The full-length trailer for the latest in the Planet of the Apes saga, a long-in-development prequel entitled Rise of the Planet of the Apes, has debuted and you can watch it below.
The last time 20th Century Fox attempted to reboot their valuable Planet of the Apes franchise the result was Tim Burton’s 2001 “reimagining” that despite being one of that year’s biggest hits was little more than a mediocre summer action picture that was heavily compromised in the rush to meet the release date that had been locked down before the movie even went before the cameras. A decade later and the studio has decided to give it another shot, but this time it looks like they may have done it right and created an Apes installment that could measure up to the best of the original film series, which debuted with the modern classic Planet of the Apes in 1968 and concluded with Battle for the Planet of the Apes in 1973 (not counting the live-action and animated television spin-offs that followed in the wake of the release of Battle).
Originally developed under the title Caesar (a nod to a pivotal character in the original film series played by the late Roddy McDowall) with acclaimed screenwriter Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Get Shorty) on scripting duties, the film entered production last year as Rise of the Apes with Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) directing. WETA Digital, the visual effects house that had previously worked their magic on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and James Cameron’s Avatar, was enlisted to create the apes for the film through motion-capture technology, with Andy Serkis donning the mo-cap suit once more to play the lead ape character Caesar. Serkis had previously gone apeshit as the titular beast of Skull Island in Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, but before that he had collaborated with Jackson on the Lord of the Rings films as the loathsome yet sympathetic Gollum, a role that also required most of his performance to be created through the motion-capture technology which at that time had yet to come into its own as a viable special effects tool in film.
The plot of Rise is loosely based on the 1972 Apes sequel Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (my personal favorite of the sequels) and they both share a common plot thread about an intelligent ape named Caesar who leads his fellow oppressed apes in a revolution against their abusive human masters. In Conquest, the setting was the near future (at least the near future according to people living in 1972) and apes were made into slaves and household pets for human beings after a virus kills off all of the world’s cat and dog population. This time in Rise, the ape revolution is the direct result of experimentation by human scientists led by James Franco searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The cast also includes Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), John Lithgow (Dexter), and Tom Felton (the Harry Potter films), and Brian Cox, who had worked with director Wyatt on his 2008 breakthrough feature The Escapist, rounds out the cast.
The buzz around Rise has been mixed at best. Being a big summer movie it’s not surprising that the new trailer delivers on the action and intensity, but I’m still a little in the dark as to what inspires Caesar and the other apes to revolt, and the performances by the actors cast as the human characters aren’t impressing me so far either. What the hell, I’m a huge fan of the Apes series so the presence of my ass in a seat is already assured. I just hope Fox has come up with a winner this time. It was bold for a studio long accustomed to appealing to a common denominator even lower than the lowest to green-light a big-budget genre picture not solely driven by elaborate visual effects but merely enhanced by them. In any case, the apes themselves look fantastic and frighteningly authentic. If this works we could be looking at the beginning of a new Apes franchise and that would be a great thing indeed. I would love to see some of our finest working visionary filmmakers take on this world and all the madness and majesty that lies beneath its surface.
We’ll see for ourselves when Rise of the Planet of the Apes opens on August 5, 2011.