Rise of the Planet of the Apes_Andy Serkis as Caesar shirt_Image credit 20th Century Fox-2 © 2011 Lord Christopher Laverty. All rights reserved.

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed By: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto

Ignore the clunky, borderline baffling title, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes is gripping entertainment from start to finish. It’s reasonably smart too, with plenty of subtext on everything from ethnicity to hierarchical costume without skimping on the physical action. Director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, 2008) is going places in Hollywood.

You would be wrong to assume this is not an actors’ film either. It may be populated by Weta motion capture simians, but these are performances themselves; in the case of Andy Serkis as hyper-intelligent, revolutionist chimpanzee Caesar, a subtly complex performance worthy of recognition.

While James Franco’s misguided scientist Will Rodman could easily have faded into the background, his everyman face and simplistic moralistic standpoint, not to mention chemistry with Caesar, means he will be missed if exorcised for the inevitable sequel. It is shame that Will’s girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto) is so underwritten in comparison she could be cut from the script entirely. Really, through no fault of her own Pinto remains the one weak link in a film that is intelligently written for such an outwardly silly premise (apes take over the world) and layered with sly visual references and in-jokes.

Costume designer Renée April, her work recently seen in sci-fi thriller Source Code (2011, Duncan Jones) again employs clothes as a means of supplementing and supporting narrative. Costume provides symbolic recognition of Caesar’s position in society. He is dressed as human by Will, indicating he should be equal, yet is treated as a pet (an issue he takes up with Will using sign language). Worse still, Caesar is initially viewed as nothing more than a test subject by anyone – including Will.

Also interesting is the role Caesar’s clothes play in identifying the due order of those around him, e.g. Power (Will’s boss played by David Oyelowo) in pinstripe suit with silk tie; Intellect (Will) in casual cotton jacket and check shirt; Weak (Will’s father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease played by John Lithgow) in pyjamas and dressing gown. With Caesar dressed essentially in rags, he is positioned at the bottom, below the weak, below even the stupid. However these rudimentary clothes are a red-herring as he is actually none of these things; Caesar is an animal – his and Will’s acknowledgment of which creates a very powerful and tender moment on screen.

Who would have thought it, then? The second best Planet of the Apes film ever made; disregard for a minute that it is not really saying much and take a gamble on the best popcorn of the summer.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released on 11th August.

You can watch movies online including the orginal Planet of the Apes at LOVEFiLM.com.

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.