Thursday, August 11, 2011

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the franchise that started in 1968 with a movie starring Charlton Heston. Setting the stage for a new series (one that continues the spirit of the original movie), it tells of the origin, awakening, and rise of the super-intelligent chimpanzee, Caesar. His evolution, so to speak, from being a glorified house pet by virtue of human hubris to being the messiah of the apes.

By the second act of the story, a prison movie with apes as the cons and an animal shelter as the prison, the movie starts to pick up. The goosebumps-inducing third act, a rampage across San Francisco, was the most satisfying I've seen in quite a while.

Not that it doesn't have problems. Chief of these are the human characters. The people running the animal shelter are cruel for no reason (most animal shelter workers in the 21st century actually LIKE animals) and the acting, save for John Lithgow's, was uninspired. I'd like to think that was intentional, so as to make the apes seem more real.

Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar was, of course, superb. There's absolutely no doubt about that. But we shouldn't forget the team of animators that dressed him up with that CG ape-suit. Without them, Serkis would just be hobbling across the scenes in a motion capture suit. Caesar's face was disturbingly a bit more human than a real chimpanzee's. I believe it has something to do with the so-called "uncanny valley," which (as Wikipedia says) "holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers." Caesar, while a sympathetic character, is someone we should still be afraid of because, after all, he will eventually subjugate humanity.

I can't wait for the next installment.

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