Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Directed by: Rupert Wyatt

Produced by: Peter Chernin
Dylan Clark
Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Based on: Premise suggested by La Planete Des Singes by Pierre Boulle

Andy Serkis
James Franco
Frieda Pinto
John Lithgow
Brian Cox
Tom Felton

Music by: Patrick Doyle

Cinematography by: Andrew Lesnie

Editing by: Conrad Buff
Mark Goldblatt

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): August 5, 2011 (United States)
August 11, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 105 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $93 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $227, 932, 055

This is going to be one of my epic 'two reviews posted' kind of days. Also, I did see Cars 2 earlier on, so be on the lookout for the latest on that film. All round, not much has been happening apart from the reviewing. The only thing I've really been doing in the film/media spectrum is watching Sleeper Cell. Of course, my life is more than what is posted on this blog, but the reviews are obviously the point here, so instead of rambling in a rather inane manner, I'll get down to it.

The second review to be posted today is regarding Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. The latest instalment in the Planet Of The Apes media franchise, which is already fairly dense at five films, a comic book series, a live-action TV series, an animated TV series, a 2001 remake by Tim Burton, not forgetting the original 1963 source novel by Pierre Boulle, needless to say I'd be lying if I was against the idea of this 'reboot' of the 'Apes' series. I simply do not think that there are enough original ideas out there and that producers/filmmakers are today simply rehashing a lot of tried and tested formulas. Ten years have been and gone since the last Apes film, and since then state of the art motion capture special effects have been seen in films such as The Lord Of The Rings, Avatar and the recently finished Harry Potter series. In this film, Will Rodman (James Franco) is attempted to develop a cure for Alzheimer's by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus on chimpanzees. Following the death of one of his subjects, who believed her baby to be in danger, Will adopts the baby chimp, whom his father Charles (John Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia, christens Caesar (Andy Serkis). Years later, Charles' dementia returns, and he attempts to drive his neighbour's car, who berates and threatens him. Caesar, in a protective gesture, attacks the man and is forced to leave Will's home and is held in a San Bruno primate facility, where he meets other apes for the first time.

There is a strong cast of actors in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, including James Franco, John Lithgow, Frieda Pinto and Brian Cox, but the great strength of the film is the character of Caesar and his actor Andy Serkis. I flag this up for a number of reasons, the first being of course that it is the film's best performance. Although anthropomorphism is undoubtedly part of my judgement, Serkis acts Caesar, a non-human character, in such a way that we are able to relate. Of all of his motion-capture performances, this is the most daring and most effective. Also, the extraordinary special effects work in the film mean that we buy the synchronicity of 'effect and performance' and the character of Caesar written on the page is brought to life onscreen. This character is crafted in a manner of care and respect the likes of which is not often seen in an animal onscreen. As mentioned, there is a certain amount of inevitable anthropomorphism, but Caesar is clearly an ape, and as the film's main character, this is an interesting and original approach. Also to be complemented is the dark and serious approach with which Wyatt and his screenwriters handle the film. It is a surprisingly dark film, and is rather subversive in the way it portrays the majority of the human's as the antagonists, and the way in which we end up rallying for the Apes. Also, Andrew Lesnie gives us some of the year's best cinematography. Not only does he know how to shoot effects features, but he also creates some very wonderful picaresque moments in this film that are pure cinema. Despite my initial reservations about much of the production (including the use of special effects over make-up, an 'Apes' trademark), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is the most pleasantly surprising film I have seen all year.

Whilst there is so much to admire about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, there are a few problems with the film which stop it from being as good as it could have been. While the ape story of Caesar is fascinating, the human side is nowhere near as interesting. As opposed to the subversive, original manner the ape story is told with, the human story is nuts-and-bolts, seen it all before, been there, done that. The actors are good but their scenes and dialogue are riddled with the disease of cliche. Also, as an origin story/reboot, it sorely underdeveloped. I felt that there could have been more thematic content explored if the film went on for another half-an-hour, which frankly I would have no problem with. I don't normally recommend more running time, but in this case I think it would benefit the overall work. Furthermore, despite being in a many ways a highly original work, there are a number of compromises made to appeal to a mass market. I think the score by Patrick Doyle, which is one of those that highlights the emotions the audience is meant to feel, is one of those waving flags that says 'we're still mainstream in case you got a bit lost.' Finally, Frieda Pinto's character is poorly written, and unfortunately her performance in the film parallels the level at which the character was written.

Despite these issues, I found myself very moved by Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. I was emotionally gripped by the story of Caesar and near the verge of tears when he is left in the primate house. This is indicative of the power of Andy Serkis' performance and the amazing synchronicity of his efforts and contemporary special effects. It is a disgrace that many awards regulatory boards fail to recognise motion-capture performances. Serkis was already disgracefully overlooked a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for his performance as Gollum, and I fear that this may happen again in the case of Caesar in the Best Actor category. To not recognise Serkis would be equivalent to disqualifying Heath Ledger as a Best Supporting Actor candidate, the award he won at the Oscars, because he wore a lot of make-up and dyed his hair green. This will certainly not be the case with this film reviewer! Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is a wonderful looking film that is unexpectedly dark and moving, with some very strong socio-political thematic content. This, along with Super 8, are the kind of film's that people should be watching this summer, and not bilge like Transformers 3. You owe it to yourself to see this great film!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Ready (to put my feet up, metaphorically speaking, I am on a couch after all)

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