Rise of the Planet of the Apes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2011, 12:00am


Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Category: IIA

In the original Planet of the Apes, the chimpanzee intellectuals pronounced human civilisation stupid because it destroyed itself with an atomic bomb. The chimps might have come to the same conclusion if they'd watched this prequel to their own story.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is plodding, poorly scripted and lacking in wit. The finale, which features a horde of leaping apes escaping the city for the forest, is the only part that lifts the movie out of the doldrums.

It is enlightening to compare this instalment in the series with the enjoyable Planet of the Apes (1968) and its serviceable sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Those films were produced as popular entertainment. Their comments about nuclear warheads, mankind's penchant for destruction and self-destruction and racism are pat and obvious. But by the standards of this movie, they are intellectual masterpieces - simply because they bother to comment on anything at all.

There are no such comments in the new film. In fact, there is little of anything at all. The acting is one- dimensional, the sets are grey and boring, and the scriptwriters have not even added witty one-liners to alleviate the boredom. Even the apes suffer from character stereotyping - and they are just CGI creations.

The story revolves around Caesar (Andy Serkis, above, who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series), a chimp who becomes intelligent after his exposure to a drug that will cure Alzheimer's disease.

After attacking a neighbour during a dispute at his owner's home, he gets thrown into the primate equivalent of Alcatraz. He persuades his ape friends to escape, so they do. Meanwhile, a plague threatens to destroy the world.

There are many sad things about this film, not least the performances by James Franco, who plays the scientist behind the drug, and Freida Pinto, who plays his veterinarian girlfriend. But much sadder is the way that the script messes with the Planet of the Apes movie myth. Apes was first adapted for the screen, from a somewhat different 1963 story by Pierre Boulle, by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling.

Serling's final, horrified line about nuclear destruction is what made the film great. But here, the theme of nuclear destruction has been dumped for something as boring as a virus. This change renders the film redundant as a prequel, as it is not what happened.

Most contemporary Hollywood films try not to put across a point of view, for fear of offending anybody. But a sprinkling of issues from today's destructive times would have brought the new film into line with the original concept and, as a result, is an inconsequential addition to the series.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes opens today