If you look beyond the ludicrous title – we’ll call the film Apes from here on in – there’s a lot to like about Rupert Wyatt reboot of the classic Planet Of The Apes franchise, but similarly a lot that holds it back, though perhaps most importantly, a new ecosystem is created that I’ll be happy to go back to in the sequels that will soon undoubtedly follow.
Inadvertently giving baby ape Caeser super intelligence en route to finding a cure for human Alzheimer’s, what at first seems like an accidental miracle for scientist Will Rodman (Franco) and his team, soon turns into a curse for all humanity. As Caeser grows big, strong and too inquisitive for the condines of Will’s home, the ape is court-orderded into a holding facility nearby, not that that’ll stop him, and with others around him Caeser’s thirst for an uprising starts to take hold, and to break free of the cages and controls placed upon him by the humans in control.
With the wholly CGI apes front and centres to everything this film does, at lot of pressure fell on Weta Digital to craft a fleet of animals that slotted seamlessly into the physical environment around them, so as to not distract from the story they’re teling. And they do a good job, though the special effects are not photorealistic just yet.
The eyes, it must be said, are remarkable, but still the apes in general don’t sit entirely comfortably on their surroundings, and the character animation while impressive, isn’t perfect. After a while however, you settle into their look and feel, and everything is good enough to not be a distraction.
That leaves the focus then on the story, and while Apes is pegged largely as an action film, there’s actually very little high octane stuff until the very end, but also not enough drama to suck you in up to that point. Caeser’s path is no doubt interesting, but it’s not compelling enough to span the film’s 105-minute running time. The plot perfectly sets the scene for a new world, but the story itself could have been smartly told in a quick five-minute prologue, then as soon as the film actually gets moving, it’s over.
Franco puts in a reasonable shift; despite never quite pulling off that he’s a genius scientist, and with Tyler Labine as his right hand man, quite frankly, it’s wholly unsurprisingly something went very wrong. That Franco is developing an Alzheimer’s cure to save the mind of his deteriorating father, however, does give the film the human element it needed as the Caesar story fails on an emotional level. As his said father, John Lithgow is very good, with more charisma and emotional appeal than Franco, even if he’s on screen for barely a handful of minutes.
Though Apes is certainly flawed when on its own two feet, I will however, be more than happy to see more of the now re booted franchise. Despite a lack of conviction in the script, Caesar’s origin is still adequately set, so here’s hoping what will follow has a little more to grab your attention.