12 August 2011
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- Review
The spoiler may be in the title, but the focus of this semi-prequel is more deep and complicated than that. The original Rise of the Apes would have been more apt for this story about chimps who are neurologically enhanced by an experimental drug, intended to cure Alzheimer's. Will Rodman is a scientist whose father is afflicted with the disease, but it's not really his story. It's very much the story of Caesar, an ape orphaned by the testing of the cure, who is brought home to live with Will's family.
Director Rupert Wyatt's spin on the origin of the world seen in Planet of the Apes plays out as a grand sci-fi tragedy in three acts. In the beginning, Caesar's mother is put down by security guards at the lab where Will works, her protective instincts having gone into overdrive. Then we become acquainted with the ape, who really is the lead character in this one. The visual effects are amongst the best I have ever seen in a live-action film, but truthfully, Caesar does not exist without Andy Serkis' performance.
Surpassing even his collaborations with Peter Jackson, as Gollum and Kong, Caesar largely communicates visually- Will teaches him sign language earlier on- and Serkis gives an expressive performance that, frankly, deserves more recognition than it's likely to get. So in that first part of the film, James Franco and John Lithgow are actually supporting players as Will and his Alzheimer's-stricken father. Neither of them phone in their performances, however, and Lithgow in particular, is a very sympathetic presence.
To say much more of how the second and third acts unfold would be a disservice to a film in which the title has already laid out the plot, to some extent. Having already mentioned Weta Digital's special effects, I also give praise to Rupert Wyatt, who has clearly had enough forethought to think about where the series might go after the credits on this one, and yet also has much more interest in characters than in monster-movie antics. And yet he still doesn't skimp on the chimpocalyptic battles, abetted by one of the best cinematographers in the business, Andrew Lesnie, when we get to the third act.
The human characters do seem slightly less developed on the whole than the apes, but there's nothing particularly misanthropic about that. As we learned from Green Lantern, we already know what humans are like, because we're human. The really interesting characters in this film are all primates, and it's better that we spend more time with them. My only complaint with the film is that it seems to chicken out of a tirade against animal testing. A primate shelter ran by General Stryker and Draco Malfoy speaks out against animal cruelty all by itself, but there might have been more emphasis on the problems with animal testing than to say "if you test on animals, they might become smarter than you, and one day, take over the planet."
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, why not share your comments below? Let me know if you agree that this is the most touching movie to feature a gorilla taking on a helicopter this year.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.