Expected to make a big break in the box office this weekend, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is already generating much buzz among critics.
A prequel to the classic 1968 sci-fi film “Planet of the Apes” starring Charlton Heston, the new remake directed by Rupert Wyatt is a modern-day origins story set in San Francisco and follows the story of how the “Planet of the Apes” came to be.
James Franco, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow star in the film, which also features renowned actor Andy Serkis, better known for his motion-capture roles as Kong and Gollum.
Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist who’ll stop at nothing to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, a condition that plagues his father Charles (Lithgow).
Using chimpanzees to test his experiments, Rodman creates a genetically engineered chimp named Caesar (Serkis) whom he brings home to raise after the death of its mother. But when things start to go wrong, Caesar eventually leads an uprising against all of humankind, according to Fandango.
“It’s a great journey of this innocent who has a profound moment of self-recognition that he’s not part of the species he’s been brought up and loved by, and so he’s this outsider, this freak who has yet to really find out who he is,” Serkis told The Los Angeles Times.
“The second act of the film is really like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ All these damaged apes are just fighting for survival. Does he reject the humanity he’s been brought up with in order to galvanize these apes and lead them to freedom?”
Wearing a motion capture suit throughout the filming, Serkis powerfully embodied the character of the ape by studying videos of the animals, watching carefully how they interacted with the world, he told the Times.
Randy Myers, of the Contra Costa Times, hailed Serkis as the real star of the film. “Andy Serkis-the performance-capture actor who was so creepy as Gollum in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series-gives the film its heart and soul.”
“His is a complex and flawless performance, filled with nuanced expressions and subtle touches; quite remarkable as Caesar...” Myers added. “Like Caesar, this entertaining picture rises to the occasion and resoundingly exceeds expectations.”
Interestingly, no real animals were used in the $93-million budget movie, a decision by the British director Wyatt. “It would have been a bitter irony to tell a story of the subjugation of apes and do it at the same time,” Wyatt shared with the Times.
Providing social commentary about science, genetics, and nature, the film raises several questions about humanity and hopes to leave audiences with something more than just an afternoon of entertainment.
“[The film] made me realize how important it is to start a conversation about very serious issues and not just be numb to them," Pinto, who plays a primatologist in the film, shared with Reuters. "How far do you go in order to better people’s lives and fight disease, and at what cost? It definitely made me think about it all.”
The 38-year-old director also explained to First Showing, “We’re living in a world where our civilization has reached a point where we’re on a knife edge.”
“We could go either way. We could go either way environmentally. We could go either way militarily. We could go either way in terms of our population. We could go either way in terms of diseases. Without giving it away, the film is getting to a point where suddenly we drop one side of that knife edge and those that look to succeed us take advantage of that.”
What hopes to be an epic and unforgettable addition to the original series, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is rated PG-13 with a 2-hour runtime and opens wide August 5, 2011.
“[Breathing] new life into a long-running franchise,” the film currently is rated 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with 90 percent of users in eager expectation to see it.
Others films expected to open this weekend are "The Whistleblower" starring Rachel Weisz, "Bellflower," and Ryan Reynolds' and Jason Bateman's "The Change-Up."