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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

August 10, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

 By John Leavengood

 MY CALL:  The live action actors were mediocre but I simply didn’t care.  The apes, both CGI and performance-wise, were EPIC!  For a summer blockbuster this gets a solid “A”.  IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN WATCH:  This movie had some great qualities to it.  Here are some off the wall movies to try out which share some such aspects.  For the cruel prison elements try The Experiment.  But be warned, that movie really tests its audience’s moral limits—like Sleepers.  For awesome CGI apery, how about the recent King Kong?  For an amazing emotional performance by another CGI character, you can’t go wrong with Wall-E.

         Despite being an obviously predictable remake, this movie was absolutely not what I expected and it left me quite awestruck.  James Franco, John Lithgow, and Freida Pinto brandished nothing but mediocrity.  While watching the movie, I realized that I was in no way invested in their characters, their well-being or their relationships.  The CGI apes, however, were done perfectly.  If you’re old enough to remember how impressed you were when Jurassic Park or, more recently, the latest King Kong came out then you know what I mean.  A solid standard is being set in the realm of live actor-driven CGI characters (in this case, by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame).

            I could talk about how great the ape scenes were for their dynamic movement, facial expressions and very creative action sequences.  But I want you to see it for yourself.  Just know that a LOT of work and careful thought and planning clearly went into this.

            I was stunned by how well emotion was conveyed through Caesar (Andy Serkis’ role).  Caesar had a powerful father-son connection to Franco’s character.  When Caesar compared himself to a pet the tension and compassion were palpable.  And as Caesar united his fellow apes, choosing them over his previous human family, you feel the sense of loss and conflict.  Not since Wall-E have I seen such amazing emotional connections delivered by CGI characters.  In fact, the two strongest examples of characters (live or CGI) depicting senses of longing or yearning to belong may just be Caesar and Wall-E.  What can I say?  Both of these movies really affected me.

            So here’s what I wasn’t counting on.  Much of this movie is essentially a prison movie.  Yeah, like Shawshank  prison movie.  It shared a lot of the same plot elements: discovering enemies, big fish-little fish hierarchy, abuse, fear, feeling abandoned and alone, forming alliances, insurrection, escape, revenge.  I’ll make another reach here.  The movie reminded me of The Experiment.  However, that Draco Malfoy kid didn’t do as well in this movie as Cam Gigandet and Forest Whitaker did as prison guards.  Not by a long shot.  Could Hollywood please never give Draco a job again, please?  I’d prefer he do something he can do well, like pumping gas, because he surely can’t act!

            Despite my harsh criticism of the live-action actors, this movie was jaw-dropping.  The slow parts were stimulating and the FX and action were truly summer blockbuster-worthy.  Don’t tell yourself that you’re walking into Mark Wahlberg’s Planet of the Apes remake all over again.  This movie wipes the floor with it!

            Not surprisingly, there’s already talk of the next installment, but I’m certainly not complaining.  Click here to check it out

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