The last time the world saw a movie about a world run by talking monkeys it was in director Tim Burton’s wonky 2001 remake of Franklin J. Shaffner’s landmark future shock sci-fi classic, Planet of the Apes.
Burton’s redux offered impressive updates in prosthetic ape makeup effects (tweaking the iconic original masks designed by John Chambers) but little else was bettered, with a goofy, tongue-in-cheek tone replacing the first film’s intelligent social paranoia and terror.
And now comes yet another revisit, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, opening wide this Friday. And though it’s a film that no serious Apes fanatic asked for, it’s clear after talking to Wyatt that when it comes to treating this franchise re-boot with both affection and respect, he isn’t monkeying around.
“We made a radical departure from the original story,” Wyatt says, “which had a plague wiping out pets and apes becoming slaves — becoming pets and domestic servants. That was fantastical. But we started with something a bit more plausible, which is the aspect of creating intelligence within existing primates through genetic research.”
While certainly its own entity and designed as ground zero in a proposed new Apes series, Rise is in many ways a loose remake of the fourth official Planet of the Apes picture, 1972’s Conquest for the Planet of the Apes. Like that film, Rise charts the revolution of a chimpanzee named Caesar (played by the late Roddy McDowell in both Conquest and the final film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), who leads his simian comrades in a bloody war to overturn supremacy of the world from human to ape. But unlike Conquest, the apes were not realized by actors wearing masks. Instead, actor Andy Serkis (King Kong) becomes a digital chimp using sophisticated modern motion capture technology courtesy of Weta Workshop (Avatar).
“It was the only way,” says the director, “that we could authentically capture their movement. The closest model for what we’ve done is King Kong, but the technology has been perfected since then…every strand of hair has been individually designed.”