It's been ten years now since the first misguided remake of the Apes franchise, so does this second installment have anything more to offer? In three words; yeah, pretty much.
Don't expect anything radical here, for the one big problem I did have with this film was that it has a terribly Hollywood sci fi narrative: vague social theme, emotional highs and lows back to back and technology as the catalyst. That doesn't make for a bad film but it irritates me a little as a sci fi fan. Most of the performances are top notch with the exception of an underdeveloped love interest played by Freida Pinto. James Franco, however, is solid and John Lithgow excels as Franco's alzheimers suffering father.
The apes themselves are very impressive, it's clear to see that it will not be too many years before CGI achieves apparent perfect photorealism. But even the performance given by Caesar, the ape messiah, is moving enough to make it the best in the picture in my opinion. As I understand how it was achieved, much of the credit still goes to Andy Serkis (remember Gollum?) who's physical performance was captured in every detail, even the facial expressions which are the most brilliant part. And his story is handled rather well, it's not as simple as; ape, ape gets smart, ape leads a revolution. It is dealt with using enough subtlety to maintain respectability. And there's enough violence from pissed off apes too...lets not forget what a shameful majority of us came to see.
Brian Cox is typecast as the neglectful ape houser which is a pity but he plays the part sufficiently well. The only other concern I have is that I'm not sure if I buy the pre-revolutionary vibe of the ending. I won't give away any spoilers but I can't decide whether it works or not, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and settle on the fact that the ending is tasteful and believable (as sci fi climaxes go that is). Quite entertaining throughout and just manages to be geeky enough.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011.
By Edward Gerard Brophy
For Born Again Nihilist, 2011.