8/08/2011

The Apes have Risen!

The original Rise of the Planet of the Apes depicted the civil rights struggle of the sixties through the anthropomorphic actions of a talking ape who rose up and liberated his ancestors from slavery through some pretty iffy plot devices that could only work in that era. The new film doesn't quite have such a strong underlying message. It's not clear weather or not we are supposed to be for or against animal testing. I guess it all depends on weather you're for or against the apocalypse and the fall of mankind. There seems to be a reemergence of Apocalyptic culture in popular media, much like in the nineties,and I love it. I have always been fascinated with the end of the current civilization every since I saw Mad Max when I was a kid. While there are plenty of films that depict the fall of man, or the fall of modern civilization but of the current crop of doomsday summer fare I think it only fitting that society ends at the hands of James Franco. I say this even though I like him. I like James Franco despite how much James Franco tries to make me not like him. His acting is hit or miss. He was great in 127 hours, even better playing Ginsberg in Howl. He really shines in comedic roles like Date Night and (my personal favorite) Pineapple Express, but it seems every other thing he does such as his role in Planet of the Apes, he just plays this flat emotionless character. 

In Rise, a role that called for a little emotion on his characters part; dealing with a father with some how terminal Alzheimers disease and a super chimp/son that is taken from him, he just stares blankly off in the distant. You want him to act, he's got all the right tools, and a supporting cast that is simply amazing, but he won't. Perhaps he has too much going on with school, and various art projects, not to mention getting stoned and hosting the Oscars (in the most half-assed way). He seems like a perfect example of someone burning the candle at both ends. I have learned from my own experiences that it's much better for everyone involved if you focus on one particular talent at a time rather than partially participate in a multitude of fields. Your work suffers and the audience suffers. Thankfully for Franco Rise of the Planet of the Apes does not hinge on his performance. In fact he is almost more of a supporting character.Andy Serkis is the true star of this film. He is the center, the heart, and delivers the most amazing performance of his odd CGI covered career.
His Caeser is possibly the best of any PotA actor in history. Surpassing even Sir Roddy McDowall! This guy is unbelievable. His work as Gollum may have sealed his fate as the go to guy for actors covered in those little tiny light bulbs, and his work as King Kong may have paved the way for him to play the first intelligent chimp, but his work here has cemented his place as one of the greatest mimes to ever walk the planet. There were times in the film when you forget that it is a human being on green screen stage doing all of this and you actually believe there is a super smart ape on the screen. Serkis did more acting with his face than anyone else in the entire movie. Despite competing with the uber talented Jonathan Ligthow. A ton of praise goes to WETA for their phenomenal  work. Each of the Apes had a distinctive look and feel that was genuine and more real that any of the previous installments of the Apes series.

While I will always have a deep love and connection with the originals, this made me want to see the entire series redone with their masterful touch. I felt a special joy that the fall of man takes place in the city I currently call home, but there were sufficient nods to the original; like Caeser playing with a foam Statue of Liberty cut in the exact angle Charlton Heston found it in the first film. The television playing the launch of the space craft that he was on and the newspaper reporting their loss somewhere in space. The extrapolation of the plot during the final credits gives me hope that this is just a beginning for the relaunch of the iconic franchise. People often try to decry the proliferation of sequels in movies these days, but they forget that Planet of the Apes created the mold for the modern franchise film. Taking it's queue of coarse from the old black and white serials of the forties. Unlike so many Final Destinations and Paranormal Activities which seem to crank out sequels every year weather we want them or not this is a film that needs to continue. Minus Franco's flat acting this film was a masterpiece truly deserving a sequel. I'm sure all of the people screaming and clapping during the Saturday evening show that I went to here in SF wish to see what's next for Caeser and his new clan of hyper intelligent primates. And of course I can't help but think what the chemical agent that gives the apes their bonus brains in the movie  might work even better on us old world Monkees! I mean apes are big and strong, but how much cooler would they be with the use of a prehensile tail?

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