Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Flicker Between the Frames: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Yet another original Hollywood idea!
Written by: Kristian Depue

Kristian Depue is the newest addition to Boris Diaw Time. He will be chipping in periodically with his movie reviews. Like everyone else, Kristian is a good friend of mine from back in our college days. Unlike everyone else, Kristian actually has some writing experience and is not a complete hack. Thank goodness, because reading my boring stuff has to be getting old for everyone! 

Recently, Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out on DVD in mid-December after being released to movie theaters the previous summer. I just watched the film on DVD and found it enjoyable, although the film left me wanting.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot, sort of like JJ Abrams’ Star Trek film - it’s a prequel and a re-imagining of the Apes franchise or “mythology.” The original Planet of the Apes film came out in 1968, starring Charlton Heston. There were four more films in succession, with the last coming out in the early 1970s. In 2001, a remake and re-imagining of the original Planet of the Apes was released, directed by Tim Burton. No sequels were made for the Burton film. Now, ten years later, another Apes movie is out, setting up the possibility of a new series of Apes films, like Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.

*Spoiler Warning*
There are two aspects of the film that left me wanting. However, it may have been best to leave it as such, and I’ll explain. The first regards Alzheimer’s disease. James Franco plays a researcher who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. His father, played by John Lithgow, has the disease. He used to be a music teacher, and you are first introduced to the character struggling to play the piano. You later see him getting violent with a nurse who regularly cares for him at home. I wanted to see more of John Lithgow portraying the devastating disease. What I saw was emotionally touching, and I thought more would further support the story of his son looking for a cure. However, it may have been best to leave it as such because the movie isn’t about Alzheimer’s disease, it is about setting up the conflict between apes and humans…it is about setting up Planet of the Apes. Alzheimer’s disease is used as an avenue to explain the rise of the apes - testing possible cures on them increases their intelligence.

The other aspect of the film that left me wanting was that the ending didn’t really fulfill the title of the film, in my opinion. It doesn’t go much farther than a relatively small group of apes and gorillas escaping captivity only to live in the redwood forest just outside San Francisco. Oh, and along the way, they wreak a lot of havoc. What we see is just the beginning of the “rise” of the apes. And, we see that there is an impending global pandemic for humanity that we are to assume kills off millions of people. …but as I said, it’s forthcoming. However, on the other hand, I am glad that the movie only showed the beginning of the rise, otherwise too much would have been crammed into one film, rushing the story…or the movie would have been way too long. The film is paced well, and has a comfortable running time. What I think this movie needs, perhaps, is a direct sequel that continues to show the rise of the apes over humanity…perhaps with two large stories going on: the human pandemic and the continuing evolution of the apes.

Other than those two soft “criticisms,” the movie was entertaining. I think it is a success as a first chapter in a story. I typically criticize movies for excessive use of CGI (computer generated imagery), and this movie is loaded with it, but what they achieved in creating Caesar* and the other apes is quite amazing and deserves praise.

There were several nods to the original Planet of the Apes. In the original, the already established apes have humans in cages and spray them down with high pressure water hoses. In this one, there is an abusive employee at a primate shelter that sprays the caged chimps with a high pressure water hose, revealing where the apes in the original film got the idea. In the original, the humans on the Planet of the Apes don’t know how to talk, except for the astronaut (Charlton Heston) who crashed on the planet. He first reveals to the apes that he can talk in a moment while being abused, yelling “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” In the new film, the abusive guard at the primate shelter says nearly the same line to Caesar when Caesar grabs his arm to prevent another physical strike, Caesar replies with a loud “No!”…revealing that he can talk.

*Caesar, the main chimpanzee in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is portrayed by Andy Serkis using motion-capturing technology. Andy Serkis is known for animating or portraying other computer generated characters in film, such as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s recent remake of the film and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films.

1 comment:

  1. Andy Serkis=checkmate. He's all you need to make a film work.