Friday, August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Chernin Entertainment, 2011. Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Andy Serkis.

Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller.

Question: Do you find it difficult to think about animal testing? Rise of the Planet of the Apes will probably make you ponder it whether you like it or not.

When I think about it there is a part of me that shudders. I am such a huge animal lover that it makes me ill to even think that it exists. However, I know back in the 1940's if Dr. Alfred Blalock from Johns Hopkins University didn't experiment on animals (dogs specifically) to help figure out the blue baby issue, I wouldn't be here today. You see, Dr. Blalock was the first surgeon to perform heart surgery and before that time it was thought of as impossible to operate on the heart. He was a pioneer. Two years ago I required heart surgery and am forever grateful for that research because it saved my life.

However, even with my own personal history, I still find it difficult to think about what we humans do to animals to better our lives. This issue is at the core of what Rise of the Planet of the Apes is about.  Will Rodman, played by James Franco, is a researcher trying to cure Alzheimer's disease and the lab he works for uses chimps for their research.

There are plenty of scenes with chimps being used to test experimental drugs and many of the technicians were tender and kind. However, there was one scene that was towards the beginning that slapped me hard with emotions. I wasn't expecting it but it just makes me think we humans are too quick to react when animals do what comes naturally.

The rest of the story is going to remain a mystery - yes, people that's how I write my reviews. You know that but I will talk a bit about some of the details.

First, let's discuss the acting. The best actor in the whole film was Andy Serkis. He was the actor behind the mask - so to speak. Ceaser, the main chimp in this movie, had all his facial expressions performed by Andy Serkis. This wasn't the first time this happened on film. Andy Serkis was also the face behind Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It was unbelievable special effects. Really!

Now I have talked about James Franco before and I was thoroughly pleased with him in 127 Hours, but in Rise of the Planet of the Apes I didn't really buy that he was this brilliant researcher desperately wanting to cure Alzheimer's for his own personal reasons. He also seemed a little young to be playing the part. It wasn't a distraction but he wouldn't have been my first choice.

There were other actors but much of the film shows chimps, apes and orangutan communicating that many of the human actors weren't on screen as much as they normally would have been. There are two actors in this film that I have to mention, a couple of my favorites were in this movie: John Lithgow and Brian Cox. However, both of them really weren't given a lot to work with for their characters - whether it was the writing or just not enough time on the screen.

The special effects were pretty spectacular. I could not tell - at all - if the animals were real or not. I am usually very particular and extremely critical of those details but this one did a pretty good job looking completely real.

The last part that I found credible is the overall story. The writers did a fantastic job putting together a scenario of why the movie is called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Plus, for you fans of the Planet of the Apes series - you will really like the ending and the homage to one of the other movies.

My favorite thing: The special effects. Oh, and the kitchen in James Franco's character's house was to die for!

My least favorite thing: That John Lithgow and Brian Cox didn't have larger parts.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 105 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

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