Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/08/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Hugely entertaining sci-fi thriller that's both exciting and genuinely moving, thanks to a strong script, flawless special effects work and a typically terrific motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar.

What's it all about?
Directed by Rupert Wyatt (who made The Escapist), Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a stand-alone prequel to Franklin J Schaffner's 1968 Planet of the Apes, detailing exactly how - spoiler alert! - Earth became overrun by those damn dirty apes in the first place. James Franco stars as scientist Will Rodman, who's obsessed with perfecting his brain tissue regeneration formula before his gifted musician father (John Lithgow) succumbs to Alzheimer's.

When the experiments prove successful on one of the test chimps (Andy Serkis in a motion-capture performance as Caesar), Rodman brings the intelligence-enhanced chimp home with him and raises him as part of the family, only for Caesar to be taken away once his strength and natural aggression prove a danger to others. Locked up in a brutal, prison movie-style primate sanctuary (run by Brian Cox and Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy), Caesar silently plots ape rebellion, aided by an ex-circus orangutan who also knows sign language.

The Good
It is difficult to know exactly where the flawless CGI work ends and Andy Serkis' typically terrific motion-capture performance begins, but one thing's for certain: Caesar is a fully-realised character who forms the heart and soul of the film, to the point where you actually find yourself rooting for the apes. It's a bold decision to have Caesar as the main character of the film, but it pays off handsomely thanks to a superb script, some subtle character work and some truly extraordinary special effects.

The human performances are equally good: Franco plays it straight to winning effect as the well-intentioned scientist, while there's strong support from Lithgow (heart-breaking), David Oyelow (eminently hissable as Will's greedy boss), Cox and Felton. That said, Freida Pinto seems to get more wooden with every performance and her underwritten character (Franco's love interest) is surplus to requirements here.

The Great
Wyatt maintains a cracking pace throughout and orchestrates some heart-poundingly thrilling sequences, such as an exciting apes vs cops climax on the Golden Gate Bridge and, most notably, a brilliantly directed scene in the primate sanctuary that's simultaneously cheer-along crowd-pleasing, laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely shocking.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a genuinely thrilling and surprisingly moving sci-fi blockbuster with state-of-the-art special effects and a brilliant motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis. It's also worth seeing as a double bill with real-life intelligent chimp doc Project Nim, which, coincidentally, is also out this week.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12A)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 12:20

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