Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

They say that greatest threat to mankind is nuclear warfare. I had to ask myself if that was true in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Apparently I was correct, nuclear warheads aren't the worst possible threat to mankind.
If I had learned anything from watching Shark week over the past week, it should prove that nature doesn't have to be smart just to win the war between who is the dominant race of the planet. But what if somehow that changed all of a sudden. What would happen if nature found a way to make simians much more intelligent  than humans?
Survival of the fittest is what would happen. Man would fall, and a new organism would rise to where we once stood.

A reboot of the classic film "Planet of the Apes" staring Charlton Heston. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a film that isn't truthful to its source because of continuity, and violent as a stand alone film. I am probably alone on this matter, but I believe this film should have been rated "R."

Centering on genetically engineered chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis), who was created in a San Francisco lab by an ambitious scientist (James Franco), and who uses his powerful intellect to lead an ape uprising against all of humankind.

If you have seen Burtons remake of "Planet of the Apes," it's a mess. So many things were wrong with that movie, although I applauded some of it for the campy humor from Paul Giammati. I was mixed on the idea that they were rebooting the series after the tragedy that was Burtons version. And as I watched the movie, I realized that they were trying to connect the original 1968 version with this update.

Going back to the original, you can realize that both the original 1968 version, and even Burtons version, had great make-up design for the apes.
We live in the age of CGI, which is one of the many reasons why I love filmmaking, and seeing motion capture used beautifully rendered in this film was just a breath of fresh air.
The CGI was largely in part of Weta Digital, which has done the motion capture for films like Lord of the Rings and Avatar. And seeing the God of actors for Motion Capture, Andy Serkis, could have been a dream come true. And it was. But as I saw some of the CGI, there were a few instances where it looked almost too digital. For example, a scene where Caesar is drawing and reading a book was not as great as some of the other shots.

The best shot in the entire film is where Caesar and his gang of simians jump onto a trolly in San Francisco and has a wide shot of them looking as if they are in control of the city. It is a powerful shot because it gives the sense that all hell is about to break loose. And to be fair, all hell broke loose before that shot even occurred!

Now, I like every actor in this film. But performance wise.... meh. Their characters are really underdeveloped. Even James Franco's who is supposed to be the lead performance. Frida Pinto was just a plot device, I mean really, there was no use for her character in this movie. Tom Felton, who you remember as Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" films, has a good performance, but could have been better by a margin. Every moment I see him in this movie, I say to myself "Great, Voldermort couldn't kill Potter, but Malfoy helped create the Rise of the Apes. He did what Voldermort couldn't do." There are really 2 great performances in this film. John Lithgow who plays Franco's father with Alzhiemers really gives a natural performance. And the best performance is by Serkis who plays every ape in this film. Sure he is really never seen on film, but how he reacts  as a chimp is remarkable.

As this is an original origin story, the film was written by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa. It's a pretty well written film, and I am glad they didn't make this into a worldwide attack but a much smaller attack. If it were to be bigger, then we would need to dig deeper into the mythos of the story.

I was pleasantly surprised by the cinematography of the film. It really gives you a natural feeling of being in San Francisco. A city that is just beautiful to embark. And I am also glad that I can see the action unlike some action moves *cough Sucker Punch* *cough Battle Los Angeles cough*. And as I said before, the cinematography is supposed to be the emotion of the film, and it does that quite well.

The score really gave the film a dark edge. I kind of felt scared while watching the movie and hearing the music combined so well. Damn you Patrick Doyle!!!

As the same with the cinematography, I am really glad the editing department was given the chance to help make this a great film. I was glad that Conrad Buff and Mark Goldblatt were chosen to edit the film. Both have worked on films that required the skill needed to make sure that the film was firmly rendered, and their reputation as editors don't lie, cause their work shows it.

Rupert Wyatt, director of The Escapist(2008) has a career ahead of him. He has naturally blended story and visuals to create a piece so thrilling, that it makes all the Avengers movies this year look bad. He has a delicate art, and I respect him for it. I hope to see more from him in the future.

Side Note

There is a documentary in theaters right now called "Project Nim" which is the true story about scientist teaching a chimp named Nim to learn sign language. I find it interesting that these two films have such close dates because it asks an important question "If chimps can communicate with us using sign language, is it telling us what we think it feels, or has the animal itself created the illusion that we think we know what it is thinking?" The doc. has taught us that chimps cannot be house pets for more than 5 years. Caesar was kept until he was 7 years old. Evolution might have helped during the process of the chimps transformation, but we might never fully understand it.

I give the film 4/5 Stars