Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I saw the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I am deeply impressed.

I honestly was expecting a great movie. I was not expecting a powerful, moving, and in some ways, important film.

It was all of that.

Yes, I'm tired and impressionable and a ganglion away from my raw emotions right now, but the initial trailers really mislead about what the movie has to say. There's deeper stuff here.

James Franco does a solid job. Well cast, emotive, and not over-used. John Lithgow is brilliant, and his portrayal of a victim of Alzheimer's is poignant and moving and appropriately hard to watch. No, it doesn't show us what it is to live with the disease day in and day out anymore than a movie sex scene shows what a lifetime romance is, but his portrayal is at least less tawdry.

And Andy Serkis gives one of the most powerful utterances I'm heard in a film in a long, long time.

But what's important about a science fiction movie with apes?

I dunno -- maybe what it says about medical ethics, humane treatment of lesser creatures, family love versus obligations, desperate hope in the face of futility, greed, playing god, and revenge versus reckoning?

You know -- light, sci-fi fare.

The film is a prequel to the 1968 film -- and yes, there are earlier entries in the franchise (I had to argue that point with a cheeky cashier who not only didn't understand The Customer is always Right, but she also doesn't know her classics).

Rise does a good job setting up the small set pieces needed to dovetail into Planet of the Apes, and other than one over-done piece of dialog, wasn't hamfisted about it (the extraneous bit of dialog was jarring, and would be OK for homage, but not prequel). On the positive flip side, there's a bit of nifty easter egg here for the first film's leading man.

There also are some neat solid artistic-but-not-art-house composition and shots in the film, if you're into that kind of thing (I am).

On a not-quite-minor point, I'm impressed with the movie's clever use of end credits as epilogue. Some, "But how did" questions get deftly answered in the graphics there. Cheeky Cashier missed that.

I recommend the film. It's not War and Piece, but it is a solid offering that pulls the bandage off of some unresolved debates, watch the small moments, and enjoy the fun ride.