By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com July 1, 2011 at 2:30AM
We're about a month from release, and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is still perhaps the biggest question mark of the summer. It's got a high-caliber cast, led by freshly-minted Oscar nominee James Franco and performance capture pioneer Andy Serkis as lead ape Caesar, a promising director, in Rupert Wyatt, who debuted with the little-seen-but-superb "The Escapist," and a script more effective than most tentpole flicks. But at the same time, we haven't really been feeling the trailers to date (the last was the best of them), the "Deep Blue Sea"-esque premise could risk looking silly, and the shunting of release dates (summer, then November, then summer again) has sent mixed messages.
We'll find out whether one of Fox's biggest franchises gets a new lease of life in the coming weeks, but in the meantime at least one good thing seems to have come out of the project. The new print issue of Empire (not online, but in stores now) has an extensive feature on the film, and at the end of it, Wyatt talks his prospective future projects. He's next helming a three-part miniseries for U.K. TV about British spies infiltrating the IRA, entitled "The Echo Chamber," and may be involved in future 'Apes' sequels, should the film hit at the box office, but there's also one that's more intriguing, one that would see him reunite with Serkis.
Serkis, who's taken performance capture roles in "Lord of the Rings," "King Kong" and "The Adventures of Tintin" before 'Apes,' is an advocate of the form, and last year set up The Imaginarium, a studio for the technique, through his company Caveman Films. And, according to Empire, the director has discussed with his 'Apes' director Wyatt the prospect of using it for a new performance-capture take on George Orwell's classic novel "Animal Farm."
The 1945 book, an established classic, is set amongst the revolutionary animals on an English farm, serving as an allegory to the rise of Joseph Stalin, detailing the socialist's writer's heartbreak at the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union. It's been twice adapted for the screen before -- a 1954 animated version and a 1999 live-action, Jim Henson Company-aided take with the voices of Patrick Stewart, Ian Holm and Kelsey Grammer -- but the prospect of a CGI-aided take is an intriguing one, the kind of thing that the performance-capture technique should be being used for, rather than the dead-eyed Robert Zemeckis-type films.
It's likely to be a long way off, but it's good to know that Serkis and Wyatt got on, and if the film proves to be a hit (Wyatt's either the next Christopher Nolan or the next Gavin Hood), this could move up the agenda swiftly. In the meantime, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" lands on August 5th.