Friday, August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - ***1/2

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Starring:  James Franco, Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow, Bryan Cox, Andy Serkis

Review:  In a summer of underwhelming rom-com’s and over-the-top superhero movies you will be surprised to find that ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ will probably end up being one of the most enjoyable films of the summer and possibly even the year. 

The film is a new take on the beginning of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ saga which we all know and love.  Based on the original series of films we know that at some point in the future, apes become much smarter and evolve to the point where they can take over the planet and make it their own, forcing the human race into exile and almost devolving into a lesser, pet-like species. 

In both attempts to tell this saga (Original in 1968 and underwhelming Tim Burton version in 2001), they started at the same point, astronauts who flew to far and too long in to space come back to Earth after going through a time portal and find themselves hundreds of years into the future.  They initially don’t think they are on Earth until it is revealed to them later that it is the same planet only it has been taken over by walking, talking, maniacal apes.

The redux in 2001 was not popular enough to continue, but the original spawned 5 films in total (1-Plante of the Apes, 2-Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 3-Escape From the Planet of the Apes, 4-Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, 5-Battle for the Planet of the Apes).  This film takes more of it’s influences from the original series and most closely resembles the ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ plot line.

This consists of a super-evolved primate named Caesar who is tired of being abused and mistreated and decides to lead a revolt against all the humans who oppress him and his ape brethren.  In this incarnation Caesar was the beneficiary of genetic transfer of altered genes from his mother who was the subject of experiments where she was given doses of a serum that is attempting to rebuild brain cells and eventually be a cure for Alzheimer’s. 

What the scientist who created this, Will (Franco), doesn’t realize is that his serum not only allows the brain to repair itself, but to increase its capacity and make the recipient of the serum better than they were before.  This can not only be the cure for Alzheimer’s but it can make the human race better as a result, assuming that is, it works on humans.

This film has just the right amount of everything that it has.  It has the emotional element making you sympathetic towards Will (who’s dad has Alzheimers and is why he is working on a cure) and Caesar (who had a good life until it was turned upside down and is tired of being mistreated).  The acting from Franco, Lithgow, and Pinto wasn’t Oscar worthy, but it was solid enough that it did what was needed in the movie and didn’t distract with it’s terrible-ness like some movies can.  The action is very well done, although not the true focus of the film.

What really stands out is the special effects.  We have all seen the human in a monkey suit route not work out very well but we have never seen motion capture apes.  Andy Serkis did a phenomenal job with the motion capture ape animations as well as facial features.  It truly is remarkable what we can come up with nowadays in special effects, and this movie is proof.

There are very little profundities to be had here, but if you are looking to enjoy a movie that is not completely stupid with how it goes about its premise, has good story development, and is just plain enjoyable, then it’s definitely worth your time.

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