The Rise of Planet of the Apes serves as a prequel of sorts to the original films whilst setting out a coherent foundation to begin with.
Scientist, Will Rodman (James Franco), is attempting to develop a virus which provides cognitive regenerative properties, which he hopes can cure Alzheimer’s, but also has the additive effect of increasing intelligence drastically. He discovers this extraordinary trait is passed on to a baby who is unaccounted for, from a test subjects that was put down. Will takes the baby home through a feeling of guilt and nurtures him along with his father who dubs the ape, “Caesar”
As the Caesar grows older over the years he becomes more aware of his surroundings, but also finds alienation in a strange world where he doesn’t quite fit in. At first settling with life in a family, his animal instincts soon come out and he finds himself separated and on a path towards rebellion.
The CGI in this film is incredible at times and at others slightly off, though in an uncanny valley nit picky way. But, WETA do greatly succeed in conveying the movements and facial expressions motion captured from Andy Serkis to provide a performance which makes one feel empathy for Cesar in his anger and sadness. The same can be said for the other motion capture performances. You genuinely understand the feeling of being left as Caesar makes the choice to turn his back on humanity.
The main focus of the story here is very much Caesar, whilst the human characters come secondary. Though the plot works well to match the increasing intelligence of Caesar against the declining mind of Charles Rodman (John Lithgow), Will’s father.
It is almost a reversed mirror image of the original Planet of the Apes as the apes are captured, caged experimented on and hosed with water. There are plenty of reverent nods throughout to the original movies, even the famous Charlton Heston line.
The acting in this film is suitable with John Lithgow putting in a harrowing performance as a dementia sufferer. Though Tom Felton and Brian Cox are stuck in a character limbo of every other narcissistic and immoral character they’ve played, as sanctuary keepers Dodge and John Landon. The pharmaceuticals boss, Jacobs (David Oyelowo), on the same hand, is just as one-dimensional as the text-book, money driven, evil figurehead.
It is a classic scenario of a good deed turned wrong, as Will’s obsession and struggle to cure his father’s aliment because the catalyst which starts it all. The story works well as it fills the requirement of a contemporary origin story in which genetic engineering is employed and whilst is may fall to the way side in a Summer blockbuster billing it fares OK as a standalone film.