Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story of how a scientist took care of an ape named Caesar and was then forced to be taken by cruel caretakers leading to a revolt with help from other apes. Based on the original Planet of the Apes novel by Pierre Boulle, the film explores Caesar’s development from a normal ape into a leader. Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, and Andy Serkis as Caesar. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an exciting and thrilling film from Rupert Wyatt.

In hopes to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, scientist Will Rodham (James Franco) believes that he’s made a breakthrough from an ape he had been experimenting on. After telling his boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) about his breakthrough, Will presents it to a board which becomes a disaster after the ape he experimented has broke out of her cell due to a misunderstanding. With Jacobs deciding to have the apes killed, Will learns through fellow scientist Franklin (Tyler Labine) about a baby ape that Will’s ape was trying to protect. Will takes the baby home where they would live with Will’s father Charles (John Lithgow) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Amazed by the ape’s growing intelligence, Will calls the ape Caesar as he believes that Caesar is the key to the cure he’s searching for to help his father. After meeting primatologist Caroline (Freida Pinto) to help treat an injury for Caesar, she becomes part of the family where Charles’ condition seems to improve for a few years. Yet, Caesar starts to feel like he’s treated like a pet as Will reveals the truth about his background and why he took him in. When Charles starts to fall ill due to dementia, an incident involving Charles and a neighbor (David Hewlett) has Caesar fighting the neighbor to protect Charles. Due to the incident, authorities force Will and Caroline to put Caesar to an animal shelter that is run by the cruel John Landon (Brian Cox) and his vicious son Dodge (Tom Felton).

While Will reluctantly returns to work to find a cure only to feel compromised by Jacobs over the testing of apes. Back at the shelter, Caesar is befriended by fellow apes including a circus orangutan named Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and a big gorilla named Buck (Richard Ridings) as they organize a revolt. When Will learns that Jacobs’ new version of the drug is flawed and fatal to humans, he quits as he tries to get Caesar back. Instead, Caesar chooses to stay as he briefly leaves the shelter to help find ways to make his fellow apes smarter as they lead an attack on the Landons and those that oppose them to Will’s horror.

The film is an origin story with a lot of references to the 1968 film which included the famous line “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape”. Yet, it does create a lot of ideas of how the Earth was taken over by the apes as well as more ideas over what happened to the humans. Still, it’s a film about a man’s relationship with this little chimpanzee he would call Caesar and how he would shape this chimpanzee’s outlook on life and later play part in his revolt against humanity. Though the Will Rodham character is a flawed man that just wants to save his father’s life, he does care for Caesar and treats him more than just an animal. The script that Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver works in creating that relationship arc and basing the ideas for what would come in the stories that are previously told though there are flaws in the script. The Caroline character is sort of a one-dimensional figure who just plays the girlfriend while antagonists like the Landons don’t have much to do other than be mean to Caesar.

Rupert Wyatt’s direction is quite extraordinary with its presentation as he does more than just make a typical summer blockbuster action film that is loaded with CGI-effects. Since the apes are performed by actors in motion-capture visual effects, it adds a certain realness to the way the apes are presented not just physically but emotionally. Notably in their interactions to humans and some of the big action sequences in its third act. Wyatt does create some amazing tracking shots for some of the cage hallways in the shelter along with wonderful steadicam camera shots for some of Caesar’s movements around Will’s home. Overall, Wyatt creates a truly exhilarating and fun action film with a bit of drama and lots of energy.

Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie does an excellent job with the film‘s stylish cinematography from the naturalistic, lush look of the redwood forest scenes at Muir Woods National Monument along with darker lighting schemes for some of the nighttime interiors at the shelter. Editors Conrad Buff IV and Mark Goldblatt is pretty good for the fast-paced rhythm of the action scenes while utilizing montages for some of Caesar‘s growing development and slower cuts for the dramatic moments. Production designer Claude Pare, with set decorator Elizabeth Wilcox and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does incredible work with the set pieces from Caesar’s room in Will’s home along with the building Will works at and the play room at the shelter where Caesar leads his revolt.

Costume designer Renee April does nice work in the costumes as the close are mostly casual including a red shirt worn by Caesar. Visual effects supervisors Dan Lemmon and Erik Winquist do a spectacular job with the visual effects for the way the apes look along with some of the action sequences that happen as it is truly the film‘s highlight in terms of its technical field. Sound designer Chuck Michael and sound editor John A. Larsen do some fantastic work in the sound work from the stark yet hollow world of the shelter to the more raucous bombast of the action scenes that occur in the film. The film’s score by Patrick Doyle is superb for playing up to the bombast with loud percussions and soaring string arrangements while going for a more low-key approach in the dramatic portions of the film.

The casting by Debra Zane is remarkable for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Tyler Labine as Will’s lab friend Franklin, Jamie Harris as a shelter caretaker, and David Hewlett as Will’s hot-headed neighbor Hunsiker. Brian Cox is very good as the slimy animal shelter head John Landon while Tom Felton is also good, despite being one-dimensional, as the crueler Dodge Landon. David Oyelowo is stellar as Will’s boss Jacobs who becomes consumed with greed as he uses Will for his own financial gain. Freida Pinto is decent as the very caring Caroline although she doesn’t get much to do than just be the supportive girlfriend. John Lithgow is excellent as Will’s ailing father Charles who becomes fond of Caesar while dealing with his own disease.

James Franco gives a terrific performance as Will Rodham by displaying a man that just wants to help his father while forming his own bond with Caesar as he tries to help the chimpanzee in his ordeal. The performances by Karin Konoval, Richard Ridings, Christopher Gordon, and Terry Notary as the apes Caesar befriend are superb for the physicality and emotional expressions they give to those apes making them more than just CGI-creations. Yet, the best work in that field as well as the best performance in the film is Andy Serkis as Caesar. In the way he expresses the varied emotions as well as Caesar’s physicality, Serkis does something that goes beyond the parameters of what a motion-capture performance can do. Notably as Serkis gets Caesar to speak a few words in the film’s climatic revolt to exemplify Caesar’s growth in intelligence as it’s definitely a performance like no other.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a marvelous and entertaining action-blockbuster film from Rupert Wyatt that features an outstanding performance from Andy Serkis. This is a film that gives the Planet of the Apes franchise a much-needed boost after being away from theaters for so long as well as very misguided remake back in 2001. For fans of action-blockbusters, this film is among one of the best that offers more than just entertainment. In the end, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an engaging yet pleasurable film from Rupert Wyatt.

Related: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - War for the Planet of the Apes

© thevoid99 2012

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