Thursday, August 18, 2011

NN REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

It took me 13 days after it hit theaters, but I finally went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes tonight. I remember when I saw the first trailer for it and my first thought was, ya that's gunna suck...not seeing it. Then some early reviews started coming in. They were all strong to my bewilderment; but I figured the trend would stop once the public started seeing it. I mean, come on, Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Did a 4 year old come up with the title? It's not gunna be good...Then the numbers came in from its first weekend in the box office. Domination. Then the second weekend, first place once again. That's when I realized I was probably dead wrong about it. So tonight I finally saw it...and ya, I was dead wrong. Here's my relatively spoiler free review!

Let me preface this by saying that in no way is Apes perfect. It shouldn't be nominated for any Oscars and there are a few plot holes and such. But as far as summer movies go, where all I want is to be entertained for 2 hours, it certainly is top notch.

We start out by meeting James Franco. Yup, that's what I think the character's name is because I'm pretty sure we only heard his name twice and I forgot it. Anyways, James is a very smart scientist who has developed a super awesome chemical that basically allows the brain to repair itself...this can only lead to good things right? Anyways, this chemical is thought to be a potential cure for Alzheimers; unfortunately the first ape that it is tested on not only shows intense cognitive improvement, she goes freaking insane and basically shuts down the whole program. Good ole James decides to take home her baby chimp and call it quits. Until two things happen.

First, James tests the chemical on his Alzheimers stricken father, and second he discovers that the baby chimp he took home, who they eventually name Caesar, is freaking brilliant. One thing leads to another and eventually Caesar must be kept in captivity (sad scene).

This is where the movie takes off. As Caesar learns to integrate with the other chimps in the compound we witness the glory that is Motion Capture (mo-cap) technology. Andy Serkis, the incredible man behind our beloved Smeagol, plays Caesar and truly, truly brings him to life. The movie is worth seeing just for the mo-cap alone, as each and every movement on Andy's face is brought to vivid form on Caesar's. Absolutely essential for developing a character that can't speak. There has been some talk of Andy Serkis being nominated for an Oscar since it is basically him doing all the acting of Caesar. I agree with the concept that actors shown through mo-cap should be considered for Oscars, but I don't think Andy did enough with Caesar to earn a nod. Yes, he played the part perfectly, but it's still hard to justify that honor to someone who doesn't speak in the film. Now with roles like Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, yes, that is where he should definitely be considered for an Oscar since he also has an immense amount of dialogue.

Eventually the chimps band together and find a way out of the compound. Oh boy, is the finale awesome. I won't spoil anything but let's put it this way. How insane would it be if suddenly hundreds of pissed off, massive apes broke loose on San Francisco and absolutely wreaked havoc? Pretty insane right? Well you get to see that happen in Apes and yea, it's pretty insane and pretty awesome.

I'm a little too young to be familiar with the old Planet of the Apes films so this is the first one I have seen. This, in no way, was detrimental to enjoying the film. I believe that, other than a few inside lines that should please fans of the films, there was nothing in this movie that required any knowledge of the previous films. So do not let that stop you from seeing it.

In the end the movie moves along very smoothly in it's almost exactly 2 hour running time. With very few dull moments and a story that is certainly engaging enough. It does suffer from a romantic relationship that we literally care nothing about (I can't remember the love interest's name), some acting from James Franco that isn't quite up to his 127 hours perfection and some plot holes that could be a bit distracting. But none of these are anywhere close to enough to make the movie not worth seeing.

I want my summer movies to do nothing but entertain me. I don't want them to try and be something they're not. And I want to walk out of the theater feeling that my $10-$15 was well spent. Apes met all of that criteria so I consider it a great success. Also, stay for about 2 minutes when the credits roll, there's a cool scene worth staying for.

One of my favorite authors is Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park). At the end of one of his books titled Prey, there's a line that says, "They didn't understand what they were doing. I'm afraid that will be on the tombstone of the human race. I hope it's not. We might get lucky." Apes is a perfect example of what that statement means and I think every once in a while, it's nice to see our messed up race get beat the frick up by animals. I don't know why, I guess we kind of deserve it.


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