I didn’t follow that production and completely missed it until they released a first trailer. What I saw in that trailer was good. Not overwhelming but good. What I immedieately realized from the trailer was that the Apes are going to be full CG. And they looked amazing.
If we want to talk about this movie we have to go back to the original movie(s) (definitely not the one made by Tim Burton in 2001). The original ‘Apes’ movies were made in the 60s/70s. I always thought they were not superbly good but it’s actually the idea behind the movies that fascinated me. The original series consists of 5 movies. All of them tell you the story of how the Ape society works and how the Apes came to power.
The first two movies concentrate on showing the Ape society. Humans kind of degraded to neanderthals. Apes run the show, hunting humans for slavery and scientific experiments. Our Hero in part one is Charlton Heston. I dig him in this role. He completely fills it out to the last inch. His character is an Astronaut who accidently lands on that Planet and a timer on his Ship tells him he’s a few thousand years in the future. Soon enough he explores this world and very soon discovers the Apes and what they are. The clue of the movie was that in the end we realize that all the time we weren’t on a different Planet. We were on Earth!!! We see the Statue of Liberty and Heston curses mankind. Epic scene and one of the most dramatic in cinema history. Now the DVD of that movie completely gives away that moment by showing that scene on its cover. Ridicululous! First time watchers will now immediately know what’s going on. A shame!
In the second movie Earth blows up but three Apes managed to get on board of the stranded Spaceship and flee. That leads to movie number 3 and a not very convincing time travel plot. One of the excaped Apes is a pregnant woman. When she gives birth to that child it all leads to movie 4 where we see how the Apes start to riot and take over the Planet. Part 5 then isn’t worth to mention from my point of view.
The new movie is a different take on the fourth movie of the original series.First of all there is no time travel stuff involved. The Apes get injected with some experimental stuff that is planned to cure Alzheimer and gives them hyperintelligence. The new movie is very trimmed down to be as realistic as possible.
The movie starts with a sequence where Apes get hunted in a jungle and stuffed in boxes to be shipped to San Francisco. There is a evil pharmacy company who needs the poor creatures for testing. One thing they’re developing is a medication that shall heal Alzheimer. James Franco plays our Hero scientist and the leader of the Lab. He soon finds his first breakthrough and tests it on the Apes. Unfortunately a few things go wrong and the Alzheimer program gets nearly canceled. All the Apes get killed. Except one. Apparently one of the captured Ape ladies had a baby. Our Hero secretly takes that baby home. Soon he realizes that there is something wrong with it. It’s amazingly intelligent and gets more intelligent every day. So our Hero uses this chance to study it. Apparently the Ape mom, who got treated with the Alzheimer stuff, transferred the effects of it to her son. Caesar (the same name the Hero Ape in part 4 of the original series had) soon learns very fast and becomes aware of his surroundings and environment. We will realize that Caesar incorporates more human characteristics than most of the humans in the movie. Due to certain circumstances Caesar has to be removed into a special institution that keeps all sorts of Apes contained. Of course they treat the Apes not exactly friendly there. That’s also the first time Caesar meets his kind. He also realizes that they’re different since they were not treated with this chemical Anti-Alzheimer substance. There it’s very fascinating to see how Caesar adapts to circumstances and how he slowly forms a plan. He’s getting some of the Alzheimer stuff and makes the other Apes intelligent too. Early in the movie our scientist Hero brings Caesar into the Redwood forest and Caesar immediately falls in love with that place. It’s a giant forest with massive trees. Of course Caesar loves it. Now his plan is to take his new gang of Ape friends to that place. But they have quite a way to go.
If we want to talk about acting in this movie I can’t exactly talk about the human figures in it. These characters are kind of flat. The real stars in this movie are the Apes. First of all it’s important to say that all of the Apes were CG. Motion Capturing techniques and the great talent of an Andy Serkis (King Kong & Gollum) made Caesar work so good in this movie. It’s crazy how amazingly well integrated these Apes are into the real footage. Caesar pretty much steals the show of every single actor in that film. The amount of facial expression… all the little details that expressions are made of… are so well done! Of course there are certain scenes were it’s inevitable to see that it is CG. Nonetheless there are very many close up scenes of the faces of the Apes. And they looked so damn realistic. That’s an amazing achievement. From my point of view this movie, CG wise, ranks right along with District 9, Avatar and 2012. When it comes to the human actors then the only character worth mentioning would be John Lithgow. He plays the father of our scientist Hero and is the reason why our Hero is actually trying to find a cure for Alzheimer. James Franco falls really flat for me. What’s nice was to see Tyler Labine in this movie. He’s not playing funny here, no. He’s a serious character and he plays it very believable. Hope to see him in more productions soon.
So what’s the result here? Well, a very good and entertaining movie! Even if it falls into line with the ‘Summer Movies’ it still is probably one of the better and more intelligent ones this year. It’s no fireworks festival and the plot makes sense. Some good writing and amazing CG work. I personally hope they don’t start a series now. This movie should be left alone.
Go see it!