Friday, August 5, 2011

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES review: He Said/ She Said

Directed by:  Rupert Wyatt
Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and
based on the novel "Le Planete Des Singes" by Pierre Boulle
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox,
Tom Felton, and David Oyewolo

Javi: To say I was very skeptical  leading up to the release of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES would be an understatement.  The movie franchise was one I have no real love or nostalgia for and have never bothered checking out since the big twist of the movie has now become a a cliche in movie jokes and references.  The trailer looked pretty awful and gave away a lot of what I though the plot was, plus I did the mistake (hey at least I admit ) of dismissing the plot pre-maturely.  I am happy to say that I'm eating a huge slice of humble pie.  RISE might actually be one of my favorite movies of this summer because just about everything, besides ATTACK THE BLOCK and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, disappointed me in one way shape or form.

So what sets this reboot/prequel/nostalgia-cash-in different from the others? It's the damn good story and motion capture technology.  I was surprised by the depth of the story involving James Franco as scientist Will Rodman, who is working so hard to find a cure for Alzheimer's which is plaguing his father, who is well played John Lithgow, and Rodman's trouble constantly dealing with a corporate boss who mostly cares about profits. When one of Will's test apes causes a commotion during a presentation about his new Alzheimer's medicine, he discovers that ape's young baby, who he raises as his own as Caesar. This relationship is what defines the bulk of the movie, which I found to be really moving.

It seems to me, that everyone that has been tweeting or writing about this movie cannot stop talking about the great work of special effects house Weta and motion capture extraordinaire, Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong), but for me the highlight of this movie was the relationship between Will, Caesar and for a little bit, Mr. Rodmad (Lithgow). The push and pull between being a scientist and caring about a test subject to the point of love is explored well enough through Franco's character, where he just wants to be able to keep Caesar and his dad around with him.  With Caesar, he is in the awkward position of being a very strong animal who is so much more intelligence than even the humans around him, while needing to be kept confined and struggles to find his place in this world.  This creates  problems of where to fit in where you are torn in two. Will and Cesar's relationship worked well with Ceasar's overall story line.  As sad as it is, all of the humans truly take back seat to the apes and their struggle.  Some of the most interesting things going for this movie have nothing to do with humans in an protagonist level.  Some of the most compelling scenes are Caesar dealing with life at primate shelter where has to cope and try to climb the social ladder, where he begins at the very bottom.

The big fault was with the way that time passes in this movie.  There is a whole lot of instances where people are doing one thing, and then they age 3-5 years.  Even going from one place to the other requires a cut, and it gave the movie a weird feeling up until the end.  And as gorgeous as she was, Freida Pinto was completely useless.  She is Will's girlfriend and Ceasar's vet, and I'm still trying to figure exactly why she in here.   And honestly, I'm a little annoyed at the way RISE was marketed in the commercials as an invasion movie with monkeys, where in the heart of it, it's a much more touching story and even more interesting than half of the old franchise. 

If there was a great way to end the summer with a movie not called Scott Pilgrim, it would be this movie.  Go see it; don't worry if you haven't seen any of the originals because if anything, the storyline of this movie sets up the possibilities of sequels that would make more sense than the previous entries to the franchise. 


When I first heard about this reboot of PLANET OF THE APES, I was initially appalled.  I really adore the original movies and vehemently hate the Burton remake.  However, the more the previews I saw of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the more I realized that director Rupert Wyatt wasn’t trying to replace the beloved originals, but he was paying homage while telling a fresh take on the origins of the story.

In the somewhat near future, science has made significant jumps including missions to mars and coming close to the cure for Alzheimer’s.  James Franco is our resident scientist who is on the verge of a break through in finding the cure for Alzheimer’s.  He’s on a personal mission because his father, John Lithgow, suffers from the disease.  The serum is being tested on monkeys, and one of the side effects is it makes them smarter.  Also, the treated monkeys are able to transfer the serum to their offspring.  The first of these offspring is Cesar, and through circumstances, Cesar ends up at the home of Franco. 

The strength of the film isn’t its human stars, and unfortunately they seem more of props than anything, but the arc of Cesar.  Andy Serkis is absolutely phenomenal portraying the morally conflicted ape.  Without conversation, Serkis is able to emote every feeling through his face.  The moral conflict he struggles with is portrayed with such perfection, Serkis completely steals the movie.  This is one of the best uses of CGI I’ve seen in a movie, and that’s including THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.  The interaction between the apes is so engaging that I almost forgot there were humans in the movie.  

APES suffers from some pacing issues at the beginning with some really choppy editing.  There’s also the bump-on-a-log girlfriend (Pinto) who one would assume she would provide some meaningful insight or idea at the opportune moment, but no, she just stands there and looks anxious and pretty.  The plot would have benefited from dropping her altogether and focus even more time with the father and son relationship between Franco and Lithgow.  The payoff of that relationship, for me, unfortunately fell short.  Some of scientific elements are a little unbelievable initially; however, those aspects you just have to accept and move on.  I would have liked the movie to explore a little bit of the moral implications about messing with nature and trying to forward evolution.  No one really questions Franco's testing, and I cannot believe society would just sit by while he "plays God" on animals.  Maybe those questions will be explored more in the future movies.  I hope so because that could add another dynamic level to this story.  

All in all, this is the perfect movie to end the summer with.  It’s a wonderful origins story that screenwriters need to take note of.  There is a way to keep true the source material and having a fresh take.  And with the leaving the ending wide open, I hope there are sequels in the making.

No comments:

Post a Comment