Ten years after the last film, Fox reinvigorated the Planet of the Apes series as I continue my exploration of it with the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. Featuring a stunning performance by mo-cap superstar, Andy Serkis, and emotional performances from both James Franco, and John Lithgow, the film gets the series back on track after the previous film’s misstep.
Franco is Will Rodman, a scientist hard at work on developing a drug that will allow the brain to repair itself, thereby stopping neurological diseases in their tracks, like the one his father, Charles (Lithgow) has.
As such, he has been working with chimps, including one he has named Caesar (Serkis), who, thanks to the drug has becoming increasingly intelligent. Smart enough to begin to raise an army against the humans who have treated them so poorly.
With the advancement of special effects, this film creates a new reality for the Apes films, as Caesar gets to see both the good and bad of humanity. He is raised by Will, but when an encounter with a neighbor (David Hewlett) leads to a bite and causes Caesar to be taken away and exposed to the cruelty of man in Landon (Brian Cox) and son’s (Tom Felton) containment facility.
It is here that he is exposed to and interacts with other apes, slowly establishing his leadership over them, and creating an army. Meanwhile the new studies on the drug, have augmented it, making it a virus that threatens to spread and wipe out a large percentage of mankind.
This film gets the series back on track with social commentary, our treatment of animals, our use and mis-use of science as well as an engrossing story. It is filled with some iconic moments and proudly continues the film traditions as brought about back in the first film.
This new incarnation is a worthy successor to the series telling the story in a new way, and happily keeping the ‘surprise’ twists to a minimal. We know the Planet of the Apes is Earth, now it’s much more interesting to see how they claim it for their own.
Franco is at ease here, comfortable interacting with the computer generated images and bringing a restrained emotional state to his character, but at the film’s heart is Serkis’ performance as Caesar. Over the past decades, Serkis has become the go to performer for motion capture, and he continues, with this film, to show why he is a brilliant actor.
I’m delighted to say the series is back on track, and that the films seem to be in good hands, telling the classic story with the best of the new technology, without overdoing it. It’s a very cool thing to be getting excited about these films again.