With Rise of the Planet of the Apes there was a risk that Fox were returning to a tainted well once too often, with the series still in the doldrums following the much-derided Tim Burton adaptation of the original story ten years ago. Yet the studio’s faith in British director Rupert Wyatt proves well placed, with a solid thriller which benefits from some excellent work from Andy Serkis and WETA to create the most believable CG character yet and one of the most surprising films of the year.
My original review of the film still stands, and if you missed the film on the big screen then I recommend you check the Blu-ray out as you’ll find a director whose technical skill, aptitude with the visual effects and necessary focus on the emotional heart of the film elevates ROTPOTA above so much soulless blockbusting fare. There is no doubt that Serkis’s Caesar is the most impressive presence in the film, though he doesn’t overshadow the human cast as much as popular opinion has it, while James Franco isn’t given too much to do but conveys the conflicted scientist who rescues his father form a degenerative illness after injecting him with a product tested on Apes (and Caesar’s mother in particular) which has incredible regenerative effects.
This is Caesar’s show and each time I’ve seen the film I marvel at the work done by Serkis and the FX teams, there is so much emotional detail written into the face and movement of the apes that being swept up by the story is all too easy. Wyatt keeps us close to the family unit at the centre of Caesar’s rise and it is our investment which makes the final, inevitable, fracturing all the more powerful. We know how the film will end, and there are plenty of subtle nods to the wider Apes mythology, but there is so much momentum behind the final events of the story that the result is a film which works on an emotional and intellectual level.
Like many people I was a fan of Rupert Wyatt’s film and pleased to see the critical and commercial success it found this summer, but I was concerned that the leap to the small screen would diminish the impact of the film. Certainly the visual quality of the film is carried over very well, with the work from WETA impressing just as much on the Blu-ray as it did at the cinemas, however my original problems with some of the shots in the final bridge attack still stuck out for me, visibly lacking a weight and connection to the real world. This is a small niggle, and in no way distracts from the flow of the film, particularly as the final onslaught picks up the pace and rounds off the film in fine style.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes highly recommended, not just as a showcase for the talents of Andy Serkis and the CGI wizards of WETA but also as a solid film whose power lies in the ability to play out a tragic drama while delivering some very impressive action sequences.
Rupert Wyatt’s commentary is worth listening to, as he displays and then explains his innate understanding of the conflicts and agendas at play in the world of the film, as well as the forces acting upon it from the fans and the previous films. Also of great interest was the behind the scenes documentaries which naturally focus on Andy Serkis and it is a treat to see his performance without the visual enhancements, if only to fully understand the rising call for the Award nominations. A few deleted scenes add a touch of colour to the film, but are otherwise safely confined to the cutting room floor. The documentaries are worth your time and overall it’s a great package to support a very satisfying film.