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Sunday, August 7, 2011
Apes on the Rise
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, of course, a prequel (or a prequel to a reboot) of Planet of the Apes. It ignores (or perhaps replaces is a better word--there are a lot of sly references) the history of the end of the world of man and the rise of the--well, you know--given in Conquest and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Anyone who knows me (and maybe anybody who reads this blog) knows I’m a fan of the original film series, so prequels or reboots of it attract my interest. The Burton remake had good ape effects, a similar sly humor to the original, and a soundtrack by Elfman that had some nice elements of homage to Goldsmith’s brilliant, experimental score for the first film. Unfortunately, beyond that, there wasn’t much to like. It wasn’t horrible; it was just flat.
Rise is not that. While on the surface it's a different sort of story than the original Planet of the Apes, it’s events parallel the first film's in interesting ways. Heston’s Taylor was a man trapped in a world not his own; so is the genetically enhanced Caesar of this film. His response--sometimes horrified, sometimes pissed off--is pretty much the same.
Caesar shares the spotlight with scientist Will Rodman played by James Franco. Franco is a more convincing stoner than researcher, but he’s competent enough. The apes are the real stars, after all.
And those CGI primates are great. There are some scenes where you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and the real thing. When they rampage though, they’re not as violent as real chimps--likely both a plot concession to ensure sympathy and a practical calculation to secure a PG-13 rating. Still, it’s cool to see the apes engage in a little guerilla (heh) warfare against the law, culminating in a battle on the Gold Gate Bridge.
Rise replaces the nuclear spectre of the Cold War with the modern bêtes noires of genetic engineering and global pandemics. Just like in the original film series, the protagonists are pretty much responsible for the destruction of the world, yet they remain sympathetic. That’s no mean feat.
So if you like the ape films, or like movies sympathetic to animals over cruel humans, or just like a good near-future sci-fi yarn, check Rise of the Planet of the Apes out.
If only they'd found a way to work in apes with coonskin hats. Maybe in the sequel?