Friday, September 9, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Rise of The Planet of the Apes

As a child of the 70s, I grew up with the "Planet of the Apes" films. I was attracted to the Pop Art of the whole concept, the sensationalistic oddly neon feel of the films and the way they turned things upside down. I never thought about Evolution or how man is less noble than the ape ( as we often appear to be) I simply liked the films. They seemed shiny, colorful and glaring. There I was with Dr. Zaius, Cornelius and Zira and the humans were invariably self important. That was part of the fun.

The new, digitally epic "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" has come to The Tropic at last to give us our fix of evolutionary Karma. For those who are younger, it will be a new trip.

This version has James Franco, who plays a scientist named Will. Will has sincere compassion for chimps. When a new brain drug is tried and one of the apes goes bonkers and gets violent, Dr. Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders all the ape subjects to be put to death. Sleepy-eyed but determined Will finds adorable baby Caesar, played by veteran fantasy actor Andy Serkis, although you might not know it-- he has CGI effects to enhance him. Adorable Caesar may be, but he is a bit spooky. Watch for those leering glares and eerie green eyes and you'll see what I mean. Caesar is dazzling and cute as he leaps about the house and it is a credit to the film that despite the somewhat haunting and scary CGI look to Caesar, Andy Serkis makes him into a real chimp that we care for. Some scenes when Caesar is left alone will tug at your heart, virtual or otherwise.

The best part of the film is when Caesar is young and vulnerable. He interprets his family as being under attack and there is range and empathy in his action and motion in his eyes. I felt it. You can even feel the anxiety as Caesar learns things at a breakneck pace, yet still with the poignancy of a child.
With the second half of the film however, I felt I knew what was coming: A kind of "Apes Unite!" Back are the leering looks and the concentrated glares that seem strangely uniform and mask-like from chimp to chimp with little variety of expression. The orangoutang however is the exception. There is character in his eyes.

When he signs to Caesar about his predicament, the apes are like two fellow cons waiting out prison. It is a good scene full of endearing humor. Then it gets noisy with the throttling and crunching of some wise ass humans, most of them well deserving of their pulp fate. Yes, the apes take over the city and scare everyone to death. But the most fun is watching pompous humans get their comeuppance. And also catching references from the original 1968 film: watch for the tv set at the primate center. And a real sadistic moron utters the famous line: "Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape!"

After all, even though its 2011, some things are just classic and still remain.

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