anyone has any doubts about anymore after seeing what happened to that woman who got her face bitten off by one a couple of years ago. That was some real life horror right there. Coincidentally, I just read online that she's now had a face transplant. That would have been science-fiction itself only ten years ago.

The bottom line: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" wasn't much more than "Spartacus" with CGI monkeys and a happier ending but it was done very well indeed.

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