The reboot season is in, and it all began with Batman Begins. The concept of re-visiting popular franchises and re-making them with a fresh twist at the beginning of the story is now a common one (think X-Men: First Class, The Amazing Spiderman, Conan The Barbarian, amongst others). As Rupert Wyatt admits, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes aims to achieve the same goals that other reboots set out to do - get the fan base of the original series to look at it in a new, contemporary light.
Originally based on a 1963 French novel, the series, Planet Of The Apes, has its share of loyal fans, who swear by the television shows, the movies, and the comics. An alien planet in the not-too-distant future is ruled by primates, and human beings are subservient to them. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes attempts to explain how it all began.
Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist in San Francisco, working with a private corporation to invent a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. To attain his objective, he experiments on apes kept in captivity in the corporation's lab. Just when he thinks he has almost stumbled upon a cure, things go horribly wrong, and Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), Will's boss, orders the death of all the apes in the organisation.
Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine), the ape-handler, saves a baby chimp, whose mother was tested with the drug, and asks Will to take care of it. In a desperate attempt to test his drug, Will uses his father (John Lithgow), who has Alzheimer's, as a subject. In the meantime, the chimp, Caesar (Andy Serkis), grows up in the safe environment of the Rodman house, exhibiting superior intelligence and a knowledge of sign language.
When Caesar is older, a few years later, he gets into a fracas with a neighbour of the Rodmans. The court passes an order to keep Caesar in a primate facility (much like a dog pound) till the case is solved. It is here, in the presence of at least a hundred more apes, that Caesar gets in touch with his true self and, quoting the tag from the movie poster, "Evolution becomes revolution".
Rise is a masala movie, with a strong message - mess with nature and nature will mess with you. The story is an original one, with ingredients from the original shaken and stirred around a little bit. The script is tight and well-executed.
Freida Pinto's role is less than unnecessary - the actor is not even an accessory in the movie. James Franco looks a little bored, like he did at the Academy Awards this year. However, he manages to get across the right emotions and expressions at the right times.
John Lithgow is terrific as the man with a fading memory. He is indignant and proud, but strangely compassionate towards the little chimp. Watch out for the scene where he tries to drive his neighbour's car. Brian Cox is wasted as a villainous ape-hater, but Tom Felton as his equally cruel son makes his mark.
Caesar is a CGI ape, with Andy Serkis being the motion-capture performer. Serkis is undoubtedly the best actor in the movie, bringing to life all the emotions - love, anger, passion, frustration, loneliness, despair - in Caesar, with style and with ease.
WETA Digital has managed to create some very realistic and effective apes for the movie. The action sequence towards the end of the film has some great cinematography, as do most of Caesar's tree-climbing scenes. The emotional quotient is high, re-iterating the need for human beings to treat other living creatures with respect and affection.
Do not be surprised if you find yourself rooting more for the apes than the humans. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes will definitely be followed by a sequel, which will see, in all probability, a supreme battle between the two species.
Till then, remember that we may not be the most intelligent, or even evolved, species that this planet accommodates, despite our arrogance.