Will the Oscars go bananas over ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’?


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After a summer full of superheroes and raunchy comedies, apes are taking over theaters and winning over critics. Will their Oscar fortunes be rising as well?

The release of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ this weekend has summoned up an amazing 79% approval rating among film critics cited at RottenTomatoes. The movie is a prequel to the 1968 blockbuster hit ‘Planet of the Apes’ and shows how a scientific experiment in San Francisco goes horrifically wrong and leads to apes overtaking the world.


The new film is directed by relative newcomer Rupert Wyatt (‘The Escapist’) and stars recent Academy Award nominee James Franco (‘127 Hours’), Frieda Pinto (‘Slumdog Millionaire’), Tom Felton (‘Harry Potter’), Brian Cox (‘The Bourne Supremacy’) and John Lithgow (winner of five Emmy Awards and two Tony Awards). Most of the praise has singled out the visual effects created by four-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon of Weta Digital (‘Avatar’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies) and the CGI performance by Andy Serkis as the chief ape protagonist Caesar.

Visual effects and other technical categories like sound editing, sound mixing, editing or cinematography might be the best bets for future awards recognition, especially if the box office is big.

The original movie was based on the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel and starred Oscar winners Charlton Heston (‘Ben-Hur’) and Kim Hunter (‘A Streetcar Named Desire’) plus noted actors Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. The plot centered on three astronauts who land in a society completely run by apes and ultimately find out that it is actually a futuristic version of Earth. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, who would go on to win an Academy Award two years later for directing ‘Patton.’

Two-time Oscar winner Michael Wilson (‘A Place in the Sun,’ ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’) and six-time Emmy winner Rod Serling (‘The Twilight Zone’) were credited with the screenplay, although it went through several rewrites. For the 1968 Academy Awards, the film was nominated for costume design (Morton Haack) and original score (Jerry Goldsmith), but lost both categories. John Chambers did receive an honorary Oscar for his groundbreaking makeup achievement. The massive popularity led to four theatrical sequels, a television series, and cartoon throughout the 1970s, plus a panned remake by Tim Burton in 2001.


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-- Tom O’Neil