As far as prequel/origin stories go, this is a solid one that smartly sets up the scenario for the original film. Not only is it intelligently written, it is superbly acted by a strong cast made of up a surprising number of British actors including Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo and David Hewlett, with Freida Pinto as the love interest. Of course, the real star of the show is Andy Serkis as Caesar. Serkis seems to spend a large of his career hunched over in spandex so he can be digitally replaced. Between Serkis’s movement and WETA’s digital magic there is a totally believable chimpanzee that has taken on human attributes. He is also ably assisted by Terry Notary, who played the aliens in Attack the Block. A lot of Serkis’s work and how the apes were created is covered in the special features on the DVD/Blu-ray release. The film also has a couple of yack-tracks and a few other standard behind-the-scenes features that don’t really take full advantage of what Blu-ray promised, although it does reveal most of the homages to the original film that even the most sharp-eyed geeks may have missed.
This is already a great sci-fi action movie in its own right, addressing the relationship between man and his closest primate cousins, that shines a not too flattering light on our development as social creatures. However, if you want to add a chilling sense of reality to the movie you should check out the Oscar-nominated documentary Project Nim by Oscar-winning filmmaker James Marsh, which is out on DVD in January. This doc follows the life of a young chimp, taken from its mother at a young age and placed in a family situation where it is raised as if it is human and taught to communicate with sign language. It is soon passed from one “owner” or carer to another until its human and chimpanzee aspects come into conflict, along with his relationship with his adopted family, which lead to him being caged with a lot of other primates.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is out on DVD/Blu-ray now and is available from Play and all good retailers.