Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt)

Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Just when Hollywood is being continuously filled up with useless prequels and countless spin-offs, here's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" looking at us with eyes all straight and determined. Filled with awe-inspiring sequences that reminds me of the first time I saw the gigantic wonders of Spielberg's "Jurassic Park", it's a 'make or break' film that may easily solidify and further cement the fact that the 'Planet of the Apes' franchise is long dead and gone. But guess what? With what this film has achieved with its intelligent narrative and surprisingly compassionate emotional exposition, it re-integrates itself into the gallery of other science fiction greats and dare declare its reverberated pulse.

At least from what I've watched in the original Franklin J. Schaffner film, the first "Planet of the Apes" film relies on the lonesome breath of its human characters (particularly Charlton Heston's character) because with apes around you and nothing more, where else would you? It is the sense of emotional neutrality that separates this film from the said 1968 film that has also able to give this prequel a hair-raising feel of both suspense and warmth.

But before anything else, the film, directed by Rupert Wyatt with an ability to back his already compelling narrative with balanced kinetics and drama, of course assumes that you already knew that Earth and the titular planet, at least in its make-believe reality, is the same (thanks to one of the greatest cinematic twists in movie history). In fact, that's basically what this film is all about: the establishment of how apes has taken over the world and why. But what makes this film stand out, though, is its switch of perspectives without touching the chords of its already finely-toned dramatic impartiality.

We may feel sympathy towards the apes from time to time, but this film incurs its strength more by means of empathy, which cannot be achieved into great effect if not because of Andy Serkis' remarkable motion-capture performance as the aptly named primate Caesar (after the great Roman Emperor). We thought that his role as Gollum was the towering and unprecedented milestone in his career, but this film offers great contest that some may think twice. His Caesar holds its own with its distinct sense of tenderness and logical brute force.

It's a fair belief that CGI characters, no matter how feverishly dramatic they can be, still will never equal that of a real actor's mark. Serkis' Caesar is different, and so was the other primates. There's something uniquely powerful in their ability to exercise the meager traits of simple humanity that they seem to quietly re-invigorate the nuances of being human. And balanced by a strong lead role by James Franco as Will Rodman, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is an utterly convincing tale of compassion and connection amid an immense evolutionary barrier.

Supporting roles include Freida Pinto, whose performance quietly shouts of 'generic leading lady', John Lithgow, who gave a brief but resonant one as Will Rodman's father, and Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. Oh, sorry, as Dodge Langdon. Talk about stereotype casting. He's been through these 'bullying' and all for 8 movies. Come on, move on, mate.

The film, although advertised more for its visual effects, is still more about the tension of the build-up rather than it is about the climactic siege of the Golden Gate Bridge. True, the final action setpiece left me and all the other viewers in utter awe, but the scene when Caesar defiantly shouts "No!" for the first time as his tongue finally reaches the capacity of human language, has inspired the audience around me to utter a resounding "Whoa!"

If such middle scenes can simulate such reaction, you know the film's doing something right. And how more can it be right? By immediate standards, this is how you do a prequel. With a miniature Statue of Liberty and the Icarus spacecraft on the side. Fully aware of its source film and gratefully so.


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