Sunday, January 22, 2012
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Now, lest you think I did a complete Pod Person role reversal, I also had some huge problems with it. But, another surprise, these were not of the CGI variety. I thought the apes looked magnificent and Andy Serkis had me believing he really was a chimp with a revved up brain. The way Caesar evolved from boyish chimp to someone who doesn't fit in, and finally to the leader of a revolution, was nothing short of brilliant.
I drank the Kool-Aid for the most part and found myself very involved in Caesar's story, getting excited when he plotted his revenge and led his fellow apes on a dare I say it, heroic uprising. I hate cruelty to animals and loved how the director brought us into Caesar's POV. It was wrenching at times. Made more so because Caesar would not let his apes kill the humans. The best scene in the whole movie was when his abilities increased enough so that he was able to utter the word "No" in defiance of his captors. It was a powerful, pivotal moment that stayed with me.
The action sequences were incredible and the way Rupert Wyatt seemlessly blended the apes into the shots was stunning. Nothing appeared CGI. Take note Peter Jackson and James Cameron, you may have developed the tech, but you do NOT know how to use it wisely without having any character appear like cartoons.
Here's where my problems started. You knew this was coming. ;) The characters all appeared to fall into 2 categories: Douchebag and Not Douchebag. A bit too simplistic, if you ask me. Party of the first: Brian Cox and Tom Felton run an ape "sanctuary" which is a completely over-the-top, sadistic prison where they gleefully torture the inmates. They're so awful, they're caricatures rather than believable characters. Cruella Deville times 2 with no motivation. At least she wanted a puppy coat. This primate Big House was so San Quentin-esque that I half-expected Johnny Cash to come out and lead the apes in a rousing rendition of Folsom Prison Blues. Uh, ASPCA anyone? PETA?
The D-Bag category also includes David Oyelowo as the hard-nosed greedy corporate suit who cares about nothing, but money and image. Very stock and uninteresting, delegating every little thing, even the wiping of his ass. Then he completely steps out of character to climb into a helicopter, grab a gun and hunt those apes. Wall Street turned Big Game Hunter. I've seen this exact character in a million cheap SyFy channel flicks. Then we have the inexplicable, in-dire-need-of-anger-management neighbor. The littlest thing sets this guy to beating things with baseballs bats and slamming people up against walls. He might as well have been wearing a tee shirt that read "I am the Angry Asshole."
Non D-Bags are of course, James Franco, John Lithgow and Freida Pinto. Franco's Rodman goes to great lengths to keep his rapidly crumbling world together. I can identify with that. However, I found Franco's overall performance a bit uneven. He seemed to roll along in disconnect, then plug back in at certain times. Not to mention all the larceny he was so easily getting away with. I mean where was security every time he walked out with vials of drugs? Taking lunch?
Oh Freida, it's no wonder Danny Boyle didn't let you really speak in Slum Dog. While her Caroline helps Will to understand the grown-up Caesar, she really has no chemistry with Franco and their whole romance seems forced.Plus, she's pretty much useless after Caesar is gone. I like her, but she needs lessons on delivering more emotion in her performances.
John Lithgow was my favorite here. His performance is heartbreaking and yet, a joy to behold. He shines as Will's stricken father and his relationship with Caesar is so touching. I think he deserves Oscar consideration for this right along with Serkis.
There were also some other things that I found hard to digest. For instance, how a chimp could be pregnant and give birth to the complete ignorance of the scientists who work with her every day, including the on-site animal expert. Even a five year old knows that a round belly on girl dog probably means she's gonna have a baby. And apes smell. Big. Time. So why would you bring your potential piece of ass to the monkey prison, Tom Felton? Not gonna score if they fling poo at her. And as a huge fan of the original, I did not appreciate the co-opting of certain lines. Felton was NOT coming from the same place as Heston.
Overall, I enjoyed Rise and am glad my cohorts encouraged me to see it. I do think that between this and the other Apes films, this franchise has been played out. There are no new stories to tell, only reboots so I hope there won't be a sequel. I probably won't be as kind next time.