Saturday, August 13, 2011

Uh Oh! Here Comes the Apes

In keeping with the monkey theme of my last post, the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a suspenseful and riveting movie that makes all the right steps, unlike the awful Markey Mark Apes' remake of 10 years ago.

Rupert Wyatt is a newcomer director who offers deft touches, primarily the slow buildup of emerging emotions and human-like understanding of Caesar and the other apes held captive by ruthless (and stupid) animal-control officers. I actually think this method may not sit very well with many audience members in the ADD era, as seemed evident in the theater where Dan and I saw this. One person even inappropriately laughed when the life drained out of one of the key ape's eyes.

The music (not nearly as great as that of the 1968 original, but still really effective), the homage to Charleton Heston that one must be quick to catch, and the human and deep humanity of the monkeys are just a few of the elements that make this a very worthy introduction to a series of movies set for release as prequels to the '68 classic.

James Franco also does a good job as a driven San Francisco scientist who has committed his life to finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease, which has ravaged his father, played by John Lithgow. His story, and that of Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto, is established strongly in the movie's first half, before the second half becomes devoted to the apes.

And I also like that the beginning of what appears to be a long-term war for supremacy between the two species does not dominate the movie and does not threaten to dampen the excellent character-building and socio-political setup that is sure to be a focus of future installments in this series. It will be interesting to see how the series creators will reconcile how Rise of the Planet of the Apes ends with how 1968's Planet of the Apes begins, when a nuclear bomb has killed off most humans.

There is already talk that Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and plays Caesar here, could be up for an Academy Award. That should tell you just how touching and vital the revolutionary ape's performance is, whether he is nominated or not.

**** out of ***** stars

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