Friday, August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

If you split the difference between the creepy weirdness of the original Planet of the Apes and the hollow slickness of Tim Burton’s remake, you might come up with something like Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rupert Wyatt’s reboot of the apparently venerable series is surprisingly modest, a rare summer epic that is actually human-scale—or ape-scale, perhaps. Usually once a budget hits a certain point, it’s all you can do to prevent a director from blowing up things willy-nilly, but Wyatt actually has a story to tell. A mediocre one, mind you, but still. Beginning as a loose remake of Frankenstein and ending as a catalogue of sci-fi movie clichés—pandemic paranoia abounds, as do sinister corporations with vaguely allusive names like GeneSys—the film throws together all sorts of inert elements in the vain hope of a reaction. Meanwhile, the human presence provided by actors like James Franco and Freida Pinto (speaking of inert elements) is all but nil, leaving all the film’s pathos to reside in Andy Serkis’ justly lauded motion-capture performance as the Ape Who Would Be King. The eerily life-like eyes of the digital apes are certainly impressive, but if the most expressive part of your film comes out of a computer program, something is definitely amiss. I know this is supposed to be a film about the downfall of our species, but is a little more humanity too much to ask?

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