Scottish-born thespian Brian Cox is set to reunite with director Rupert Wyatt – his collaborator on the prison escape flick The Escapist – for 20th Century Fox’s upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Apes.
Cox is the latest well-regarded actor to join the cast of Rise of the Apes over the past few weeks, with John Lithgow and Freida Pinto cast as scientists and Andy Serkis set to play the revolution-leading ape Caesar via motion-capture performance – something Serkis is well practiced in by this point in his career.
James Franco will be starring opposite Serkis in the Planet of the Apes prequel – Franco will play the role of “a young, driven scientist [and son of Lithgow's character] who becomes a crucial figure in the war between humans and apes.”
The majority of moviegoers are probably most familiar with Cox for his villainous turns as Ward Abbot in The Bourne Identity/Supremacy and Col. William Stryker in X2: X-Men United (see below) – some might even recall that he was also the original Dr. Hannibal Lector in Michael Mann’s 1986 film version of Manhunter. He will play another sinister figure in Rise of the Apes as well, who is described as “the villainous owner of a primate sanctuary who runs the facility without compassion for the animals that live there.”
Rise of the Apes will be the first film in the history of the Apes franchise to use CGI and mo-cap technology to bring the apes to life, as opposed to more traditional makeup. The realism of said FX has improved significantly over the last decade alone and (despite my personal preference for practical filmmaking tools) I have to admit that the intelligent simians will probably come closer to resembling actual, real-life animals than ever before in the history of the series.
Will the thematic elements of the film be up to par as well? Well, Cox very rarely gives a bad performance and the rest of the cast is usually solid as well. For now, I’d say this is one sci-fi prequel that actually has the potential to be an intelligent blockbuster.
Rise of the Apes will arrive in theaters in the U.S. on June 24th, 2011.