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>> Sunday, August 7, 2011

There are far too few movies I go to, where in the end I actually walk out with a feeling that I'm better off for seeing it. Movies that come to mind more recently are Source Code, Limitless and The Adjustment Bureau. With the exception of Source Code, however, none has moved me quite like Rise of the Planet of the Apes just has. This is partially because I love movies - pure and simple. But any fan of any type of art will tell you that while you can love paintings, or music, or literature - that doesn't mean everything is spot on. The biggest reason though, comes from the fact that Rise is just really well done.

If you're familiar with the Planet of the Apes franchise, you know there's been six movies so far. The original Planet of the Apes was released in 1968 - an astonishing 43 years ago. After that came a weak sequel and then an intriguing transition film. The fourth film, titled Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is the one this current film is a reboot of. While I liked Conquest, thankfully it can't hold a candle to the realism and power that lies within Rise. Don't get me wrong though, I know the influence the original series had and I respect that. For me, as a huge POTA fan nothing will ever beat the original and its comments on social acceptance and racism. It was a powerful film and will always be considered as such.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes all that was wrong with the old films and fixes it. What always bothered me about the originals was the lack of realism. This may be coming from the mind of someone who has come to both appreciate and hate CGI simultaneously, but Rise nails it. There wasn't one moment where I was worried the effects weren't carrying the story. The actors deliver the same. I felt James Franco and John Lithgow did brilliantly. Thought even they didn't bring their A-game nearly as much as Andy Serkis. Using the same technology they used in Avatar and King Kong, Serkis delivers a knockout performance as the lead revolutionary ape, Caesar. It's an odd thing to feel for a CG character as much as one does watching Rise. Rightfully deserved, though when your seeing such a powerfully emotional character arc unfold before your eyes.

To top it all off, you get a good few references to the old films as well as a few teasers for potential sequels (of which the second is already in talks). Some of the old references to watch for include seeing an old Charlton Heston movie on the TV in the background and the use of a few choice infamous phrases - more of a nod than a gimmick, thankfully. As for teasers, there's a scene in the midst of the credits not to miss as well as limited talk of a manned mission to Mars. The mission to Mars storyline seems insignificant at first, until a Newspaper article later on proclaims 'Lost in Space?'. It doesn't take too much to put together that those astronauts will likely face the same fate as Heston and his buddies did back in '68. Whether it's just a nod or not will be determined in years to come.

I've always felt that walking into a movie shouldn't require effort on the viewer's part. You shouldn't have to sit there and struggle to like a movie - the creative team behind a film is responsible for that. Few films are far from achieving this. They rely too heavily on special effects or action or big names to do the work (ie: The Smurfs). With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they rely on the story. Shocking right? That a good story with heart can actually work every once in a while. Especially with this storyline as they could have easily resorted to a bad action movie. Not that it was awful, but Burton's remake ten years ago is an example of how this Rise could have gone from thoughtful to awful pretty damn quick.

I may be pleasantly optimistic at this point (coming off the high from Rise), but with talk of Andy Serkis getting an Oscar nod for his work in this Planet of the Apes adventure - perhaps we're not far off from a Best Picture nomination as well. There's still plenty of year left though, as we come into August with a bang, but this is one to definitely catch. Open door, all the way.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


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