Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) | As a devotee of the original franchise, this reboot is a ripper!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

With Film4 showing Rise of the Planet of the Apes tonight at 9pm (Sky 315/342, Virgin 428/29, Freeview 15, Freesat 300), here’s my 2011 review on the reboot.

For fans of the original Planet of the Apes films, the idea of rebooting the series, especially after Tim Burton’s disappointing attempt, was always going to be met with suspicion. I’m a huge POTA devotee myself, but I can safely say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes meets the challenges head-on, with an exciting action-packed sci-fi adventure that is wholly original, but with a few loving nods to the original.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The story follows Caesar (a motion-captured Andy Serkis), an ape born in a lab and raised by its young scientist creator (James Franco), who has been given the gift of intelligence through genetically altered genes passed down from his mother Bright Eyes. When the growing ape is sent to an animal welfare shelter by the courts after displaying an act of aggression, Caesar discovers his own kind, abandoned and neglected. Taking control of the group of imprisoned apes, Caesar then puts in motion a plan to release the apes from their human bondage.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The most fun I had was in recognising the little nods to the original POTA films. Caesar’s mother is called Bright Eyes, the name Zira called Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor in the original film. Heston also appears on TV (an animal shelter guard is watching one of his old movies). Even the Statue of Liberty, which appeared in the original film’s iconic ending, crops up as a children’s model kit.

While imprisoned in the animal shelter, Caesar befriends an ex-circus orangutan called Maurice (named after British actor Maurice Evans, who played the orangutan scientist Dr Zaius in the original film). Caesar is even hosed down by an evil guard (just like Heston in the original), who then utters one of Heston’s lines, ‘This is a madhouse!’. But Heston’s most famous line: ‘Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!’ is saved for one of Rise’s most important scenes.

From the obvious to the obscure, I could write an entire essay on all the elements from the old series that have been integrated into the reboot, but I won’t bore you with that here. Still it’s a lot of fun spotting them. The most obvious is how strongly Rise resembles the third film in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In that film, apes have become slaves to man, replacing cats and dogs as pets. Caesar (Roddy McDowall), an intelligent ape born of the time-travelling Cornelius and Zira, leads a bloody revolt against man. Rise does exactly the same. It even has similar shots of Caesar standing proud and defiant against his former captors, just like McDowall does in the closing scenes of Conquest.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

As for the motion capture effects, they are extraordinary. I really found myself empathising with the simian characters, especially the loveable Maurice; Buck, the caged gorilla who becomes Caesar’s heavyweight protector; and Koba, the scarred, abused bonobo who has his one good eye on taking down his human jailers. Rise also neatly sets itself up for a sequel as a mission to Mars becomes lost in space (Heston’s team does the same in POTA, even the spacecraft shares the same name, Icarus). But only a healthy return at the box office can guarantee the new franchise continuing. (ED: That of course happened – but not the way I predicted – with this year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, click on the link for my review).

Rise is great fun for POTA fans, but for the uninitiated, its also an expertly crafted slice of sci-fi escapism that draws you in with an exciting universal story and heroic, heartfelt characters – both human and simian, real and imagined.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on November 10, 2014, in Must See, Must-See, Sci-Fi and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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