For dedicated fans of the original Planet of the Apes films, the idea of rebooting the series, especially after Tim Burton’s disappointing attempt, was always going to be met with suspicion. Being a lifelong fan myself, and now having seen it, I can safely say that The Rise of the Planet of the Apes meets the challenge head-on, with an exciting action-packed sci-fi adventure that is wholly original, but with a few loving nods to the original.
The story follows Caesar, an ape born in a lab and raised by its young scientist creator (James Franco), who has been given the gift of intelligence through genetically altered genes passed down from his mother Bright Eyes. When the growing ape is sent to an animal welfare shelter by the courts after displaying an act of aggression, Caesar discovers his own kind, abandoned and neglected. Taking control of the group of imprisoned apes, Caesar then puts in motion a plan to release the apes from their human bondage – forever.
Without giving too much of the plot twists away, the most fun I had was in recognising the little nods to the original POTA films. Caesar’s mother is called Bright Eyes, the name Zira called Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor in the original film. Heston also appears on TV (an animal shelter guard is watching one of his old movies). Even the Statue of Liberty, which appears in the original film’s iconic ending, crops up as a children’s model kit.
While imprisoned in the animal shelter, Caesar befriends an ex-circus orangutan called Maurice (named after the late British actor Maurice Evans, who played the orangutan scientist Dr Zaius in the first film). Caesar is even hosed down by an evil guard (just like Heston in the original), who then utters one of Heston’s lines, ‘This is a madhouse!’.
But Heston’s most famous line: ‘Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!’ (watch it in the clip below) is saved for one of Rise’s most important scenes. This had everyone at the preview screening laughing (knowingly), before gasping with shock at what happens next. Should I tell you why? No. Best you see it for yourself.
From the obvious to the obscure, I could write an entire essay on all the elements from the old series that have been integrated into the reboot, but I won’t bore you with that here. Still it’s a lot of fun spotting them.
The most obvious, however, is how much Rise resembles the third film in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes