They Sure Made A Monkey Outta Me: X&HT (finally) Saw Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. Which must make me some kind of giant, even though I’m feeling quite small at the moment.

A telling off in the comments and quiet disbelief from everyone that had seen the film that I was taking a stand, mated with a quiet Thursday where there was nothing else on at the Vue led to me taking a seat at an afternoon screening of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

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It’s really good, godsarnit. A fast-paced, clever and heartfelt dose of sci-fi with some astonishing visuals and a decent grasp of how when we try to “civilise” something, we frequently end up exposing it to the worst parts of our nature.

The good bits? Well, the apes in the film are flawlessly rendered and properly embedded as characters in their own right. In fact, they’re standouts amongst a human cast that are either angelically good, or devilishly bad. John Lithgow stands out as the dad, dropping in and out of Alzheimer’s, but let’s be honest, this show is all about the primates.

The plot’s been properly thought out, and the ending has a harsh, clean logic. The references to the earlier series of films are (with one notable exception) kept to the background, cheeky little easter eggs.

As for the science – well, you know. Hollywood hand-wavy jargon-salad, and the ethics on display from most of the scientists involved would have them all up on charges in a New York nanosecond. There’s an element of anthropomorphism on display that’s understandable if a bit disappointing – I still believe a smart ape would think and behave in ways we’d struggle to understand. But we get to see a monkey on a horse, which makes up for a lot of gripes.

It boggles me that this is only the second feature from Brit director Rupert Wyatt, after his taut, twisty prison drama The Escapist (well worth seeking out if you get the chance. If I recall correctly I have a credit on that gig). It’s one hell of a step up, and a confident, assured piece of work that bodes very well for the future.

Readership, I was wrong, and I’m glad I got the chance to rectify the error while Rise was still on the big screen. There’s a fascinating double bill to be had with that film and recent ape-raising doco Project Nim. That’s a screening I would happily host. If you haven’t already, go see. Stop monkeying about.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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