Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Run time: 105 mins
Rating: ****

What has consistently made the Planet of the Apes films so fascinating is of course the inclusion of apes. Not necessarily because they scream and shout and make other amusing guttural noises; or because they wield a supra-human strength and are capable of smashing shit up, but more due to the fact that they so closely resemble us human beings. This latest edition to the long-standing series capitalises on contemporary issues surrounding the risks of biogenetics in order to deliver some home truths to its viewers, and to level some harsh blows at the global capitalist system.

Will Rodman (James Franco) works at a privately owned biological engineering plant. He believes he has created a formula which enables the brain to regenerate, offering a potential cure to alzheimers patients. Rodman tests his formula on chimpanzees who demonstrate increased intelligence. After a few false starts, Jacobs, CEO of the company recognises the money to be made from this formula, and speeds up testing, with no concern for ethics or potential risk. Whilst all this is happening, Rodman ‘adopts’ a baby chimp named Ceasar who demonstrates the same heightened intelligence, and with whom he develops a close bond. Of course a problem arises when the chimps, after reacting to the formula, are able to outsmart the humans. It is at this point that things really kicks off.

It would be a crime to talk about Rise of the Planet of the Apes without tipping my hat to the CGI team who have done a superb job of rendering these creatures life-like, capturing subtle movements and a nuance of facial expression heretofore unseen in the world of CGI. Where this edition in the saga really succeeds is in its ability to deal with important issues whilst being able to satisfy audiences through its hefty dose of tantalising destructive action. In this respect this fourth instalment is heart-warmingly unpretentious, offering up some interesting critiques, but with no illusions as to what it is. This is hardly a movie which breaks boundaries or shatters conventions, but that doesn’t matter. Instead it works with conventional forms in order to get its message across, and emerges all the better for it. It seems that I have had to reform my initial prejudices here, and embrace what is undeniably one of this summer’s cinematic highlights.

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