Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apes, Weta and a mouse: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I took the morning off to go and watch 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' with my son James today, his high school had a teachers only day so it was good to go and do something together. It's great having a teenage son into sci fi and we've got the stage where we can go as mates, although I'm sure he thinks its elder care, looking after me. I had been a fan of the original movie series which I guess at the time had been state of the art and when I saw them made good late night Friday movie viewing.

I thought the movie was gripping, well paced and the special effects that dominate the movie didn't dominate the movie if you know what I mean. There was so much CGI going on but thanks to the wonders of Weta it fitted seamlessly into the movie and you were able to suspend belief and think of the Ape stars as real, or as real as anything on film is. Occasionally with rapid movement you got a hint of blur that was a give away that this technology isn't perfected just yet, but apart from that all the pioneer work on live capture animation and all the work on King Kong paid off. I was amazed at the way in which facial expressions, emotions and personality were able to be portrayed in this virtual CGI artistry. The film about Apes was overshadowed by Weta ( an insect in ol NZ).

Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar for his work as Caesar, despite the fact he hides behind a CGI creation, he needs recognition for his amazing ability to do live action capture, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, King Kong, in Peter Jackson's King Kong and now in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It is a different kind of acting but he needs to be acknowledged for his pioneering this new acting medium.

Having said that the story line itself was great, there was  enough humanity to draw you into all the characters. John Lithgow showed real brilliance as Charles Rodman the main human character's father. The portrayal of a man suffering from Alzheimer's was captivating and the hope a certain drug being developed by his son and administered to him, was made so much more poignant by the way the character came alive again. Paralleled of course by the development of the central character Cesar.

James Franco was upstaged by most people and CGI characters in the movie and came across as wooden. What saved him was his devotion to Lithgow and interaction with Frieda Pinto.

Being a teenager James was quick to notice Tom felton, aka Malfroy from the 'Harry Potter' film series, playing, in a very type cast kind of way, Dodge Landon, a sadistic keeper at the primate house. Felton plays mean snarling teenager quite well and I hope he gets to show a wider range of acting skills in the future.

The film is a cautionary tale as the original movies were, not focusing on slavery and people being treated as equal as the original movies were, but rather on the danger of bio-research, and messing with genes and viruses. It does I think show us the pit falls of seeing humanity and our science as having all the answers. While secularism may see us as the reason for our own rise, this movie also shows that just maybe we will be the cause of our own demise. This is one of the roles that Science fiction plays in our society, it invites us to look at the best possibility and the worst case scenario:the Utopian possibilities and the distopian nightmare. I'm not a Luddite but I like the underlying wrestling in the movie between caution, and care and the desire to bring, what is in the movie healthy change, and sadly the need to return profit to investors. while main human character Will Rodman seeks a cure out of love for his father, there are deadly consequences.

The thing I found interesting was the way in which there were no stereotyping of good and bad. Apes were not all good and humans all bad or vise versa. the underlying problem of good and evil in ones character flowed across the species boundary. There were good humans and bad humans, and neutral humans simply caught up in the action, and good apes and apes bent on violence and revenge as well as simply wanting to be free. It seems science is not an answer to this most basic of problems.

I was amazed at the way in which despite knowing the apes were CGi'd that you were drawn into their world and their plight, I found myself siding with the Apes.

Yes, the film leaves itself open to another sequel, a battle for the planet of the apes, although without being a spoiler maybe the battle is fought not between Apes and humans, but a battle more in keeping with the research that was being done. The film also manages to keep the cyclic nature of the original series with references to ill fated missions to Mars. The movie,like a lot of Hollywood movies, can't resist in giving the game away, when Lithgow's character first meets the baby chimp, he can't help but quote Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, talking of all bowing down to Casar, I guess he had to get his name from somewhere.

In the end this was a good movie, it was good entertainment, in the Weta work it ascended to a CGI level of artistry, and it gave me some things to think about.

No comments:

Post a Comment