Thursday, 29 September 2011

Planet of the Apes Review

Summer 2011

Genre: Fantasy Action-Adventure

Starring: James Franco, Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo and Andy Serkis.

Running Time: 105 mins. approx.

Certificate: 12A.

Seen At: Parrs Wood Cinemas, Didsbury.

On: Friday, 19th August, 2011.

In a summer that has seen the return of pirates, mutants, masked serial killers and a certain boy-wizard; we then turn to the slightly unusual choice of rebooting a very different movie franchise. This is actually the seventh movie incarnation of The Planet of the Apes and its counterparts – including of course the 1968 original with Charlton Heston, and the 2001 Tim Burton version, universally panned by the critics.
   This latest however, is meant to be looked upon as a prequel to all that has gone before it.
   James Franco plays Will, a young, ambitious scientist working at a facility that houses chimps to test on, whose somewhat experimental methodology leads him into developing a new gene strand which he believes, can be used as the cure to Alzheimer’s disease.
  Will’s own father, played by John Lithgow is gradually suffering from the condition himself – however of course, it must first be tested on the chimps - with revolutionary repercussions…
   After a baby chimp’s mother is fatally shot at the beginning of the film, he is adopted, reared and taught by Will. Naturally, he’s giving a sample of the strand, and the results prove astonishing.
   Named Ceaser, his cognitive skills are astonishing, but of course, it isn’t long before he grows too much into his adulthood to be kept at home, so he’s admitted into a harsh, prison-like institution with the rest of his kind. Don’t despair though, as the affects of the drug are far from wearing off, as he leads his own species on an ulrelenting uprising to fight back, and reclaim rightful domination...
   This film is simply a joy to watch on every level. The screenplay, which could so easily have become bogged down with technicality, is structurally simple and easy to follow, and it’s paced perfectly.
   James Franco is an ideal leading man, injecting Will with all the necessary sensitivity and understanding. My one and only criticism is the need for Freida Pinto, who only serves as being a completely pointless cardboard-cutout girlfriend figure for Will, and is given nothing else to do.
   Where the film really excels is in its combination of two elements: its sheer scale and both the level and indeed standard of its visual effects.
   Andy Serkis, now having become synonymous with his work with motion-capture performance with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and another ape in King Kong, is once again utterly spellbinding as Ceaser, with every single nuance, every subtle facial expression, perfectly pitched. 
   In fact, as an audience you completely forget you’re watching incredibly detailed and lifelike computer-generated work, and just emotionally invest totally in Ceaser – he is the full force the film’s whole protagonistic drive. Surely Serkis should be in line for a deserved Oscar nomination.
    There are also a couple of jaw-dropping moments, not only in the huge- scale action sequences which occupy the last forty minutes, but also during smaller, much more intimate moments such as Ceaser’s response to a couple of human commands, as well as how the apes really form a strong bond with each other. 
   The sequences where a multitude of apes unite first on city streets and finally on the Golden Gate Bridge, are utterly breathtaking, taking on everything from entire buildings, to helicopters and ultimately humans.
   The film feels like its on an epically cinematic scale, helped enormously not only by plenty of blistering action set-pieces and some of the finest, most convincing visual-effects in years, but also by Patrick Doyle’s suitably dramatic musical score. 
   The level of the emotional component which accompanies the film is also staggering – by the end, it’s impossible not to feel moved. 
   The best film of the year so far by a mile, and certainly the most impressive and enjoyable blockbuster of the summer. Let’s hope it’s the recipient of the accolades it deserves. Intelligent, emotional, refreshing and truly spectacular.

Rating: * * * * *

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