Sunday, August 7, 2011

Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the classic Planet of the Apes film series. Unlike the last film, this one is not a direct remake of Planet of the Apes and, more importantly, didn't cast an untalented idiot as the main character... Seriously, who though Marky Mark was a suitable replacement for Charlton Heston? Really?

...But I digress. What's important is that Humans are Idiots-- Sorry, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is meant, if successful, to launch a new film series, hopefully reviving the franchise, and again, most importantly, keeping Mark Hackberg as far away as possible from it.

Since it's virtually impossible to say anything about this film without spoiling the classic 1968 film (which if you haven't seen yet YOU SHOULD) please refer to the following videos to get caught up on the original film.

So as you can see... Sorry what? Oh, ok. Folks, I've been told one of those isn't actually a clip from Planet of the Apes, I apologize for confusion. Anyways, in a nutshell, the titular planet of the apes, is in fact Earth.

Basically, Humans blew up the Earth, Apes became intelligent and took over. It's a great film. Go see it.

But have you ever found yourself wondering, "Hmm, I wonder what happened? I wonder exactly how the apes overthrew humanity?" No? Me either. That's why I went into this film highly skeptical. I liked the ambiguity of the original Apes movies. It let you use a bit of imagination to figure out what happened. But Hollywood decided we needed answers, and that they would be given to us in the form of James Franco trying to cure Alzheimer's.

So was I right? Is Rise a failure, or a victory? Does the franchise deserve to be relaunched, or should we hold on tightly to our 1968 Heston films, or can we finally say the Apes franchise is ready? It's been ten whole years since the Marky Mark disaster, after all. (Actually, I didn't mind that movie except for Marky Mark. Oh and also the ending. And the... Rest... Of the movie-- Ok yeah it was terrible.)

Well, I was actually pleasantly surprised by Rise. The film begins with James Franco (Harry from the Spider-Man films) playing a scientist attempting to cure Alzheimer's with a modified virus called ALZ-112. He gives several different variants to Chimps before finding one that works (ALZ-112) that repairs brain cells using the power of SCIENCE. Basically, it's a smart virus. (I can only assume it was also being developed to counter the STUPID VIRUS that spread to all of humanity prior to the film, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

In short, the day Franco is showing it to the people who will get the drug to the public, the chimp with the ALZ-112, Bright Eyes, goes ballistic and rampages through the building before being shot. All the chimps have to be put down, and Franco's life long work is, in short, over and done with.

...OR IS IT?!

Well obviously not, or it'd be a pretty short film. No! It turns out that Bright Eyes went ballistic because it was protecting it's newborn baby Chimp, Gollum. I mean Caesar.

And thus begins the ~2 hour film. Yeah, that was all the opening.

Actually, while we're on that subject, let me just say the pacing of this movie is really good. It has that perfect balance of both keeping the story active, and yet never going too fast as to make it seem rushed. It gives each of the characters enough time to be developed as characters. Even Caesar seems really developed by the end of the film, and you understand his motivations.

I was also very pleasantly surprised by James Franco's acting. I mean, not to diss the Spider-Man films, or him in those films, but uh... His acting was a bit...

Hammy? And let's not forget his unbelievable Oscar performance this year, where he basically stood next to Anne Hathaway being Anne Hathaway and was, erm... Boring.

Luckily, none of that came through in this. He seemed likeable, and realistic. Stupid, but realistic.

Oh and also on that note, let me just say real quick RODNEY MCKAY IS IN THIS MOVIE AND IT IS AWESOME. Oh, and so is Draco Malfoy. And that guy who's in a ton of stuff.

So yeah, good cast, and good acting all around. I really enjoyed the acting, and all of the characters are really likeable, except the villain, but that's intentional.

Speaking of transitions, CGI! The CGI in this film is great! Absolutely great! Perhaps not uncanny valley escaping, but really good! The amount of emotion the apes all get across is unbelievable. In fact, by far the best scenes of the movie involve all ape characters, partly because of just how incredibly good the CGI is, and partly because the writing for those scenes is really good.

In fact, the writing for this is the best kind of prequel writing (except for the stupidity of the humans), because this is the same kind of prequel that KOTOR is, for example. In fact, the film works the fact that it's set so long before the first film into the plot really well. Since it's so undefined what happened during this film, it actually keep you guessing how it'll end. (Hint: There are some apes involved.) In fact it even works some absolutely brilliant references to the Charlton Heston films (which Wikipedia says this is not, actually, in the same canon as, and that at some point if this film does well enough, we'll see a remake of the '68 film) both obvious that almost everyone will get, and a few that are hidden in the background. In fact I almost want to see the film again just to catch all the shout-outs, and when you can say you want to see a movie again so soon after watching it, I'd say the film is a success.

In fact, I can even see, very easily, there being another Rise film between this film and the remake of the '68 film. In fact, the way this film ends almost requires it, since let's just say it leaves a few... BIG... Things... Unexplained. I'd almost be angry if I didn't think they were planning to do Rise 2 before the full remake.

So was the film unnecessary? Well, surprisingly, I'm going to say no. What I didn't realize, actually until writing this review, was that this is not in the same canon as the Heston films, and they ARE planning on getting to remaking the Heston film. So you know what? I actually like that they went a different route. It's a lot more creative than the typical route of rebooting a franchise with a remake. In fact, this movie has the most in common with Batman Begins, in that it's telling the origin story before getting to the real story. And you know what? It works. It really works. This was a good movie, maybe even a great movie. It was the origin story we didn't know we wanted. And I'd give it a recommendation in a heartbeat.

In fact, I really only have one issue with the film. You may notice that I've been subtly alluding to a certain lack of intelligence on the part of the human characters.

Basically, every. Single. Human. Character. In the film. Is. A. Moron. All of them. James Franco? Yep. McKay? Yeah, him too. Malfoy? Oh heck yeah. James Franco's girlfriend? Yep. The entire U.S. Military? Well, they didn't show up for the titular rising, so yeah, I'll count them too. It would seem every human being forgot either A. That they had guns, or B. How to use guns. And it shows. And it's painful.

The human aspects of this film is just watching one moronic mistake after another, that in the end forcefully pushes the movie toward a climax. Now I know that sounds harsh, but understand, I really did like the film. A lot. And you should definitely see it if you're looking to see a movie any time soon. It's a good one to see in theaters. But the human characters are IDIOTS. All of them. I saw this with a group of friends, and right as the credits roll I turn to them and say "You know what I don't get?" And one of them responds "Why Humans suddenly turned into idiots?"

It hurts me to say this without giving examples, but unfortunately most the examples are very spoilery, other than the gun thing. And honestly, that's not even the half of it.

Still, as I said, I liked the movie a lot, and the stupidity of the human race isn't enough to ruin it, not by a long shot. They won over me, one of the biggest skeptics of the film, and I can now safely say that I'm looking forward to any future sequels to Rise.

Oh, and one more thing. I don't know if this movie was meant to be in 3D and those plans fell through, or if it's only getting a limited 3D run, but there are a few shots that seemed like they were going for a 3D effect that... Wasn't there, in my theater at least. Bizzare.

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