Friday, August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011) -- C+

Despite the best efforts of relative newcomer Rupert Wyatt, Rise of the Planet of the Apes can never vanquish a palpable sense of antiquity, that its discrimination allegory has not been properly evolved to deal with a "post-racial" America. Of course, only a self-congratulatory prick would use such a term to begin with, but Wyatt consistently neglects or, essentially, ignores what's required of him: reimagining beyond the CGI-ing of Apes, which is admittedly impressive. Call it a prequel to the 1968 original (the studio sure will), Will Rodman (James Franco) believes he's found the cure for Alzheimer's disease. Testing the drug on Apes (contained in a metal cylinder, which he conveniently keeps in his fridge at home, natch), the cause is particularly of importance to Will, since his Dad (John Lithgow) is battling the disease. Another battle takes shape in super-smart ape Caesar (Andy Serkis), who's given the usual rigmarole of animal abuse, abandonment, and admonishment, before seeking vengeance. Wyatt embraces the film's pulpy, B-movie roots head on, keeping things relatively small, intimate before the Apes do what the title says - this time in modern-day San Francisco. Nevertheless, in spite of some stirring emotional attachment to the monkey (excuse me, ape), little of this plays as anything more than yet another franchise aspiring reboot, equipped with rehashed mythology, exposition overload, and a cliffhanger ending. Wyatt isn't a director without detail (Caesar's ticking time-bomb adequately expresses the lasting scars of oppression), but he favors narrative efficiency (workmanlike is his bag) over avant-garde shocks and subtext. A perfect chance to make a genre classic given current social anxieties and debates, Wyatt ignores much of that, placing product over passion, more concerned with Ape realism than artistic endeavor.

1 comment:

  1. I think the film hits on the current sociopolitical situation in America. Essentially, the film is the story of the oppressed underclass rising up to usurp the ruling class who has either exploited or failed them.

    Note the film's main antagonist is the owner of a corporation. Then we get to the powerful scene at the end where Caesar rejects the leadership of his "father," a bleeding heart liberal whose intentions while noble were stifled by corporate and political red tape.

    Today in America, we find a people who have been failed by conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, all so our nation's legacy can be exploited and ultimately downgraded by the greedy corporations who keep our leaders in their pockets. Riots are beginning to take place in Western cities both in Europe and America.

    When I watched the film, the audience cheered for the apes. Fuck the humans. If they were not evil, they were worthless and ineffective. There was no concern for their human oppressors who were about to be overthrown and enslaved.

    James Franco clearly looked like he didn't want to be in this movie whatsoever, but I found Apes to be a rather powerful film about what is happening in our country today. And kudos to the filmmakers for using silent filmmaking techniques to really flesh out the story about the Apes. The scenes with the apes could have been more fx porn like we've been seeing all summer, but what we got instead was actual characters. Even minor characters like Buck the Gorilla were more fleshed out than most human characters in typical summer blockbusters.