Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011]

A young scientist eager to discover a way to create virus that will reverse the damage Alzheimer’s does to the brain – creates something that makes the apes he’s testing it on super intelligent.

I watched all I could of the original PLANET OF THE APES films – which consisted of the first film – quickly losing interest in the second – and the boring Tim Burton remake. So, I was quite surprised when I found myself becoming more excited for this “reboot” – or origin tale – I’m not sure what it’s meant to be. It seemed to be garnering a fair share of positive reviews – and less scrutiny than I figured it would get – even some Oscar talk for Andy Serkis. I had to admit after watching the commercial a few times – it looked well executed – even if all they advertised was the apes going nuts – it might be a fun action film.

The first thing I noticed was that the tone was grounded in Will Rodman’s quest to help his father defeat Alzheimer’s – but as discoveries were made and the focus shifted to Caesar the heart of the original tone remained strong. It’s easy for effect films to start out strong with identifiable feelings to get the audience to connect with the characters – then use that initial connection to get you through the nonsense effects that follows – but this isn’t one of those films. It successfully worked with the special effects to create a fully realized story – something that could work without the effects.

The effects were wonderful – you’re never lost on the fact that Caesar was a chimpanzee – which is glorious considering he was being portrayed by Andy Serkis and motion capture. The effects weren’t distracting as make me feel like I was watching a fake monkey. The human aspects Serkis brought were so smartly used that the blurring the lines between the two species were difficult to grasp. Serkis’ performance was powerful – it really made Caesar a sympathetic character and the most fully realized rounded character of the film.
When it comes to the human characters each was essentially a caricature of the mad scientist/misunderstood creature film – but it works because they were framed creatively and each character is allowed to hit their marks instead of being forced into each plot point. The story was injected with enough heavy handed moments to make the story as a whole a success.

Casting was a great strength – James Franco was excellent as Will Rodman the man who was desperately trying to discover a way to save his ailing father Charles - played expertly by John Lithgow. Brian Cox is an expert at playing the uncaring asshat who runs the animal sanctuary – and Tom Felton who plays his son is dangerously close to being typecast as a menacing little git – this should be his last Draco Malfoy performance for a while.

My only regret was watching this movie at a brew & view – where I was pulled out of watching some of the scenes by a waitress asking if I wanted a refill on my iced tea. Trying to get the pen to work and sign my tab – made me miss the culmination of the major end battle scene. Missing some of the big action though didn’t detract my enjoyment of the film – as I thought it was a great film for the entire journey not just the results of the journey.

The possibilities of sequels were hinted at throughout and nods to the original series were made – I hope for the continuance of the intelligent filmmaking that made RISE a success and never to give up the real emotional threads for effect films. I’ve only seen 4 movies in the theater this year – but this is my pick for best summer movie.

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