USA/Great Britain
105 minutes

Marketing oblige, here comes another unnecessary prequel as Fox resurrects its post-apocalyptic saga set in an Earth overrun by civilized apes (last seen in Tim Burton's ill-fated 2001 reboot) for a pre-apocalyptic “origin story”. Yet, what seems unnecessary on paper turns out to be a smart, no-nonsense B-movie, playing with the time-honoured precepts of science fiction as a cautionary Frankenstein tale that could almost be independent of its genealogy.

     Set in a near-future San Francisco, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's script has bright scientist James Franco struggle to find a cure for Alzheimer's before his father (John Lithgow) succumbs to it, only to find the medication he's developing creates unexpected side effects on his primate trial subjects. The outcome is Caesar, a chimp whose development and intelligence mimic that of a human teenager and lead to disaster once he is old enough to realise he isn't human like everyone else. Created as a CGI-animated shell over a superb live-action performance by Andy Serkis (who is used to this after having been Peter Jackson's Sméagol and King Kong), Caesar is a magnificent creation that British director Rupert Wyatt shows off to extraordinary effect.

     Mr. Wyatt breezes confidently through what is essentially a standard B-movie genre adventure, eschewing (other than for the apes, digitally created by WETA) visual effects and grounding the plot on character development and actor performance. Fans will have a ball with the many clever, discreet references to the original saga; but there are a number of inexplicable plot inconsistencies that seem thrown in at the behest of the number-crunchers just for the sake of justifying further franchise instalments. It's a shame, since the bucking of the current blockbuster trend that Rise of the Planet of the Apes proposes would only be heightened by a tighter scripting – though it's heartening to see, for once, a Summer movie that is neither mindless nor feckless.

Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo; and Andy Serkis.
     Directed by Rupert Wyatt; produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; written by mr. Jaffa, ms. Silver; music by Patrick Doyle; director of photography (colour, processing by DeLuxe, Panavision widescreen), Andrew Lesnie; production designer, Claude Paré; costume designer, Renée April; film editors, Conrad Buff, Mark Goldblatt; visual effects supervisors, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon.
     A Twentieth Century-Fox presentation, in association with Dune Entertainment, of a Chernin Entertainment production; produced in association with Ingenious Media; made in association with Big Screen Productions and Ingenious Film Partners. (US distributor and world sales, Twentieth Century-Fox.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 9 (Lisbon), August 3rd 2011.


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