Monday, August 15, 2011
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
As always, slight spoilers
I am not a massive Planet of the Apes fan. I have seen the original, but none of the followups. The original movie was good, but dated by the time I got around to watching it. I was not really excited for this new installment at all, and thought the title was way too long. I mean really, "of the" is in it twice! I now plan on going back and watching the entire series.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco as Will and (really stars) Andy Serkis as Caesar, a hyper intelligent chimpanzee. The apes are the stars here thanks to amazing motion capture and some poor human performances.
Will Rodman (James Franco) is developing a cure for Alzheimers at a major pharmaceutical company which uses chimps for testing. One of the chimps has started creating new brain cells and shows impressive signs of increased intelligence. During a meeting with “The Board” (evil people in suits!) said chimp makes an early entrance and the program is shut down. Along comes Caesar, who is the smart ape's offspring. Will sneaks Caesar home instead of destroying him.
We soon learn that Will's Father, Charles (John Lithgow... be in more movies!!), is suffering from late stage Alzheimers. This allows Will to be our “good guy” and sets him apart from his boss and other suits who are more concerned with the bottom line than helping people. Caesar immediately begins demonstrating that he is incredibly intelligent. From here we see Caesar grow up as a member of the Rodman family through a series of flash forwards. Things obviously go bad, then worse. (Spoiler: It will eventually be a Planet of Apes).
Franco does good work here, but he wasn't given a whole lot to do other than fret over Charles and Caesar. Will, like a lot of humans in this movie, serves as a plot device to highlight Caesar's story. Will is the human that loves and takes care of him, while Charles is the human Caesar helps take care of. Tom Felton plays our sneering villain, and is one of the weakest links. Which is magnified due to his character being the catalyst for Caesar's change of heart. He also has one of the “biggest” lines in the movie (you know the one...) which I would have laughed at... had it not been followed directly by the best moment of the movie. It was an odd pairing of cheesiness and then audible “Wows” coming from the audience. I think Brian Cox can be a great multi-layered bad guy, and yet he was mostly wasted here as Felton's Dad and Boss. He held a lot of clipboards and got to tell Franco about procedures. I would like to have seen the “big line” delivered by Cox. Freida Pinto is the voice of reason early on, telling Franco that she loves chimps but is also terrified of them (dun dun dun). She is the “love interest” but just because we are told she is. She is given little other reason for being in the movie.
If this movie had real apes in it, or people in ape suits (Congo I'm looking at you), this would have been a huge disappointment. But Weta Digital makes these Apes come to life in a way I have never seen done with a CGI character, not even Gollum. Andy Serkis is able to portray emotions so minute that you would miss them if you blinked. Caesar expresses joy, apprehension, jealousy, fear, hatred, cool consideration, and more without a word. We watch him enjoy life, his heart break, and we see his resolve. The other Apes he is eventually stuck with are also overflowing with character and it becomes a great ensemble cast of non-speaking digital creations, which is amazing. The movie really takes off when the focus is on the Apes. And when the "Rise" begins, it is awesome and terrifying. Caesar might be CGI, but you quickly forget about that. Caesar is an awesome character and I became completely invested in his struggle. A great film that is a slow burn, and in the third act we get to cheer for, and fear, a terrific anti-hero.
4 out 5 spears made from fence posts.
The “side-plot” feels very tacked on, but is necessary to help explain future events and most likely set up the sequel. The easter eggs are fun. And I was thrilled to see David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney Mckay on Stargate Atlantis).
I'd like to take a moment to ask Scientists to just stop. Just stop what you're doing. We are good now. Thanks for the science, but you can go home. I don't want robots or viruses or apes or zombies taking over the planet. And if they do, it will probably be your fault. And I will be very mad at you. Movies told me so!
Contagion – Looks terrifying. I think someone behind me coughed on my head during the trailer.
Dream House – Meh.
Conan – Will be seeing it as soon as I can.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Looks like a shot for shot remake of the original. Why?
The Sitter – Like an R Rated Adventures in Baby Sitting? I'd rent it if Jonah Hill becomes funny.