Director: Rupert Wyatt
Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton
Running Time:107 minutes.
“Then the ape rides a horse.”
No, not a stage direction of high farce, but one of a barmy array of monkey-on-the-loose visuals in Rise… and a reminder that rapid acceleration of the evolutionary process may have unexpectedly hilarious results. CGI has now risen to such prominence that the effects house behind this film got “Brought To You By” billing in the trailers for Rise of the Planet Of The Apes. And, for your information, that’s Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital and his frequent collaborator Andy Serkis as the horse riding ape protagonist (Caesar) of this re-imagined origin story.
Apparently we’re kicking off a whole new series of ape flicks and if this is the basis for them we’re going to have a very funny lot indeed. As usual, man’s willingness to readily meddle in the natural order has James Franco as the scientist researching a cure for Alzheimer’s in the lab of a large pharmaceutical firm. As the intelligence of one treated chimp gives way to a possible cure and multi-billion dollar windfall there are, inevitably, complications. The flecks of deep green in the chimp’s eyes belie an increased intelligence way beyond what would be considered best practice.
By this stage Franco has started secretly treating his Alzheimer suffering father (John Lithgow who is very good) who has his disease temporarily halted before the body starts resisting it. But it’s the exposure of a perfectly healthy person to the treatment that tees us up for the pandemic that will surely power any sequels.
Relative newcomer Rupert Wyatt directs in only his second feature. He keeps a tight rein on things and is careful in allowing a slow build to the inevitable chaos in the movies final third. This is to its benefit and when the apes start running amok throughout San Francisco (is there a US city more suited to cinematography?) we can just sit back and revel in the sheer preposterousness of it all. That said the (at times) questionable script and the lack of any real chemistry between our hot young leads (Freida Pinto and Franco) means proceedings remain strangely flat. We’re left to empathise with a bunch of hyper intelligent apes and, while that fails to generate anything more than novel dramatic thrills, the sequel should be worth sticking around for.