Ditching the interplanetary sci-fi shenanigans of previous entries in the series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes strips things down to basics in a simple modern-day setting.

And boy does that work big time, as I reckon this effort is one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer.

A clear attempt to kickstart the beloved franchise in a new direction, gone are astronauts, unknown planets, loincloths and the like.

Instead we get a very much reality-based offering, with an impressive cast adding to the ‘worthy’ feel of the whole thing.

After a hectic jungle-based opening, things switch to San Francisco where lab boffin Will Rodman (James Franco) is working overtime to try and come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Testing things out on apes, Rodman is very close to a breakthrough that could literally change the world.

But it is more close to home that has more sway for the scientist, with his father (an excellent John Lithgow) struggling to come to terms with the disease.

Things look promising for Rodman and his team, only for a crazed ape to escape and trash the lab, conveniently in the middle of Rodman’s pitch to a bunch of money-men.

The project is shut down, but Rodman is able to sneak out a baby chimp who he names Caesar.

Raising the chimp as a human at home, Caesar is ultra-intelligent thanks to the serum that Rodman was perfecting at his lab.

Fast-forwarding through a number of years, Caesar eventually finds himself at odds with the human world and is carted off to an impound.

And this is where the ‘rise’ begins, as the super-ape elects to lead his fellow primates in an attempted revolt.

The first thing that has to be stressed here is the superb special effects – all of the chimps and other various monkeys were designed and created by WETA (along with motion-capture veteran Andy Serkis), who did such sterling work on Avatar.

And this is certainly no drop-off in the quality level, as the movements and emotions portrayed by the apes are stunning.

Add to this an excellent cast led by an on-form Franco and you are on to a winner.

Aiding Franco is Freida Pinto as fellow scientist Caroline Aranha, and there is sinister support from both Brian Cox and Harry Potter’s Tom Felton which will certainly have you rooting for the apes.

There are also a number of neat touches and nods to previous films in the series (including one line of dialogue that had the preview audience cheering), but this is very much a superb rebirth rather than a tired retread.

Well-paced, with a host of thrilling set-pieces and a moving storyline that holds you throughout, director Rupert Wyatt’s offering is certainly one I would like to see become a series.

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.