Sunday, January 1, 2012

CGI Planet...

For New Year's Eve, we had a blu-ray double feature, starting with the amazing "Captain America", which we've seen before but loved and wanted to watch in blu-ray. The second movie was "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".

I hesitated to watch this movie at all. For one thing, having grown up with my father, I've seen the classic original film a couple of times, and I wondered how they would tell the back story for that movie with all the modern CGI bells and whistles without ruining the story, and to be honest, I anticipated it being quite scary. I don't like the idea of human subjugation whether to superior aliens or to apes, so I was really nervous. It has been many years since I saw the original "Planet of the Apes", though, so I didn't remember all the details.

This movie starts out with a bunch of science-y stuff setting up the story of one chimpanzee, Caesar, and the human who raises him, who is a scientist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's (which his father is in the later stages of), testing a viral concoction on chimps. Caesar has had the virus passed to him by his mother, in vitro, and as such has superior intelligence and cognitive skills. The CGI Caesar is pretty dang good, though he strikes me as being very tall: nearly as tall as James Franco by the end, which I suppose could be possible, because Franco is only about 5'10" and chimps can get as tall as 5'5". Still... it was distracting... and I'm not a huge fan of movies that are 90% CGI...

There were more than a few laughably stupid things, such as the sudden, unexplained explosion in numbers of the chimpanzees. Inside the chimp rescue facility, they show what looks like about 50 chimps, one gorilla and one orangutan, but when they escape, suddenly the hillsides are crawling with hundreds of chimps, multiple gorillas and at least two orangutans. This was before they had visited the zoo and the research facility to free the rest of their buddies. After that it looked like many more, maybe a thousand! Kind of made me wonder how many chimps live in that city in the real world?? 

Another silly thing was having Tom Felton (suppressing his English accent fairly well; there was really only one slip that I caught) actually say the famous Charlton Heston line from the original film: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" It was laughably bad and completely inappropriate for his character. 

There were a lot of campy "money shot" moments, as well, such as when Caesar speaks for the first time (in the scene above), or when Caesar, a gorilla, an orangutan and another chimp are all standing on a car on the highway and the camera pans back and stops as though they've posed just for us... and I doubt that apes could repeatedly leap through plate glass windows and emerge without any injuries.

I don't mean to be heartless, but I really had a hard time rooting for the apes in the movie. I had little sympathy for them. The abusive "rescue" facility was so contrived and obvious as to be almost cartoonish, and the animals were so violent to so many innocent people that I had no sympathy for them at all. In the battle for supremacy, I will always root for the humans...

My husband pointed out that had they started the movie about 2/3 through and told the story of the actual rise of the apes, it would have been a better story. The actual back story that sets up the classic movie was the only interesting thing, and it happened during the closing credits, rather than during the movie... I would have liked that a little more, as well.

All in all, it was a so-so movie. The plot moved slowly, the acting was just okay, and while the special effects were excellent, the script didn't really hold up to the standard of the effects.

One other note, I realized my son who watched this movie with us will never have that moment of shock and surprise at the end of the original movie when Heston realizes he's been on Earth all along... this movie kind of ruins that twist for new viewers of the classic film... kind of too bad.

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