Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The first time I saw the trailer for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the crowd at the L.A. Live AMC cinema erupted into laughter. I have to admit, that amidst the mass chortling, I myself let out a semi-audible groan. I could not fathom why 20th Century Fox would want to revisit the franchise when this latest entry into the series would star James Franco – who is plenty competent as an actor, but incredibly difficult to take seriously after some of his well-publicized shenanigans; and because the film would inevitably evoke memories of the disaster that was Tim Burton’s foray starring Mark Wahlberg back when people were still (for good reason) referring to him as Marky Mark.

My expectations for the film were low and perhaps this was a mitigating factor in my reaction to the movie, but I found it entertaining. The first plaudit I have to lay upon the film is that the digital effects are seamless. We know that great CG can make a movie (Avatar) and bad CG can cripple one (Green Lantern), but I think CG is most effective when you are not even aware that you are watching it. And such is the case here and what makes this fete even more impressive is that the protagonist is all-digital. And this leads into my second accolade for the movie.

The next best thing I can say about the film is that James Franco is not the star. Instead he plays a supporting character, albeit an important one because the star of the film – Caesar – is a silent one. To me, this is the kind of role where Franco excels – as key figure to plot advancement without the weight of the entire film on his shoulders. As for the rest of the cast, Lithgow and Cox are solid in limited role; Tom Felton plays a cheap man’s Malfoy without the accent; and Freida Pinto serves as little more than a pretty face.

I would recommend seeing this movie at the cinema, because there are some magnificently framed shots that deserve a proper viewing and as I mentioned before, the digital effects are great. Director Rupert Wyatt does a nice job of inserting a few cookies in the prequel to place it within the “Planet of the Apes” timeline, but I suspect that it was done so with a trilogy in mind – especially so since the film has spent its first two weeks in release atop the box office.


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