Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
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Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

As a rule, if there is one thing I dislike more than inaccurately named, ‘reimagining’ it would be the infamous ‘reboot.' Whereas the re-imagining typically refers to uninspired dilution of an original class the reboot has come to mean the filmmaker couldn’t muster sufficient elements to make up a half way a decent remake of course like any rather broad generalization numerous exceptions stand out. For example, pieces of great literature or stories firmly engrained in our culture demand to be reinterpreted every generation or so. Consider the works of William Shakespeare. Many of his plays became the basis for other forms of entertainment on a regular basis. The main reason for this is the themes utilized go to the very core of the human experience driven by the most powerful emotions, this trend to reboot previous movies is evident across the board, but there appears to be a statistical spike in the realm of science fiction. Many are mediocre like ‘The Time Machine’ or ‘Rollerball, ’ but projects like television’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ become retooled in such a creative and timely fashion that it soars far above the original. I have to admit that I had a considerable amount of trepidation when I heard the next big budget reboot would come from a Sci-Fi franchise that most thoughts was played out and long since put to rest; ‘The Planet of the Apes.' It began as a popular novel by Pierre Boulle in 1963 which used to serve extremely loosely as the basis for the 1968 film. Between 1970 and 1973 four sequels of consistently declining quality were made. There was also a cheaply made live action series on TV in 1974 followed by an animated series 1975. You might have thought this would be the end of it, but in 2001 a remake was made with an all-star, albeit recognizable, cast. Okay, by this point the idea of apes rising to replace humanity as the dominant species was finally played out with everything possible said and done. A lot of eyes rolled back in their heads accompanied by a woeful "not again" as Rising of the Planet of the Apes’ was announced. The good news is this is that exceeding rare case of a reboot that not only works but could reset the entire franchise with renewed life.

The success of this film has been credited to several factors, some of which are somewhat surprising. The director, Rupert Wyatt and a minor feature and short before this movie but you never would suspect it from the quality presented here. The co-writers of the screenplay, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver have been partners scripting a few well-received horror films like ‘The Relic’ and ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.' A major part of this movie working was the combination of a fresh stylistic approached offered by Wyatt and the tightly crafted screenplay that infused with just the proper amount of traditional v=creature feature horror. Keep in mind that the classic monster movie depended on a creature that could invoke considerable amount of pathos in the audience. The terms ‘animal’ and ‘monster’ in this context acquire an entirely different connotation that more modern usage might be more pejorative in use than as it related to the Universal classics. Great actors proficient in the specific and arduous task of acting with special effects makeup like Karloff and Chaney were able to convey emotions rich in texture through the appliances. Now, this kind of effect is achieved by placing sensors all over the actor and feeding his motions into a computer that will then apply them to the desired entity. Many have endeavored to perform in this fashion, but this film obtained the considerable talents of the master of the technique, Andy Serkis. You might not recognize his real face, but his incredible control of body language and facial expressions thanks to his performances for Peter Jackson as Gollum in the ‘Lord of the Rings saga’ or the Ape in ‘King Kong.' This production increased the number of sensors several folds permitting the computer wizards to capture and present every nuance of Serkis’ remarkable performance. Here he plays Caesar, the progenitor of the race of apes that would inherit the globe.

Caesar was one of a group of five chimpanzees captured in Africa then shipped back to San Francisco. They become test subjects in a biotech lab run by Will Rodman (James Franco), a brilliant scientist. He intends to use his simian topics in a trial study investigating a possible cure for Alzheimer's disease. The treatment does increase neural activity in the brain resulting in significantly enhanced intelligence in the chimps. One of the subjects that responded to the most significant degree was Bright Eyes (Terry Notary, a nod to the name the chip scientist gave to her subject played by Charlton Hudson. She goes into a fit of violent rage when she thinks the researchers took away her newborn child. The corporate head of the project, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders the animals put down but the animal handler, Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine), conceals the infant giving him to Will. His father, Charles (John Lithgow) has Alzheimer's providing the drive for Will’s research. The baby chimp, named Caesar, has inherited his mother’s increased intelligence including learning to communicate through American Sign Language. Slowly Caesar begins to resent his caste as a human’s pet. He questions his origins only to discover his mother and many other chimps were experimented upon before being executed. Will try to create a virus based on Caesar to cure his father that while successful with simians is fatal to humans. This sets the stage for the intelligence to proliferate into the ape population while deleteriously affecting humanity rapidly.

The story is compelling, crossing over towards the horror genre in a classic sense, this is not the excuse for fear today that would revolt Tomás de Torquemada, and this is a taut psychological thriller that employs several primal fears into its foundation. There is the idea of sentient animals that dates back to many mythological systems that typical is disconcerting to people as an affront to the natural order of things. Expanding on this is the use of domesticated pets as a form of slavery casting Caesar in the role of a simian Spartacus. This is nicely reinforced by a mirroring of a human's reaction to an intelligent ape being against nature. From the thinking ape’s perspective being a pet is a condescending assault to their nature. There is also the juxtaposition of a human losing his cognitive abilities, Charles with apes gaining on that front as represented by Caesar. This is a wonderfully textured story filled with interesting themes and subplots that elevate the entire film over most of what is out there in the genre. One traditional trope from the golden age of Sci-Fi is casting technological advancements as the potential downfall of the human race. Consistent with this the current dominant fear is used here, genetics. This film reaffirms the idea of the reboot by giving this method a new vitality and justification.

Posted 12/18/11            06/03/2017

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