Finally, my thoughts on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

September 26, 2011

I know, I’m the last person to see this movie. I was planning to see it in the summer, but got busy or something and never got to it. We finally saw it in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.  (At a very nice multiplex at the South Point Hotel and Casino, by the way. Good digital projection, good popcorn.)

This movie had a lot of good things going for it. The WETA CGI folks were outstanding…with poorer effects work it would have been completely silly. The plot point that James Franco’s character was driven to create the gene therapy to cure Altzheimer’s because his own father was suffering from it added just the right amount of human emotion. I’m not James Franco’s biggest fan, but he was adequate here, and John Lithgow was excellent as his father.

Andy Serkis and friend

I don’t pay a lot of attention to entertainment buzz, but I’ve seen that Andy Serkis gets a lot of credit for making Caesar such a great character. I don’t doubt that for a minute – he did a wonderful job as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and that was not only because of his facial expressions, translated by WETA into the character, but his body language as well. The question is how to determine  what is Andy and what is WETA – I know there has been some talk about an Oscar nomination for him. That question is going to come up, and I wonder if some “members of the Academy” are going to be unhappy just because of the CGI component.

The sequences where Caesar is growing up and developing are delightful. He’s Curious George on speed. Absolutely beautifully done, and they makes you smile. Tom Felton is mean and you love to hate him…but I hope he doesn’t get typecast with such things. He’s great at being a punk. I wonder if he has more range. Most of the rest of the cast is OK, but doesn’t really stand out that much, even Freida Pinto, as Falco’s girlfriend. The apes are the best characters, really, and many of them stand out quite well.

Of course, humans treat them badly – it had to be that way, right? So they have good reason to retaliate. That turns out to have very far-ranging consequences, though. What I thought was interesting was that the plot was actually tied up during the credits of the film…that was unexpected. It also showed how the film reboots the franchise, and hopefully in a better way than the Mark Wahlberg 2001 Planet of the Apes film. I didn’t think it was as bad as people thought, except for the silly circular logic of the plot. the middle of it was pretty OK.

So, overall, it was a very satisfying movie. I thought it was well done, both technically and script-wise. The only really weak area is that most of the characters were kind of cardboard, but as I said, the apes are the real stars, so no big deal…the humans were what they needed to be. And, just maybe, that was part of the point.


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