Monday, January 23, 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is the origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering to find a cure of Alzheimer's disease lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. The film is a prequel to one of the first sci-fi movie franchises that began with the 1968 original. I have never sat down and watched the original with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, but I am somewhat familiar with the story.

The performances in the film from James Franco, John Lithgow and Freida Pinto are all flat and forgettable. This is easily done by the attention that was given to creating the primates lead by Andy Serkis as their leader Caesar. Andy Serkis is easily the best at his craft of motion-capture performance. His previous work in this technique for Gollum (Lord of the Rings) and "King Kong" (2005) received great recognition and his performance as Ceasar is amazing. The way he brings to life the emotion and humanity of Caesar with just the facial expressions and body movements is brilliant. It is clear that with Andy Serkis providing the performance that "Caesar is home".

The film finds a way to fall into the genre of prison films where Caeasar is ripped from his home for a crime that he didn't understand. In prison he is confronted with the challenges of the alpha male and the conditions of his evil handlers. Caesar becomes the leader through consultation of his consigliore played by a circus orangutan that also knows how to communicate through sign language and tells Caesar that the apes are stupid. This is the catalyst that Caesar needs to advance his plot for freedom.

I like James Franco, but something about him trying to explain science just makes me cringe. Unlike the performance from Richard Jenkins as an elderly man with Alzheimer's in "Friends with Benefits", the attempt from John Lithgow falls awkwardly flat. Another less than stellar performance comes from Tom Felton, who most people know as Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. He tries so hard to act through his British accent, but it sneaks through a bit more than it should.

Put aside the ethical/moral issues of the film and enjoy a summer blockbuster for what it is supposed to be. There are some nice compliments to the previous films where Caesar is playing with a model of the Statue of Liberty and the throw-back line "get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape". The film establishes the foundation for future sequels with news footage of a lost space ship, and a mutated virus. You might want to stick around a few minutes into the credits for a bonus scene. This is another 3 Quack film and fun for those with a craving for buttered popcorn and a large fountain soda.

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