RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
As much as people complain about Hollywood having a case of sequelitis, it was starting to feel that 2011 was having a case of prequelitis. And while I like a good prequel now and then, it’s a tricky film to make. But lo and behold, 20th Century Fox managed to release two fantastic prequels during the summer of 2011, both of which were far better than some of the sequels to their respective franchises.
The first prequel of the summer that defied convention was “X-Men: First Class,” which was loads of fun and delivered on the stagnating comic book movie adaptations. Then August rolled around, and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” defied convention again, coming out as one of the best films of the summer. And as award season approaches, we’re seeing a strong push for nominations for its special effects as well as a supporting actor nod for Andy Serkis.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” tells the story of Caesar (Serkis in mo-cap), a genetically augmented chimp who shows signs of amazing intelligence. He is raised by the scientist who created him, but when Caesar attacks the neighbor because he’s trying to protect his family, the authorities get involved. This leads Caesar to be placed in an ape habitat where he rallies the others in captivity to rise up against the humans.
One of the sub genres of science fiction that I love are the films that take place in a laboratory where the scientists think they’re helping humanity, but something goes horribly awry. Last year, “Splice” (which follows that basic premise) made it on my top 10 list. Now, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” gets this honor.
The centerpiece of acting in this film is Serkis, who gives more humanity through a motion-capture suit than co-star James Franco does with only a smattering of stage make-up. It is truly Caesar’s movie, and when the focus goes on the humans (including John Lithgow, who plays Franco’s father in the film), I lost interest. Fortunately, the focus is rarely off of Caesar.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” manages to be both science fiction and thriller. It also manages to be its own movie yet include some neat Easter Eggs that tip the hat at the original 1968 film with Charlton Heston. It may not be the best film of 2011, but it’s certainly one of the best science fiction films of the year, and easily one of the best sequels/prequels in the last several years.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD/Digital Copy disc, which has the film in standard definition. The Blu-ray itself includes 11 deleted scenes, scene breakdowns, character concept art, audio commentary, plus the featurettes “The Genius of Andy Serkis,” “A New Generation of Apes,” “Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries,” “The Great Apes,” “Mythology of the Apes” and “Composing the Score.”