2011 may go down as the year of remakes, reboots, and sequels. We had Footloose, The Thing, Straw Dogs, the end of the Harry Potter series. We had great prequels such as Xmen First Class, the best of the series, and now we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Having seen the first POTA with Charlton Heston, the fish out of water, topsy turvy, apes rule the planet is hard to emulate and surpass from a storytelling point of view, as is the mythology of the original story, with the enlightened though cruel apes having their own spin on the evolution of the planet.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins the mythology, shifting west from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge. Scientists have a positive intention, such as finding a cure for cancer or alzheimers, and making money in the process, yet exploiting innocent creatures to do so. When this gets out of control we have unintended consequences.
The mythology of the birth of Caesar under unusual circumstance, to a mother dosed with performance enhancing drugs parallels the birth of Moses, who would grow up to lead his people out of Egypt (San Francisco) to the promised land (Muir Woods). Human hubris, leads to the fall of humanity and the rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Following the purging of the 12, Caesar as a baby, is discovered not in the rushes but in a cage, and secretly raised by a scientist (James Franco, and his girlfriend (Freida Pinto). We know that he has extraordinary abilities, that must be kept under wraps. Nevertheless Caesar has to contend with his own instinctive nature, and acting with the intention to protect gets into serious trouble. Caesar observes, and learns from his mistakes. When we see a recurrence of a similar situation he handles it differently.
Living in San Francisco I loved how these scenes played out in familiar locales, such as downtown San Francisco, and Muir Woods with the 150 foot high redwoods, which Caesar climbs, the panoramic views, and I particularly loved the confrontation scenes on the Golden Gate bridge, and how the fog was able to help with battle. I don't normally recommend special effects, except to say that they are outstanding.
Andy Serkis, who previously played King Kong, plays Caesar, and movie magic from WETA captures the almost human facial expressions, and makes us empathise with his situation, we can see his thought processes. I loved the prison scenes, and how Caesar rises to become leader, how he contends with the alpha male, his captors, how he organises his fellow inmates. Evolution becomes revolution.
Although the original with Charlton Heston is hard to beat, I loved this version. When a franchise runs out of steam, and a story runs out of possibilities, it is perhaps time to go back before the beginning, and start anew, and free of the restrictions of the original story, come up with something fresh and emotionally engaging. They did it with Batman Begins. That franchise was bereft of life.
Now they have it with Planet of the Apes. For once. I would love to see a sequel, where Caesar perhaps has a love interest, she gets captured, they have a kid, and there is a power struggle within the apes, betrayal, escalation with the humans. The possibilities are endless.
I think you will enjoy it, and I hope this was helpful.