Monday, 12 September 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Those of us of a certain age were brought up on the nasal twitches of Roddy McDowall and the original TV and movie franchise of the 1960s/70s. The current generation are used to CG enhanced characters and the ubiquitous Andy Serkis squeezing into the latest latex body form to perform his particular brand of magic. I was fearing that this would be a lame and dismal prequel - I was wrong - very wrong.

It seems that the super able Apes (not monkeys - please) are brought into being through some well-intentioned but morally compromised medical research seeking the holy grail of a cure for Alzheimers Disease. The central character Will (James Franco), isn't motivated by altruism but by his sick father who has advanced Alzheimer's.

The plot of how the research impacts the Apes and then humans is believable but ably demonstrates how easy it is to cross boundaries and do good things for the wrong reasons. In essence this could be an old-fashioned morality tale. What we get is a stark warning about the potential for things going wrong when we meddle with the genome and are driven by profit rather than cautious laboratory protocols.

The story includes a love interest in the guise of Caroline played by Freida Pinto who played the older Latika in Slumdog Millionaire. Despite Will's dodgy ethical practice, she sticks with him and will no doubt feature in the prequel sequel which must already be in pre-production.

I won't spoil the story except to say that it is as believable as any scenario that sees Apes become endowed with human-like abilities. I anticipated that the film would end further along the evolutionary road but am happy that the Apes are now emancipated and free to do Ape-like things in an increasingly human way in the Red Wood on the North shore of Frisco Bay. They will need more than a couple of hundred if they are to eventually conquer the Earth!

A major point of reflection for me was that the driver in the narrative is Will's inability to accept the onset of Alzheimer's and the living loss of his once vital and creative father. I am not for one minute suggesting I might have behaved any differently faced with the same set of circumstances, but there does seem to be in society as a whole, a determination to resist Alzheimer's, which is a horrible disease, rather than try to come to terms with it. A form of living denial on the part of the non-diseased. Another painful symptom of a world which is screwed!

I'd recommend going to see this - you don't need to have any previous experience of the franchise - this can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. There will be more - possibly several more if the intervening centuries are to be covered in a similarly detailed way. I would like to give a vote of sympathy to Will's sorry and abused neighbour!

I'm going to give this 7.5/10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was near a perfect movie for me. The Science was plausible, the family relationships were very believable, but this moment of truth for me that put this movie over the top was when the chimpanzee noticed a dog on a leash, then noticed that he had one too. Then he asked the Father-figure Scientist if he was a pet. Up till that point, he lived under the illusion that he held greater status with the Scientist.

It reminded me of the Star Trek Next Generation episode where Data asked "What is a Sentient Being"? This movie asked and answered many questions, but the most profound one was "In Intelligent Awareness, at what point does something cease to be animal and become something higher?"

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