There were some who said that the character Caesar (Andy Serkis), who is a chimpanzee (if who is the word), was worth the price of admission. “I mean, I forgot that it was computer generated.” Well, that’s half true and then whole true. Can you say that Caesar was computer generated considering he was played by an actor using motion capture? But it is detailed, the performance is great, and you do stop thinking of him as an interesting graphic. This all happens because this movie has a great story.
Now, that may sound like an offense to the technicians that made this movie possible. But the job they do is measured by the amount of time we spend thinking about their doing that job. How much time did I spend during Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) thinking about his “creators”? Probably about ten seconds in the very beginning of the movie. From then on, it was all humanoid drama. That’s what someone like Tarantino (or his lovers) won’t really get: movies, like books, work when uninterrupted by the author’s need to be noticed. Good job Rupert Wyatt, et. al., I didn’t even know you were there. Backhanded compliment, it may seem.
Andy Serkis plays Caesar, the child of an African chimpanzee that underwent medical trials for an Alzheimer’s therapy virus that repairs the brain. The creator of this virus, Will Rodman (James Franco), is (obviously) a scientist who pushes this research due to his own father (John Lithgow) is suffering from the disease. But Caesar’s brain isn’t repaired–that wouldn’t be the word for it even if it worked as expected, right?–it is enhanced. A little dose of the old juice also gives poppa Rod a kick in the onion department. He’s getting confused on Clair de Lune one day and jammin’ some jazzy number the next. Caesar’s mental capacity grows at a prodigious rate such that when he’s eight years old he get’s sent to the big house after a little assault and battery in defending grandpa Rodman.
From there, we have some jailhouse blues that, despite my joking tone, is done very well. Okay, so watching Caesar’s acrobatics journey through interminable trees, dangling housing accoutrement, or large bridges can get a little repetitive. But that’s only in hind-sight–if I watched in in 3D, rather than on the traditional plane, I would have screamed “CONTRIVANCE!” But, as it was, I took it as acceptable showmanship on the part of the CGI guys. So much for them knowing their place! Where’s the fire hose?
Draco..uh..I mean Dodge Landon (Tom Felton)–was that his name?–does a very strong turn as the bullying-cum-sadistic guard (for lack of a better word) in the primate chokey. You know what the Bible says: he who lives by the taser…uh…spoiler. The warden is Dodge’s daddy, played Brian Cox, who is almost too good an actor for the part (in terms of time-on-screen rather than quality). Obviously, he does the job well.
Speaking of jobs well done. Franco does his turn as the co-lead with enough medium depth that he is pareto efficient. (Look that up, punk!) While there were times, such as the penultimate moment, where there’s a little bit more on the line than Franco’s face seems to be aware. Would you really be that resigned if [mumble mumble mumble]? That’s a strike looking.
Is this movie going to win any Oscars? [Looks online…] Only one, it seems–Visual effects–and for time spent onscreen, it’s close to a sure thing. But then again, my theory of story-as-supreme isn’t the fashion in re Best Picture so perhaps going-unnoticed-is-success is equally tacky. Shout out to Germans everywhere. Didn’t get it? Oh well.
Why is the story great? Because you can relate to it. Trust strained, broken, being bullied and then accepted for all-out cunning, and finally an example of pure leadership to earn his name. Yeah, we can follow this story.
There is a detail that I feel the need to genuflect before. In this film, there is sign language. Whether it’s correct, I can only assume, but its translation is only helped along a handful of times by human dialogue. The rest of the time, we can only get it through the back and forth of two non-humans with their facial responses (except to those who can sign who probably had a prolonged private giggle). I won’t say I could follow it much of the time, but for sheer bloody nerve in giving no subtitles, this movie far surpasses the mental level of Planet of the Apes (2001) (a movie I liked until the last ten seconds when I sent my popcorn hurling towards the offending screen).
As a disagreeing Malfoy might have said, “Oh what rot, Potter!”