Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

So I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I have most of a linkspam ready to go, but since I'm running behind, we have to take these things in a different order. First things first:

@cleolinda: EARLY MOVIE IS EARLY. Going to see Rise of the Prequel of the Planet of the Apes shortly. #leavingthehouseomg

[Two or three hours later.]

@cleolinda: My sister is now afraid apes are going to drop down out of the trees onto the car.

@iamcandyeyed: @cleolinda Ok not REALLY. Not as afraid as I am that I'm going to wake up to one of them watching me sleep.

(This is Sister Girl, aka My Actual Sister, by the way. She is now willing to make friends on The Twitter. Play nice or I'll adminster beatdowns.)

My thoughts on planets and apes and the rising thereof, let me show you them. (Major spoilers.)

1) You're probably going to hear a lot about Andy Serkis's performance. Here's the thing: I think it would be a good performance if we were seeing Actual Human Dude Andy Serkis playing, say, a guy who was raised by apes. What makes it great is the way he plays Caesar as having human feelings, but expressing them in very simian ways--grunts, head shakes, hand gestures that we can read, but are still a separate language. And the facial effects are good enough--transparent enough, as it were--that we get to see that come through. (If you've ever watched the extras on the Lord of the Rings DVDs, you might have been surprised by how close the Gollum/Smeagol effects are to Serkis's actual expressions as he grovels around Elijah Wood in his mo-cap suit.) The technology is advanced enough that the performance is greater than the sum of its parts--both of which are already pretty great--because we're given this character who's too simian and too human to fit in with either world. If this were a straight-up drama, it would be about the chimp having to choose one or the other (probably involving a misty goodbye scene, as a poignant soundtrack swells). Because it's sci-fi, it's actually about the apes becoming a third race, in a way. Because Caesar doesn't fit into either world, he creates a new world in his own image. And that's what makes the performance so great--it's something you wouldn't be able to get out of a trained chimp or a human in a monkey suit, but rather a third kind of acting altogether. The movie basically lives or dies on whether the ape effects work, particularly in closeup, or not, and they do.

2) Right after Caesar got all emo and sign-asked if he was a pet, because he saw a dog on a leash like his own, I wish James Franco had just, like, taken him to the zoo and shown him kids in harnesses.   






I might have teared up a little

4) Everyone else is good enough--James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo (although--can no one write a THINK ABOUT THE MONEY!! character who isn't an everlasting dick?), Brian Cox--but their job is basically to just move the plot forward competently. I mean, Brian Cox in particular seems to be phoning it in, but then, he just doesn't have much to do. "He's not human, you know. Not without a court order. Sure, money. Whatever, I don't care." Tom Felton was reasonably American-accented, except for a couple of lines that sounded hilariously Draco Malfoy for some reason. I forget what it was, but he was yelling at the chimps, and it's like I heard "MY FATHER WILL HEAR ABOUT THIS!!" without him even saying it. His character was also over-the-top douchy, but then, I don't know what else I was expecting from a guy named "Dodge Landon." (Nice touch, movie.) Really, when he dies from trying to fight a firehose with a taser--I can't even blame that on Caesar; this guy is just too stupid to live.

5) "So this Alzheimer's drug cures humans and makes monkeys smart in a matter of hours? So smart that they know to look in your fridge for the aerosol drug they don't know you have? So smart they know exactly how to adminster it to the other apes? You can administer miracle drugs through aerosol cans? Do the Cheez Whiz people know about this?" Shhhhhhh. Don't speak.

6) The movie is remarkably true to the trailers, which I thought were pretty badass. It's not just good shots from the movie cut together into something deceptively awesome; that's actually what it's like, just for a lot longer. I was seriously impressed just by how well the movie was made. I have no idea what directorial rock they found Rupert Wyatt under, but this movie is so much better than it had to be. I wouldn't have thought I would give a shit about a Planet of the Apes movie, but it's beautifully shot (S'up, Andrew Lesnie? I thought that golden-green tone looked familiar), paced briskly but evenly, and has some really stunning images--a zoo fence dismantling into an arsenal of spears; chimps charging straight through a floor of offices like knives through butter; leaves falling ominously from a rustling canopy of trees, in a scene that is better than all of The Happening put together. I liked that the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't just there to have a landmark in an action scene; there was a reason the apes needed to get across it, they used the architecture to their advantage, and the entire sequence shows that they were smart enough to. Also, there are a number of AW SHIT Y'ALL moments when the Apes actually Rise, which I always enjoy.

7) The Contagion trailer, which ran before the movie, has a couple of major spoilers in it, or so people have complained. I'm guessing they're referring, primarily, to one of the leads dying halfway through it. Watch it anyway. If you don't get it in front of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, come home and watch it. It is a minor stroke of genius to pair that trailer with this movie, because basically, that trailer is what you need to imagine happening after the credits show you the spread-of-infection map, for lack of a better term. That's the interesting thing about the movie--it ends on a heartwarming note as the apes apparently escape to the forest, which confused me, because this isn't Rise of the Redwood National Park of the Apes. But then, during the credits, we see what happened with the jackass neighbor that the dying lab tech sneezed blood on, and you realize--the humans' scientific carelessness has created a virus that empowers the apes but also totally, totally screws over mankind. It's not the apes that are going to bring us down; it's our own hubris--an insistence on reaching too far, too fast, well-intentioned or not. (What's that great line from Jurassic Park? "They were so busy trying to figure out if they could that they didn't stop to ask themselves if they should"?) Well, and also the apes. They have spears now, after all. And we dropped a lot of automatic weapons on that bridge. Also, apparently they've figured out how to ride fucking horses. But the apes are just the ones who are going to be left to pick up the pieces. And, you know, enslave us, and whatnot.

Someone pointed out that this doesn't exactly fit with the way the 1968 movie describes the fall of humanity ("We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up!"). On one hand, there's nothing to say that that didn't happen--God knows what kind of global conflicts might happen once society starts collapsing in a blood-sneezing panic. On the other--I have a feeling that this relates to the continuity of the Planet of the Apes series much the way that X-Men: First Class relates to the existing X-Men franchise: it kind of doesn't. I mean, there are little nods and in-jokes, but I've heard that both of these movies are essentially reboots to start new series. ("I imagine the next film will be about the all-out war between the apes and humans.") I mean, maybe, that's where "We finally really did it" will come in, who knows. I'm just saying, they've already planted the "we did it to ourselves" element.  They've just managed to sneak that implication in there in a way that makes this an entertaining summer movie and not a complete dystopian downer. Yet.

Anyway. Two opposable thumbs up, would see again. 

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