Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Apes Rise to Brilliance!

Amazing effects and a brooding hint at a coming primate apocalypse helps Rise of The Planet of The Apes swing into theaters with high hopes.
As is the case with all our posts, this blog presumes the reader has either seen the movie or doesn't mind having details revealed. We regret if our writing gives away anything significant. We will refine our posts to be less revealing for future installments.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There is ample “Apes” material for which to compare this movie. The most recent is Planet of the Apes made in 2001for which this film has no connection. It better fits the original movies and is intended as a reboot of the fourth film in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Indeed, Liberty One has become the Icarus in this film and one of the reasons Taylor (Charlton Heston) sites for human absence in the beginning of Planet of the Apes, becomes the real reason in this film (stay through the ending). The movie “fits” continuity as well as any re-imagined reboot can.
ARTH VADER (AV): I couldn't agree more, Pontificator! With a long, hairy history of apes on film, it seems the makers of Rise of The Planet of The Apes had taken a chance with a franchise on the ropes (vines?). This series has seen more random installments and re-boots than hair sutures on Roddey McDowell's dressing room floor. The end product however, leaves the audience gasping for more.

Casting, Directing and Acting

TP: Superb casting, acting and directing. James Franco and John Lithgow were excellent choices and played their roles very well. If there is a standout here though, it has to be Andy Serkis. His superb acting conveyed tremendous emotion, often doing so only with his eyes. Kudos to him for bringing Caesar to life with only four spoken words and sign language. What’s your take Vader?

AV: A surprisingly good cast for sure, Ponty, but the on-screen chemistry between James Franco and Dad, (Lithgow) is bland and borderline unbelievable. Even the romance between Franco's scientist character and uber-hot zoo vet, Frieda Pinto is also less than passionate. I must say the acting is sub-par, but let's face it, we didn't come to this flick to be swept up into a love story or a tale of family closeness, now did we Pontificator?
Special Effects
TP: The special effects were great and captured the feeling and movements of apes with precision. In a movie like this, special effects are very subtle while at the same time being a huge part of the experience. This movie has the realest looking apes of any of it’s predecessors...a testament to how far technology has come in the film industry.

AV: Ok, the SFX in this flick are just short of stunning, and like a number of recent Sci-Fi films, is near invisible. I am completely mesmerized by which Apes are CGI and which aren't – and you know what? I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter. For the record, I caught some points where 'young or baby Caesar' were obvious onscreen add-ins, but I just didn't mind. Again, a decent Apes movie can (and did!) go a long way.
Taking A Deeper Look
TP: This movie has it all...and delivers! The drama is extremely touching and brilliant in the fact that it tugs on the hearts of the audience when using animals to solicit sympathetic feelings. People were cheering for Caesar in situations that they would not for a human being. There are also bright spots of levity and innocence that help move the story along to the point where we are immersed in action. As a fan of the series, I loved all the nuggets paying homage to the original content...and there was plenty.
AV: Ok, so no Ape flick would be complete without an Ape Army/Human Army showdown, right? While you won't be disappointed in this movie for that, I personally don't need to see this in my Ape movies. Yes, yes it makes for an exciting end sequence and truthfully, only one thing really bugged me in this film (beyond Franco's seeming insincerity), and that was the implication that a few dozen "super Apes" were the foundation of a new Ape society (something implied by the franchise, though, only hinted at in the film). A group of newly liberated scientifically enhanced primates breaking a handful of simian brutes out of the San Francisco Zoo is pretty far fetched, but again, its an Ape movie so we give it a pass.
TP: Although it is a reboot, this film clearly was a re-imagined parallel of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and updates itself with issues we deal with today instead of those prevalent in the 1970’s. The struggle for civil rights was still very fresh back then while today there is a strong emphasis on curing diseases which rage almost out of control...while still trying to turn a profit. Both movies are reflections of their respective times.
AV: Excellent point, sir! However, I've got to call Hollywood out on something here; the story felt very rushed at the end and the seemingly ineffectual stand the police took against the primate pirates was hard to stomach (a .50 caliber machine gun rips up flesh no matter how dense the victim's muscle mass is). And I'm sorry but you need an awful lot of 800-lb. gorillas in the room to topple human civilization. Yeah I saw the end implying some sort of virus that spreads everywhere (playing on our fears about AIDS, Ebola and other 'killer-viruses', much like the civil rights sub-plot you spoke of in earlier Apes movies). Needless to say, I will be interested to see where the sequels go from here.

Looking Ahead: Sequels
TP: This magnificent update to the whole idea of apes ruling the Earth kicks the door wide open for a sequel...and puts down a door stop so it can’t close again. With a space flight reported being lost on the news, it sets up the premise of the very first Planet of the Apes movie. It then goes on to set up the perfect reason of why and how the apes come to dominance by the time this lost ship will presumably return to earth in the future...as you already pointed out Vader. They could easily get three films out of this by showing us the transition of dominance from humans to apes in the next film and then the return of the lost astronauts in the third. From there...the door is still wide open!
AV: It would be a tragedy to let this movie be a one-hit wonder. A whole new generation of movie goers will be introduced to the horror and fascination of a Human/Ape society that rises from the ashes of the inevitable Monkey-doomsday, as evidenced by the 'missing' astronaut story quickly tossed at us over the course of the movie. This story begs for sequels and we will "fight like Apes" to see them!
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Rise of the Planet of the Apes: I’ll get right to the point...nine and a half busted blocks for this one. Just in case anyone is wondering...the half comes because I am an absolute fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise.
ARTH VADER rates Rise of The Planet of The Apes: Wow! Ok, while my critique of this film has probably come off a bit harsh, I really did like it! If you want smart sci-fi fun, you'll go bananas for this flick! Its really a well done and entertaining film and is arguably on par with the original (all props due to Chuck Heston not withstanding). With my eyes sparkling Green in anticipation of a series of Apes-sequels, I pound my chest in salute to this movie and award Rise of The Planet of The Apes eight and a half busted blocks.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 9/10 Busted Blocks

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