I chose the opportunity of the 84th Academy Awards to really get my review site up and running. The reality is that the awards ceremony is this upcoming Sunday and with plenty of movies still waiting to be watched, this year, unfortunately, I will not reach my deadline but will continue to review all of the nominated films until I complete them.
It will still be a chance to get out and see some of the best films of the past year, although I do tend to take the nominations with a grain of salt. This year, there were some contenders that shocked and befuddled my inner critic. Included in that roster was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Albeit, it was nominated for visual effects, but I still could not find an ounce of reason for praise of this film – until I took the time to watch it. What was a seemingly strange sci-fi turned into a poignant commentary on the human condition and the treatment of those who appear to be less intelligent, whether it be apes or the elderly.
The ‘Evolution’ of a Franchise
The film presents the human side of science fiction in the character of Will Rodman (James Franco) and his Alzheimer’s-ridden father, Charles (John Lithgow). Rodman takes in Caesar (Andy Serkis), a baby chimpanzee whose mother has been euthanized due to a seemingly botched anti-Alzheimer’s drug.
As Caesar grows in the care of Rodman, it is undeniable that his intelligence level (thanks to the ALZ-112 drug passed from his mother) is far superior to other apes. After a rescue attempt goes awry in the suburbs, Caesar is forced into a primate shelter where he is mistreated. Caesar slowly plans to free himself and the other prisoners, unbeknownst to Rodman.
Watching the baby (and digitized) chimp grow in a family home becomes an emotional agent that makes Ceasar’s incarceration and eventual rejection of Rodman the more moving.
The film features Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital effects to create the lifelike appearance of the primates, from chimpanzees to gorillas to orangutans. Rise of the Planet of the Apes involved the motion capture technique, allowing for on-location shooting.
Playing Ceasar is English actor Andy Serkis who is well-versed in WETA Digital effects thanks to his portrayals of Gollum (Lord of the Rings trilogy), King Kong (King Kong, 2005) and Captain Haddock in the also-nominated The Adventures of Tin-Tin. Not surprisingly, Serkis has been nominated for many awards in his portrayal of the lead chimp, including Best Supporting Actor at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, the San Diego Film Critics Society awards and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards. Serkis won the Favourite Hero award in his portrayal of Caesar at the IGN Summer Movie Awards.
The film took advantage of their reboot and created a realistic portrayal of how these simians became so smart in the first place. As one who formerly tended to stray from the nonsensical Planet of the Apes franchise, I was quite enthralled by the relationship developed between the primates and humans from the love Rodman gave Caesar to the harsh treatment by his captors.
Certainly a film not to be judged by its campy predecessors, Rise of the Planet of the Apes paves the way for a new franchise with a touching and entertaining back story.*Image courtesy of http://cdn.screenrant.com