Wednesday, 3 October 2012


What were the chances of a new Planet of the Apes movie being any good? I didn't rate them very highly at all and consequently had no interest in it when it was released. I've seen all four of the original series and only the first two were any good. For their time. Though the image of Charlton Heston coming across the partially buried Statue of Liberty has become iconic in Science Fiction cinema.

But even though uninterested, I couldn't avoid noticing that the film got a lot of good reviews, particularly for the special effects (which got an Academy Award nomination). But then you can have good sfx in an otherwise completely shitty film. I also noticed that Andy Serkis got rave reviews for his performance-capture as Caesar. Hardly a surprise to anyone who's seen LOTR and King Kong, or any film or TV role as he's just a damn good actor. But the good reviews kept rolling in and so I added the DVD to my Amazon wish list and waited for the price to drop to under a fiver at which point I bought it and added it to my pile of unwatched films. Eventually I summoned up the energy to watch it.

And, bugger me, it's actually a very good Science Fiction film. And I mean very good in all departments -acting, script, photography, editing, direction- it's a film that fires on all cylinders.

I don't want to include spoilers as I'll probably be lending it to three other people, two of whom read this blog, but I do need look at some plot elements.

 Scientist James Franco is researching into a drug which will cure Alzheimers which his father, the always wonderful John Lithgow, is suffering from. To do this, he and his team (he works for a giantcorp) experiment on chimpanzees. Due to circumstances, he ends up raising baby chimp Caesar as his own child, along with Lithgow to whom he gives the drug and goes into remission. He also meets attractive zoo vet Freida Pinto. Due to more circumstances, an adult Caesar ends up in a refuge for simians, a brutal refuge ruled by Brian Cox where animal cruelty is the norm. The rest you can discover for yourself.

While it changes the basis for the ape-ruled world from a nuclear holocaust to... something else, it is, in every other way consistent with the Charlton Heston movie and is packed with references to it. None of these spoil anything if you don't notice them and you'd have to be an expert on the original to get them all, but it's nice that they're there.

While it always holds the attention, it saves most of the action for towards the end. While not being overtly polemic, focusing on telling its tale, it nevertheless can't help but make you think about the subjects of animal experimentation and cruelty to animals.

I do have a few minor quibbles about the Rise of the Apes themselves  but to explain them would involve spoilers and they are, as I've said, minor. This is a surprisingly well done SF movie which manages to be both intelligent and terrific entertainment. A sequel has been announced and I can't wait, especially if it follows on from the end of the first.

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