Published on August 4th, 2011 | by John Fleck0
Planet of the Apes Attacks
Now that Congress has supposedly solved the country’s debt limit problem, it’s only fitting that a film involving apes ruling the world open up the same week. Perhaps that’s a stretch, but this Friday, August 5 Rise of the Planet of the Apes shows at least one similarity; it’s a cautionary tale.
20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment present a newer concept of the 40 year old series, directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton,
David Hewlett, Chelah Horsdal, Brian Cox, and John Lithgow. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first “Ape” film to use the CGI effect and voice capture. While taking certain aspects from the previous plots, it is not a remake and is considered to be the original of what may be a new film series.
The film is set in modern day San Francisco where Franco plays scientist Will Rodman, who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease by performing tests on apes for a large pharmaceutical corporation. One of his beta subjects produces a little chimp named Caesar, and due to exposure in the womb to the treatment, young Caesar displays intelligence and behaviors unusual for an ape of any age. The study is then shut down after the apes show aggressive behavior, but Will secretly keeps Caesar and raises him at home where Will’s father is afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
As he becomes an adult ape (Serkis), wary authority figures have him quarantined but Caesar’s intelligence allows him to escape and he emits an airborne strain of the cure that infects the thousands of fellow Simians imprisoned with him. The prospect of a revolution, as seen through Caesar’s perspective (and who is the central character of the entire film) forces a confrontation between humans and apes, with the winner ruling the earth.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is very much a science fiction/action thriller with great special effects, but it strives to drive home an important message. â€œIt is about our civilization reaching a point of no return,â€ says director Rupert Wyatt. â€œEvents unfold through the eyes of Caesar, a super-intelligent chimpanzee who at a young age sees humans as being capable of wonderful things, like art and reason. And then he begins to see humanityâ€™s dark side; oppression, bigotry, and the ostracizing of what and who we donâ€™t understand.â€
A side story is the relationship between Will, his father Charles (Lithgow) and Caesar. Raised by Will, Caesar draws him closer to his father and a more humanistic view of life that was previously missing. â€œWill is a cold, isolated person,â€ says Franco, nominated for Best Actor in 127 Hours. â€œMost of his energy is directed towards his work. His father, Charles, is suffering from dementia so he moves into his fatherâ€™s house, which was once Willâ€™s childhood home, to take care of him. Being a caregiver is a role Will has never had to perform before and he must now be a caregiver not only to Charles, but to this baby chimp. As the story progresses Will becomes more of a person and less of a scientist, and starts to care about Caesar more than the success of the drug.â€
The use of the CGI technology of motion capture helps bring the apes to a level that audiences can empathize and interact with as if they were human. First used on a large scale by James Cameron in Avatar, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, a four-time Oscar winner, explains: â€œFor Avatar, Jim Cameron created a complete fantasy world that no one had ever experienced before. The challenge was a very different one, and in some ways, it was even more daunting. We applied some of the technology we developed for Avatar to create a real, recognizable world; modern day San Francisco. Everything; the apes, the locations, had to feel genuine because weâ€™re exploring a story thatâ€™s reality based and not straight ahead science fiction.â€
With Caesar being the star, it was important to employ an actor who was an A-lister in the world of motion capture. Which is why Serkis was chosen by Wyatt. â€œAndy Serkis is our generationâ€™s Charlie Chaplin.” explained the director, “By that I mean heâ€™s one of the very few actors around who has fully embraced the available visual effects technology because he completely understands the full potential of what it can achieve. I think some actors are intimidated by performance capture because they think itâ€™s separating their performance from the actual reality of the film, when quite the opposite is true. Andy understands that every little nuance; every breath, every little muscle movement that he gives on camera is visual exposition. Film is primarily a visual medium and if you are able to have your character tell a story with a minimal amount of words, then thatâ€™s ideal.â€
Serkis, who plays Caesarâ€™s character from a newborn to an adult has previously given acclaimed performances as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and as Kong in King Kong. â€œCaesar is one of the most formidable roles Iâ€™ve undertaken, both physically and emotionally. Itâ€™s one thing to play a chimpanzee, but to play one from infancy to adulthood; and a revolutionary leader…well, thatâ€™s quite another. But it was irresistible to me as an actor. Part of the journey is having played him as a toddler and the joy of discovery and then realizing that he has this intelligence beyond his years. Heâ€™s picking up on human beings around him and is sensing that he is an extraordinary gifted being and then realizing that the world can be a very brutal place. Caesar has intelligence foisted on him. He didnâ€™t seek it out. Thereâ€™s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, without him having asked for it.â€
This should be a fun movie. Special effects never used before in the series and a non-human as it’s main character will be a nice change from actors in makeup and humans fretting about their future existence. Now, I’m certainly not against medical breakthroughs in medicine, especially with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s. I hope this film doesn’t create a negative view of human beings trying to better their lives. But where it should strike home is addressing the arrogance and hubris of humans who feel the need to enforce their will upon others; be they apes or other species…and maybe even other humans.
[youtube EbCoDf44oCE 700 290]