Rise of the Planet of the Apes [Blu-Ray]
Director : Rupert Wyatt
Screenplay : Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (suggested by the novel La planete des singes by Pierre Boulle)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : James Franco (Will Rodman), Freida Pinto (Caroline Aranha), John Lithgow (Charles Rodman), Brian Cox (John Landon), Tom Felton (Dodge Landon), David Oyelowo (Steven Jacobs), Tyler Labine (Robert Franklin), Jamie Harris (Rodney), David Hewlett (Hunsiker), Ty Olsson (Chief John Hamil), Andy Serkis (Caesar), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket / Bright Eyes), Richard Ridings (Buck), Chris Gordon (Koba), Devyn Dalton (Cornelia), Jay Caputo (Alpha)
Especially after the lukewarm reception of Tim Burton’s glossy, action-packed 2001 “reimagining,” which ended with a “Huh?” cliffhanger that has yet to be resolved, it would be safe to say that there hasn’t been much yearning for another entry in the Planet of the Apes series, which originally consisted of Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 original film and four (generally diminishing) sequels released in the early 1970s. Yet, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has crafted a shrewd, entertaining, and even thoughtful film that is easily the best Apes entry since Charlton Heston (who makes a cameo appearance in the background on a TV screen) fell to his knees on the beach and vocally damned all of humanity after discovering that his most cynical, misanthropic concerns about the human propensity for self-destruction had come true.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not nearly so bleak, although it features more than its share of the kind of lousy human behavior that makes a primate take-over seem not so bad. The film has been billed as a “prequel,” even though that has already been done (the last three films in the original series effectively constituted a three-part prequel since they took place prior to the events in the original film and explained how apes came to rule the planet). Screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who last wrote Eye for an Eye (1996) and The Relic (1997), have gone back to the drawing board by imagining an entirely new scenario based on that old science fiction stand-by: scientists messing with nature.
In this case, the scientist is Will Rodman (James Franco), a well-meaning geneticist who is hard at work on drug called ALZ-112, which is intended to regenerate neural connections and brain tissue and thus cure Alzheimer’s, the debilitating disease from which his father (John Lithgow), a gifted musician, suffers. When he tests the drug on chimpanzees he discovers that it has the side effect of making them more intelligent. This is particularly true of Caesar (Andy Serkis in another stellar performance-capture performance), a chimp that Will raises in his own home after Bright Eyes, his star test subject and Caesar’s mother, becomes suddenly violent and literally crashes a board meeting, causing the massive pharmaceutical company for which he works to shelve the research. Because Caesar was exposed to ALZ-112 in utero, within a few years he is showing striking intelligence, enough that Will decides to risk testing the serum on his father, which leads the head of research (David Oyelowo) to reopen the project.
However, things go awry when Caesar attacks Will’s boorish neighbor, who he misperceives as physically assaulting Will’s father. Will is no longer able to keep Caesar in his house and must move him to a primate rescue run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his sadistic son Dodge (Tom Felton, putting his Draco Malfoy sneer to good use). Because Caesar has essentially attained human-level intelligence, this does not sit well with him, and he foments a revolt after exposing the other chimpanzees and one huge gorilla to ALZ-112, which culminates in a stand-off between the rioting apes and a SWAT team on the fog-enshrouded Golden Gate Bridge. The manner in which Wyatt handles the entire revolt sequence is indicative of the film as a whole, mixing grand moments of big summer moviemaking (extreme high angle shots of the apes pouring out of the lab! slow-motion shots of the gorilla leaping onto a helicopter!) with more subtle and evocative suggestions of the violence to come (I’m thinking particularly of a magnificent shot in a tree-lined suburb in which the marauding apes’ powerful presence--and their eventual dominance--is suggested entirely by a rain of leaves falling from the trees and covering the street).
Wyatt, whose only other feature film is The Escapist (2009), a critically well-received prison-break thriller that was virtually unseen in the U.S., brings a much needed sense of artistry and thoughtfulness to the film without losing the appeal of its roots in pulpy science fiction tales. The Planet of the Apes series has always tread a fine line in this regard, with the best films in the series (particularly the original and 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) maintaining remarkable philosophical weight in dealing with issues of religion, science, and race while also exploiting the fantastical B-movie pleasures of human/ape role reversal. Like those films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes finds a balance between ideas and action, building a strong narrative foundation and establishing the characters before unleashing the mayhem (virtually all of the action and violence is contained in the last third of the film). Wyatt clearly understands that the ape revolution in and of itself is of limited interest and that there must be some humanity at stake (a lesson that Michael Bay, with his thudding Transformers debacles, clearly has yet to learn).
Representing humanity at its most decent and, perhaps connectedly, its most foolish, James Franco is effective as Will, an exceedingly intelligent man who is nonetheless frequently ruled by his emotions. His role feels a bit underwritten at times, although not nearly as much as his romantic interest, a primatologist named Caroline (Freida Pinto) who could have easily been left on the cutting room floor with no effect on the story. With humans essentially taking a back seat, the best performance comes from Andy Serkis as Caesar, which continues his decade-long vindication of performance capture done well (some critics even dared to suggest that his motion-capture performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films should have been given Oscar consideration). The fact that Caesar (and all of the other on-screen apes, for that matter) are computer-generated ceases to be an issue early on, as Serkis shines through the special effects in making him achingly human, whether he be swinging around Will’s house like an unleashed child, screaming in anguish when he is left in the ape sanctuary, or managing the various personalities of his fellow primate revolutionaries. While his cleverness in escaping and defeating those who wish to cage him is the most obvious sign of his intelligence, more pressing is his growing self-awareness and the internal conflict he feels in recognizing that his own perception and abilities does not correspond with the manner in which humans treat him. Thus, his revolt against the system is a true moment of existential escape, the final answer to his question, “Am I a pet?”
|Rise of the Planet of the Apes Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||December 13, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks and sounds fantastic. Boasting a nearly flawless 1080p/AVC-encoded high-definition transfer and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround sound on a dual-layer 50GB disc, the film is effectively immersive both visually and sonically. The image is sharp, clear, and boasts incredibly strong detail without any instances of artifacting or obvious digital boosting. There is still some apparent play of fine film grain, reminding us that, despite all the CGI on display, the film was originally shot on celluloid. From the opening ominous low tones before we see an image on screen, to the glass-shattering, car-crushing, bullet-ridden mayhem of the Golden Gate Bridge sequence, the soundtrack is spot-on, giving us excellent fidelity, an aggressive low end, and ample surround action.|
|Befitting its status as both a technologically innovative summer blockbuster and a new entry in a long and storied sci-fi series, Rise of the Planet of Apes is packaged with an impressive set of supplementary material, starting with two informative audio commentaries: a solo track by director Rupert Wyatt and a second track by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. A host of featurettes (mostly running in the 7- to 10-minute range) explore the background of the series and the technologies used to create the new film: “Mythology of the Apes” looks at the Planet of the Apes series as a whole and the new film’s place in it; “The Genius of Andy Serkis” focuses on Serkis’s performance style and his pioneering role in creating the art of performance capture; “A New Generation of Apes” focuses more specifically on the digital effects and the work of Terry Notary in training the actors to move like apes; “Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries” is a detailed look at the complex production of the Golden Gate Bridge standoff, which forged new territory by shooting performance capture on an outdoor set in daylight rather than in an enclosed soundstage; “Composing the Score With Patrick Doyle” features an interview with the composer and footage of the recording sessions; and, finally, “The Great Apes” provides detailed facts about chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans and interviews with various primate experts. In the “Scene Breakdown,” you can watch the scene in which the apes leave their cages and use the angle function to toggle among the original performance capture footage, rough early animation, and the final fully rendered scene with picture-in-picture of the original footage. Also on the disc are 11 deleted scenes (running about 12 minutes total), most of which were cut early in the production and feature unfinished digital effects and raw performance capture footage; a “Character Concept” art gallery, which contains two or three images each of the six major ape characters; and three theatrical trailers.|
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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