Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (very late)

Never will you cheer for the downfall of humankind as much as you will during Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Part-prequel, part remake of the fourth film in the original series (with many references to all), Apes is quite possibly the best and most surprising blockbuster out there.

James Franco plays a scientist obsessed with finding an alzheimer's cure.  He is personally invested due to his father's condition (John Lithgow).  His lead test ape for the new drug goes mad and is shot dead during an investors' meeting.  Turns out, however, she was protecting her baby, who Franco raises and soon realizes his drug can be passed on through generations.

From there, it is almost entirely the apes story - from its love of Lithgow (who doesn't? Even an ape loves that man) to its encagement and, soon after, its prison break.

Franco described his role as "work for hire" but I don't think that meant he was in a bad film.  He meant it wasn't his story.  Andy Serkis, of King Kong fame, the world's finest CGI actor, plays every ape in the film (also, he's quite good as David Bowie's assistant in The Prestige).  And he delivers an expressive performance. Most of the film is from the apes' perspective.  The motion-capture (and this is coming from someone who rarely cares about such things) has never looked better.  The humans slowly start to dissipate from the narrative.

Despite a few trite and obvious references to the original films, it becomes a touching and terrifying story of its own.  Essentially, it's The Shawshank Redemption of the Apes.

Though we're never one step beyond or one step behind any character in the film, it remains an absolutely perfect thriller; at some point, as I said, getting you on the side of ending the world as we know it.

And that's how James Franco ended the world as we know it.  Spoiler alert.  Kind of.

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