Wednesday, August 31, 2011


  Man, this summer season has brought out some big guns when it comes to blockbusters. Between the Marvel entries (Thor/Captain America) and Harry Potter 7 (right?) there has been everything under the sun offered at your local cinema, with maybe the exception of a new Star Trek/Star Wars movie. But with all these summer blockbusters and remakes there was one that ALMOST went undetected in my radar. The movie in question is the reboot/retelling of the Planet of the Apes franchise, dubbed Rise of the Planet of the Apes (ow... my long titles). Initially, I had brushed this movie off due to the fact that: the Tim Burton reboot was pretty horrible (the makeup was good, I guess?) and the franchise had not aged well after it's fourth movie (there was what... 6 of these?). So naturally I was planning to skip the movie until I realized who was being used as the human model for Cesar the ape.


  For the uninitiated (and how the hell did you find this website then?) the man in question here is Andy Serkis, who voiced/played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings (and upcoming Hobbit movies) trilogy and was also the actor who portrayed the titular character in Peter Jackson's King Kong. The man is a motion capture acting genius and this movie will be the sole reason the Oscars will probably have to finally make a category for this type of work. To be perfectly blunt, Andy Serkis MAKES this movie and his character of Cesar is easily one of the crowning achievements in the medium. But what about the movie itself? One man can make a movie sure, but can he carry the whole thing on his shoulders? Time to find out... (SPOILERS GALORE AHEAD!!!)

"No mister officer, we had nothing to do with the background chaos you see..."

  The movie's premise is simple. James Franco's (in another semi-dialed in role) Will Rodham, a scientist that is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease via a drug that he injecting into apes for testing. An ape, who's side effect to the drug is advanced intelligence, goes crazy and his project gets shelved but he finds out that the "crazy" ape had a son. He takes it home reluctantly and raises it when he realizes the mother passed the effects of the drug on to him. We find out soon enough the drive for James Franco's character in his father, Charles, (played by the always amazing John Lithgow) who suffers from Alzheimer's himself. The father names the ape Cesar after the Roman Emperor and together they raise it for a few years, along with the help of Will's new girlfriend Caroline (played by the beautiful Freida Pinto), and even teach it sign language and all kinds of other tricks that make him a "different" type of ape. Will eventually treats his father with the drug he's been developing secretly and gets amazing results, only to suffer a setback when dementia takes over his father again. During one said bout of dementia, Charles tries to get into his neighbor's car and drive it and consequently gets assaulted by the car owner. Cesar, displaying his animal instincts, comes to his rescue but is sent to San Bruno's Primate Sanctuary.

Tires, how do they work?
  This is the central arc and the most developed part of the movie, inside the Sanctuary (that acts as a prison for Cesar, since he's lived a relatively free life for a "civilized ape" ) he meets other apes: alongside an Orangutan who knows sign language and communicates with him, a gorilla that every ape fears and a particularly nasty rival ape that is currently the leader of the pack. The development between the different apes and Cesar is remarkably well done in the movie, and not once do you feel like you're watching CGI (and trust me you are) and that these characters are not real. Not once do you get that feeling, which is a testament to both Andy Serkis' work and the people involved in the movie's visual effects team.Will eventually tries to get him back home (via bribing the "warden" no less) but Cesar actually decides to stay in his Sanctuary with his kind. He later decides (after much abuse by his human captors) to lead an Ape revolution and go live freely with his new pack, complete with the revelation that he can, in fact, speak. But not before going back to Will's laboratory and stealing the Alzheimer's cure and sharing his intelligence with his pack. They rampage about the San Francisco bridge (and even manage to demolish a police/National Guard Blockade) and make their way to the Redwoods on the other side, where they decide to make their new home and civilization.

"No... this is my boomstick!"

  Will, attempts to bring Cesar back home and stop this but he replies to his adoptive father with a very emotional "Cesar, is home...," much to his surprise (he had not heard Cesar's initial "No") he decides to let him live freely in the Redwoods and the movie ends... for a few seconds. We get a post credit scene where the subplot of "human contamination" via the new "Alzheimer's drug is revisited and we find out the neighbor (the one who accosted Will's father) is an airplane pilot who got infected and is carrying a highly infectious virus that kills within days of exposure. A short (but highly effective) sequence plays out where it charts the planes he pilot's and all the airports he visits,and consequently infects around the world, heralding the end of human civilization. Which is a great way to tie that particularly loose end, since a couple of apes going on a rampage on the Golden Gate Bridge is hardly a way for an Ape civilization to suddenly just sprung up. One can only hope the future movies (you know it has to go there) treat the fans of the franchise with the same level of respect. That being said, I have ONE huge gripe about this movie that actually bumps down the score by an entire point.

"I'm fairly certain I left the stove on "high" before I left the house..."
  Because the creators of RotPotA (Jesus...) are such fans of the old franchise they wanted to give us a proper homage to the original movie. Since the movie is set in San Fancisco, a Statue of Liberty homage was out of the quetion, so they opted for the classic line "Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape!" The line is fine... I just think it was wasted on such a weak actor/character (the "warden's" son) during Cesar's escape. Don't get me wrong, the line sort of fits, the problem is that the line has become such a grandiose thing that hearing it being spewed by some high schooler (and Lord help me if that guy was supposed to be over 17) in such a hammy way (hammier than Heston) just kind of halted the movie for me. Especially when you have an actor with such gravitas as John Lithgow, whose character even suffers of Alzheimer Disease; was it really that hard to write a scene where he "loses himself" and Cesar grabs him, prompting him to utter the line?  Basically, the movie, to me, was as perfect as an "Apes" franchise reboot was going to be (love the post credit scene); but that ONE scene just destroyed it.

Maybe when I'm 50 and I re-watch this movie the line won't feel so forced and campy, but for right now -.5 star.

For now though, if you follow wrestling, and wouldn't mind reading a second column a week by yours truly, don't be shy and give me a shout out at:

SHR, during said "line homage."

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