This one I recommend.

Smart; tremendously well-made

James Franco as Will (right), giving a treat to an ape.

It has Planet of The Apes in the title, yes, but this is certainly no lousy remake, but a surprisingly good and clever prequel, to be more accurate.

Indeed, Rise of The Planet of The Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is a film that surprised me in its goodness. It tells us the story of how the apes became rulers of the Earth, as in the original Charlton Heston-film, which gets cleverly referenced throughout this film.

James Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist in San Fransisco, who is searching for the cure for Alzheimer’s, a disease which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. On chimpanzees he tests a sort of retrovirus, which gives them more powerful brains and much greater intelligence, most especially on a chimp named Bright Eyes, which one day goes beserk and seems bent on killing Rodman’s supervisor Jacobs (David Oyelowo).  This was a misconception on the scientists’ part as it turns out, after Bright Eyes is killed, was simply trying to protect her baby from them.

Rodman takes care of the baby and names him Caesar. Caesar, played by who else but Andy Serkis, eventually starts to display a great intellect, perhaps even greater than that of his mother, as he learns to feed himself, wear clothes, use sign language and other things. He also seems to like living with Will and his father who, after getting injected with some of the retrovirus, feels rather better. When he’s fully grown, however, Caesar starts to have question. What creature is he really? Who is his real mother? What did the humans do to her?

Caesar in ape-prison.

Caesar becomes increasingly aggresive and after he physically attacks Will’s neighbour, an airline pilot named Hunsiker (David Hewlett, whom I knew from Cube), Will and his girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto) take him to some sort of prison for primates, run by a man named John Landon (Brian Cox). This doesn’t really make things better. Caesar watches as his fellow ape inmates suffer and are bullied by one of the guards (Tom Felton) and eventually decides to do something about it. Meanwhile, humans mysteriously get sick, the retrovirus stops working for Will’s father, two astronauts strangely vanish and things go from bad to worse.

Like I said, this film is indeed a prequel to the 1968 Heston-movie, and it contains a great deal of clever references to its plot. Guess who the two lost astronauts I previously referred to are?

So, did i like this film? Oh yes, quite a lot. For one thing, the apes in the film are extremely well-made and I was impressed that a bunch of computers and a hardly noticable Andy Serkis could create a character – an ape, mind you – as loveable, interesting and cool as Caesar. I applaud the visuals. Seeing them in 2D made it all the better.

The cinematography is also lovely, as are the action scenes, particularly the climactic one on the Golden Gate Bridge. As for the human acting, I can’t say much as the movie mostly focuses on the computer-generated apes and less on the humans, but I can safely say that Serkis gives the strongest performance in the film. Rise of The Planets of The Apes is a charming, clever, exciting, mighty entertaining film. Better than expected, to say the least. I recommend it highly.

So, here’s a prequel that gives the twist ending of Heston’s film a backstory, just as the Star Wars-prequels gave one to the famous Darth Vader-twist; what’s next, then – a Citizen Kane-prequel that tells the full story of Rosebud?

4.5/5 whatever.