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?

10 comments:

christian said...

Great review. I will have to check that out.

iNews said...

Very interesting review, thank you!

Doug Easterly said...

I thought it was essentially a re=conceptualization of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the last of the original series. In the original series, earth is destroyed at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but Zira and Cornelius escape to their past in Escape from the Planet of the Apes and have a son, Caesar, who leads the ape revolution in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In this, we still have Caesar, abused apes rebelling, and the rise of intelligent apes leading to the fall of man, but without the time-travel child-of-apes-from-the-future aspect. And maybe without some sense of mirroring race riots in L.A. that were more contemporaneous with the original film.

Trey said...

iNews - You're welcome. :)

@Doug - I would agree it turns out sort of that way--at least in basics--though I don't think from interviews with the director that that was the specific intention.

It's missing, of course, a lot of important aspects of that film: the "apes as pets/slaves," the successful ape revolution, and the nuclear war aspect, and sets it in the modern day other than a somewhat fascistic future (I believe the 1990s in the original film). Also, being the child of the future apes gives Caesar a "destiny" of sorts which is absent here as well.

Tim Shorts said...

This is one of those movies that will be very difficult for me to see because I was such a fan of the original series. The Burton movie pissed me off more than anything. So I am gun shy about seeing it. Maybe I should just wait for Conan. That's a remake I can get behind.

Trey said...

I know what you mean (though my hopes are not high for Conan, particularly). Your tolerances and mine may be different, but I'm a pretty big fan of the originals, too and I dug this one--for whatever that's worth.

sfgray said...

Totally looking forward to this film (hopefully this afternoon). I was likewise left drastically unenthused by Burton's PotA remake, but i'm glad it was made for one reason. Rick Baker deserved the chance to design the makeup for the franchise one time before CGI finally rendered his art all but obsolete.

The Happy Whisk said...

I like that John Lithgow is in the movie. Franco ... eh. I dunno.

The Angry Lurker said...

Thanks for the review, better than the Burton one but that wouldn't have been too difficult.

Trey said...

@SFGray - You're right. It was kind of Baker's swansong.

@Whisk - I admire Franco for sometimes having a reaching that exceeds his grasp. I thought he was pretty good as Ginsberg in Howl.