Prequel to Planet of the Apes is a visual effects masterpiece

Posted on August 12, 2011


Caesar in Rise in the Planet of the Apes, 2011

I have been chopping at the bit ever since I heard Rise of The Planet of the Apes was out this summer. Its release this week in the UK couldn’t have been more timely following the rioting and looting in various cities up and down the country. Although the film centres around the untamed side of our feral cousins spawned from an earlier ancestor; this week’s media coverage of the mindless violence and thuggery by people has reaffirmed to me that mankind has a volatile underbelly not too dissimilar to our closest kin.

The plot centres around a chimpanzee called Caesar – the hero – if we can call him that. He’s born in lab to a mother who’s been tested on for the ‘good’ of medical research into Alzheimer’s. She’s shot after an aggressive outburst and all the other lab-kept apes are also put down. The drug is seems did not work. Caesar’s birth however has been kept secret by a few researchers and he’s smuggled home to live with the conscientious lead scientist (James Franco) and his father (John Lithgow), who has advance stages of Alzheimer’s. As he starts to mature, Caesar displays signs that he is no ordinary chimp. The serum injected into his mother has altered his genetic make-up. He’s smarter, his cognition is comparable to a human, he can sign fluently and he walks bi-pedally (upright on two feet).

Rise of the Planet of the Apes,2011

As Caesar progresses, the ALZ-112 serum which our scientist has also used on his father, to try to cure him eventually leads to his deterioration. While non human primates thrive on the serum, humans cannot. Like most medical testing today there is never a guarantee the result will be mirrored in us.

But this happy home does not last and after attacking a neighbour Caesar is confiscated and sent to the equivalent of Great Ape boot camp where he endures terrible torture by staff at the compound but also gets the biggest reality-check of his life of what being an ape is really like. Our hero soon escapes, infects the other apes with the miracle drug and hey presto, an army is formed. I wonder whether the revolt would have materialised if the staff had been more humane? Were they the catalyst or was this inevitable?

This film is meant to be a prequel to the original. 20th Century Fox has certainly outdone itself with the special effects. The Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) based on the actions of actor Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Gollum and King Kong) is absolutely fantastic. A visual effects masterpiece. I was amazed to see how realistic and fluid the movements were. For the first time Hollywood can put its hand on its heart when it says: “no real chimps were harmed in the making of this film.”

In 2001, Tim Burton remade the original staring an all-star cast with some fantastic make-up and prosthetics. Tim Roth out-shining everyone with his incredible performance (seen below with Mark Wahlberg). But again I prefer the 1968 version.


Planet of the Apes, 2001


There are a few famous lines from the original that have been resurrected for this year’s prequel: “It’s a madhouse!” and “Take your stinkin’ paw off me, you damned dirty ape!” which I really wish they had not included, best leave it to Charlton Heston.


Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes, 1968


I’d recommend the film and it has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster: action, romance; some comedy moments; suspense and a climatic showdown of us and them. But I have to say the last five minutes was a damp squib. Far too optimistic an ending. This is supposed to be the demise of mankind after years of oppressive rule over our closest cousins. I wanted to see something more sinister happen. Perhaps the idea was too close for comfort for film-makes, especially as testing on apes still happens in the United States.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes,2011