Movie Review: Rise of The Planet of the Apes: One With a Real Story

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Coming to the theatres August 4, 2011 will be the prequel to Planet of the Apes.  Presented at the Beckman Auditorium of Cal Tech's Pasadena campus, we were privy to some of  the clips.

Rise of the Planet of the  Apes takes place on present day earth as scientists, testing chimps and gorillas as they ready for human testing of a drug to cure Alzheimer's Disease.  After one ape has a violent outburst, the funders demand the research be shut down. 

Only as the scientists are dealing with the now dead animals, do they find a baby gorilla and realize that the mother was merely protecting her offspring.  Will Rodman (James Franco) had never been an animal lover but when presented with the baby, agrees to take it home for a bit and names him Caesar. 

Director Rupert Wyatt

He soon realizes how smart Caesar is.  He allows the ape to grow up thinking he is the human.  Everything is great as the ape bonds with the family.  The turning point comes when the confused old grandfather Charles Rodman (John Lithgow) is attacked by a neighbor after a car accident.  Wanting to defend his family, Cesar jumps from the window and strikes the assailant. 

With their secret out in the open, Will is forced to take Caesar to a primate holding facility.  The sadness and expression in the digitally enhanced animal's eyes (played by Andy Serkis) as he realizes he is being left alone, is amazingly heart wrenching. 

As time goes on, the monkey realizes that he is not a human yet he doesn’t fit in with these apes, either.  

Soon, he rises to the top of the power clique and when taunted by the human workers, Cesar takes matters into his own hands, instigating an revolt.

 A more complete story than either of the previous films, this movie is unique because, as Claire Richardson of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation International says, not only does it once again call attention to the plight of these still endangered brilliant creatures but it is one of the few films where no live animals were used (or abused.)  Neither were there any humans in monkey suits and wearing monkey make up.  Techniques have improved so much since the last two movies that it's possible to do realistic digital animals. 

Claire Richardson of the Dian Fossey Foundation and Dr. Stephen Quartrz

 On the panel were Claire Richardson, Dr. Stephen Quartz, Rupert Wyatt and Joe Letteri.  The moderator was David Cohen from Variety

 As a neuroscientist, Dr. Quartz's research explores why and how we make decisions and how we think.  "We want the scientific aspect of any movie to be plausible." 

 Joe Letteri of Weta Digital, with numerous awards to his name, is responsible for Avitar, the Lord of the Rings series, King Kong and now the Hobbit.  His amazing work, along with the actors, helped to make the digital animals seem emotional and lifelike.

Joe Letteri of Weta Digital

 Director Rupert Wyatt, excited to be part of the project, was on board from the moment he read the script. "I knew that not only was it a great story, but it was better than the first two. It's the story of the oppressed.  Caesar becomes the Chi Guevara of the ape world." 

 Actor Andy Serkis spent months studying the gorillas in the habitats and learning their movements and ways so that he could make the animals see realistic.  "A lot of acting is done with the eyes."  If anyone has mastered the use of this performance capture technology, it is Andy Serkis.  "This technique is very similar to stage acting." 

David Cohen of Variety, moderator

 The story is more than just talking animals.  It's an emotional journey of how animals are often treated.

 Produced by 20th Century Fox, it should be a memorable movie.  I'm looking forward to it in 3D. 

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