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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Genre Action

When you heard that they were releasing a prequel to Planet of the Apes you probably slapped your hand to your forehead. Not only was Tim Burton's attempt at a reboot to the Planet of the Apes franchise a misfire, the movie title is laughable as if Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans never happened!?

In science-fiction, it's usually robots doing the uprising. Planet of the Apes takes an evolutionary view on the genre, asking a big "what if" as a species often compared with mankind is given a bio-genetic catalyst to level the playing fields. Just like most origins movies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes the story back to the beginning where genetic engineering and "playing God" lands humankind in trouble, as one ape's intelligence leads to an all-out revolution and battle for supremacy.

Despite a failed reboot and a ridiculous movie title... Rise of the Planet of the Apes will get a rise from you. Maybe not on par with experiencing a standing ovation in a cinema or Helena Bonham Carter's similarity with Michael Jackson in Planet of the Apes, but you will be entertained and blown away by the fact that Caesar, the main character in Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a "mute" ape, who is related to Gollum.

Andy Serkis, the actor that embodied Gollum's mannerisms and performance in Lord of the Rings is now Caesar, the lead actor in the latest installation of Planet of the Apes, inspired by Pierre Boulle's novel. It's strange to think that the lead is mainly composed of CGI and visual effects, but we're getting to the point that digital live-action characters are beginning to get a foothold in the film industry with movies like Lord of the Rings, Avatar and even Paul.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is about revolution, but it's not just a plot line - it's a visual effects breakthrough... giving a digital being real presence with a performance that makes co-stars James Franco, Frieda Pinto and John Lithgow a supporting cast. The same Oscar-winning visual effects team that were responsible for Lord of the Rings and Avatar have taken this Planet of the Apes prequel to new heights.

Rupert Wyatt may have given this beast of a film some real style and clout as a director, but it's the visual effects that leave a lasting impression as San Fransisco's Golden Gate Bridge sways under an ape uprising. The CGI truly comes into its own when Andy Serkis joins the fray as Caesar's puppet master. Until then, the young ape's movements are smooth, adequate but a little inconsistent - preventing viewers from fully committing to the story.

James Franco makes a similar casting decision to including Mark Wahlberg in the reboot, providing enough credibility to the acting department without overshadowing the main attraction - the special effects. Franco soldiers on as Will Rodman, the human lead and pace-setter, progressively drawing back as Andy Serkis takes over as a fully developed intelligent lead. John Lithgow's performance as Will's father is also noteworthy, as an elderly man experiences a regenerative boost in physical and mental ability.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes supersedes Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it has the right science-fiction ratio balancing life as we know it with a fictionalized account of a tangent future. Instead of throwing us into a world of apes, we're slowly immersed into the possibility that a chimpanzee can actually talk, dress, walk and think like a human... baby steps.

Growing up with Caesar allows us to invest in the character, whose actions make up for words. What starts like a family comedy in the vein of Harry and the Hendersons with a friendly overgrown pet chimp on the backseat, begins to deteriorate as Caesar's intelligence catches up with that of his master. A nasty neighbourhood incident leads him to an ape welfare shelter, where he is abandoned by his master and subjected to abuse by "wardens" along with other experiment-free, less-developed inmates.

This stage of the film is reminiscent of Prison Break or any prison break movie for that matter, and it interesting to know that it has parallels with Rupert Wyatt's previous feature, The Escapist. Caesar is incarcerated, forced to mix with his own kind and spurred on by his bitterness to hatch an escape plan and revolution that echoes movies like Jumanji and X-Men: The Last Stand for peril, anarchy and man versus other.

All in all, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a wild thrill ride. What initially seemed like a bad case of whipping the proverbial dead horse... or ape in this case, has been fully realised. The prequel is entertaining, thought-provoking and well-paced, taking a "mute" CGI lead and allowing Andy Serkis to give the character a full, rich and complex performance.

He's ably supported by talents like Franco and Lithgow and the visual effects are extraordinary when you consider how easily they allow the story to flow. Just like King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn't actually feature an ape planet, but makes for compelling viewing with enough ground work to warrant a sequel.

The bottom line: Seamless.

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