Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)


With a tagline that sent shockwaves through the cerebral cortex of any human being who dared look upon it, and a sequence of trailers sequentially more unsatisfying than the last, Rise of the Planet of the Apes seemed to me almost t-ed up for a screeching thud into land of the easily forgotten. Yet hidden beneath the surface of all that mangled marketing phooey is a film with a distinguishable depth, compassion, and curiosity that blends summer blockbuster and character study into a compact, and engrossing two hour journey.

The evolution of Caesar from curious but gentle hearted baby chimpanzee to the intellectual leader of a new race of super Apes brings much to the table for the viewer wanting such an experience. It would have been easy for the directors to throw a simple spin 'look dumb apes, now smart apes - action ahoy' rush job in order to maintain a high intensity thrill ride of a picture, but Director Rupert Wyatt and writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver knew exactly what needed to be done with this - create a world and put the viewer in it. I say it all the time, but it's perhaps the most undervalued trait a movie can give its viewer. If the team behind the picture can build that world, convince the viewer of the sincerity of the people inside it, and then carry on from there, it becomes a film viewers remember.

Though to build this world, Wyatt and company rely heavily on ol' fashion Hollywood archetypes, and seem comfortable not stretching out beyond such. Caesar is the real scene stealer for the film, and Serkis knows how to pull that off better than perhaps any other working actor. Franco's dry demeanor is put on turbo dry for this tale. Pinto is easy on the eyes but her character is given next to nothing to do, the same could be said for Brian Cox (especially the easy on the eyes part - just saying). Lithgow is always a delight, but he's unfortunately trapped in an overwritten role. The only two stars who represent the human side of the film with any memorable prowess are Tom Felton and David Oyelowo.

Felton, whose character embodies a rather generic 'bully' caretaker, shows a lot of gumption in what has to be said is basically a Draco-esque character to Caesar. Though he carries it off, and even goes head to head with Serkis in one of the film's most memorable scenes. Oyelowo is another underused character, given the good ol' fashion "I'm just in for the dough (money, not bread)!" boss, but seems to grow in terms of interest as the film progresses - culminating in a very well acted, and likely to be overlooked, final scene.

What I found most surprising about Rise of the Planet of the Apes is just how much story and development it manages to cram in an hour and forty-five minutes. The amount of non-verbal character building and molding it creates, it simply admirable - especially when you factor in the heavy summer-based requirement of action and violence to keep the audiences in check.

So, what kind of action does the film bring to the table? Well, more or less, it blends it into the plot. When I must say is such a refreshing feeling. The action works as a compliment to the story, not the navigating factor of it. Even the final battle, which we all know the film is building towards, doesn't feel forced or a simple baseline requirement. The film builds to its conclusion, not the other way around. Though with that comes a certain lack of sharp cynicism that reverberated throughout the prior installments, which I can honestly say was rather refreshing.

Film Credits:
Directed By: Rupert Wyatt
Written By: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
Novel "La Planete Des Singes" By: Pierre Boulle

6 better thoughts:

Ruth said...

Marketing campaign is definitely overdone - I can't go on youtube without an ad popping up for this movie, but I'm glad to see it's getting some good reviews after all that! I'll definitely be trying to catch it.

Candice Frederick said...

hmmmm 'm starting to think this may not be the blockbuster i'm looking for. i like a good mix of plot and action in my action films, but this sounds more plot than action. kinda heavy for a summer blockbuster. perhaps that's why all the critics are loving it, as hey hate all action movies? i have to check this one out nonetheless.

Dan O. said...

This is a very good film that focuses more on the effects and the story rather than the crazy action sequences. Also, Serkis is mesmerizing here as Caesar. Good Review!

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm actually surprised this movie is getting so many great reviews. For some reason I expected everyone to hate it. I'll have to put my annoyance of the title aside and watch it.

Great review!

Univarn said...

@Ruth Enjoy!

@Candice There is a fair bit of action - some more forced than others - but I really don't think you should ignore it just because it's not your typical summer flair. I do disgree with you that critics hate all action movies. I just think - myself included - they look down on action movies with no substance or memorable quality. If you look at how they've rated movies this year, they've been batting about .500 for like-dislike on blockbusters.

@Dan O. Thanks, and yeah - Serkis is the real scene stealer. Can't wait to see some of the behind the scenes stuff on this.

@Brittani When all is said and done, there's no doubt in my mind that the title is the worst part of this film.

Anonymous said...

Wow people are really into this aren't they! I'm really surprised. I have no expectations and on principle wouldn't give it more than 4 stars since it's a prequel of a sequel. But yours and other people's reviews have changed my mind about seeing it!!

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