Man learns a harsh lesson about meddling with Mother Nature in Rupert Wyatt’s splendid new chapter in the Planet Of The Apes saga, based loosely on the novel by Pierre Boulle.
Drawing elements from different films in the original series made famous by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Charlton Heston, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes takes advantage of the latest technological wizardry to deliver a thrilling action adventure that doesn’t skimp on heartbreaking emotion.
It’s all a far cry from Tim Burton’s abortive 2001 remake of the original film - a creatively ambitious but structurally muddled folly doomed to failure the moment Mark Wahlberg was cast in the lead role.
Wyatt orchestrates some breathtaking set pieces, including a climactic scene of apes on the rampage in San Francisco that unfolds at dizzying speed, seamlessly melding digital and live action elements.
However, beneath all of the pyrotechnics, there beats a human heart, not least in the character of Caesar the ape, brought majestically to life by actor Andy Serkis using the same motion capture technology as Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings.
Thankfully, the film-makers haven’t opted to needlessly release the film in 3D to hike up ticket prices.
Will wonders never cease?
Scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, the disease which has slowly consumed his father Charles (John Lithgow).
Will feels certain he is close to a breakthrough and tests his latest serum on chimpanzees, noticing dramatic increases in intelligence and brain activity in the primate subjects.
However, a high-profile showcase with shareholders goes spectacularly wrong and Will’s profit-driven boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), demands the project is shut down and the test animals slaughtered.
Will smuggles a baby chimp called Caesar out of the lab and raises the infant with his father.
As the years pass and Caesar blossoms, Will falls in love with veterinarian Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), who is stunned by Will’s ability to communicate with the chimpanzee, unaware of the animal’s history.
Caroline warns Will that he cannot keep Caesar as a pet forever and meddling with nature has repercussions.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes marries present and past, gifting the most iconic line (“Get your filthy paws off me you damn dirty ape!”) to Tom Felton, playing a sadistic keeper at the ape sanctuary where Caesar spearheads the uprising.
Scenes between Franco and Lithgow are beautifully judged and the interaction between the two men and the digitally rendered Caesar is surprisingly moving.
Pinto’s underwritten role acts as the voice of reason throughout, though her warnings are never heeded.
A coda involving Will’s next door neighbour succinctly lays the groundwork for subsequent films.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7.5/10
Released: August 11 (UK & Ireland), 104 mins