Just finished watching Rise of the planet of the Apes – the prequel to Planet of the apes, and I must say, it was not entirely as I expected. Sure, the chimpanzee’s genes get modified by a promising drug and it goes on to lead its own primate army that eventually takes over the entire planet. That part is easy grasp just by looking at the movie title and its poster. The surprising part of the movie for me was how much of an insignificance that humans turn out to be. From the first scene to the last, at least one ape seems to be on-screen all the time. Not that I am complaining.
James Franco is an earthy actor who always makes his performance a low-key affair. In this movie, he easily plays second fiddle to Caesar – the main ape so to speak – and plays it very well. There are other characters in the movie, but they register only for a few moments. Frieda Pinto of Slumdog fame plays Franco’s romantic fling and she gets to say the usual corny things that are relegated to female lead roles. Tom Felton who played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter movies gets a small and forgettable role as a brat with a pinch of sadism who gets killed in a mildly amusing way. Even famous, remarkable actors like Brian Cox and John Lithgow only get fractional screen time compared to Caesar and his primate gang.
Andy Serkis plays Caesar, the lead ape. Now, take a moment to assume a comprehensive meaning to that sentence. That is the extent to which Andy Serkis plays Caesar. To say that an actual guy played a chimpanzee does not quite capture what Andy seems to have pulled off here. With every single expression, every turn of his head and twist of his limbs, Andy portrays a chimp in the most realistic form. Given that Caesar has almost no lines to say other than screaming and grunting, the range of emotions that Andy delivers is astonishing. To top it all, the Oscar committee has disqualified Andy from the Best Actor category since he does not show himself in the film. Although it sounds a lot like the Oscar committee slathering themselves with hot turd, this is actually good. Now we will all remember Andy’s great performance more so for being snubbed by the Oscars.
If you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that earlier I said that Caesar “almost” has no lines. Yeah, even though he is an ape, he does talk a few lines. One of them is a shocking and completely unexpected retort to the famous “Get your stinking paws off of me you damn dirty ape!”. It might even be a little funny while watching it for the second time. The last third of the movie is when the story moves at a rapid rate and there are some hair-raising action sequences. There are a couple of explosions and a lot of closeup shots of screaming chimpanzees. It’s so close that you could feel their fangy teeth popping out of the HDTV.
The ending is where I lost the movie. It gets all sappy and the apes stop behaving like apes and more like soap opera characters and Caesar, for no clear reason, gives a vibe of a charismatic leader about to annex SFO to the red wood forests. I guess that’s a lead in for their eventual take over of the world. Its an entertaining movie that is worth watching once entirely and may be just the action sequences the second time around. Beyond that its just another prequel for a story that Hollywood studios won’t let go.
[Post: 180 of 365] [Days Missed: 60]
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