Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Film Review

Many years after the original: ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise ended, the series was rebooted in its entirety with a new ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy, with these films almost serving as prequels to the original films despite being set within their own timeline. ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ was the first of this new series, and surprised many people upon its initial release in 2011.

When a substance designed to help the brain repair itself and cure Alzheimers gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee named: ‘Caesar’, he soon begins to enhance other apes in order to lead an ape uprising through the city of San Francisco.

Although I was never an enormous fan of the original: ‘Planet of the Apes’ film from 1968 as I was always overly-familiar with the sci-fi classic purely through its iconic plot twist near the end of its narrative, I personally feel that director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, The Gambler, Captive State) did a pretty great job revamping the science fiction series. As despite the film having plenty of sci-fi elements throughout its story, the film is mostly grounded in reality, focusing more on being a tense thriller with small elements of science fiction scattered throughout.

Andy Serkis takes on the difficult role of portraying the completely CGI protagonist: ‘Caesar’, and does a superb job of it. As he manages to capture the movements and mannerisms of an ape perfectly through motion-capture (which is even more impressive when considering that the film was one of the earliest to use a motion-capture set-up on location) all whilst ensuring the audience sympathises with ‘Caesar’. In addition to Andy Serkis, the rest of the cast of James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow and Brian Cox are all decent in their roles, despite the film having the occasional cliché line of dialogue for most characters.

The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is visually pleasing for the most part, having a variety of attractive shots as well as having plenty of movement especially when following the apes sprinting or climbing. The way many of the shots are also framed further feeds into the theme of man controlling nature (which is present throughout the film). Many of the scenes set within the ape sanctuary also link back to this theme, including my personal favourite scene of the film: ‘Caesar Speaks’, which is executed perfectly.

Despite the later films in the trilogy being composed by the fantastic Michael Giacchino, the original score by Patrick Doyle is decent throughout the film. As while it definitely doesn’t have a variety of memorable tracks, the soundtrack does back-up many of the action scenes and more emotional moments quite well. I also felt the sound design throughout the film helped add to the film’s realism, mostly through the enormous amount of ape roars, squeals and grunts whenever the animals interacted with humans or each other.

The CGI effects throughout the film still hold-up surprisingly well, as although the visual effects have definitely aged since the film’s initial release in 2011, and the CGI visuals are for sure the weakest when it comes to the entire trilogy. The visuals effects are still heavily detailed and feel very real when placed into their locations, which is lucky as if not, I do feel the weak CGI effects could’ve possibly derailed some of the excellent performances from the cast. Aside from the flaws already mentioned with the visual effects however, the action scenes throughout the film are handled pretty well, as many would probably know this film mostly for its huge action set-piece on San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ may not be the best film within the new trilogy, but it definitely is a very strong start. As although the visual effects may be lacking at points, the great cinematography, decent original score and brilliant motion-capture all backing-up Andy Serkis’ outstanding performance, all leads this initial entry to be a solid 8/10 in my opinion, with plenty of entertainment value throughout its runtime, I’d be very surprised if this first film doesn’t make many viewers want to continue-on with this sci-fi series.

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