• Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

    Released by: Fox
    Released on: December 13, 2011.
    Director: Rupert Wyatt
    Cast: James Franco, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
    Year: 2011
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    The Movie:

    Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 take on the Planet Of The Apes isn’t a sequel or a remake but rather a prequel that begins in modern day San Francisco where we meet a genetic scientist named Will Rodman (James Franco) who is hoping his work on viral strains will lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s. He takes his fairly personally as his aging father, Charles (John Lithgow), who lives with him, suffers from the disease. When Will starts to see regenerative results in the brain tissue of a female ape, he figures he’s onto it and so his boss brings in the investors for a meeting – but it all goes wrong. When they bring the ape in to show off her extraordinary abilities, they don’t realize she’s guarding her newborn baby and when she sees them as a threat to her child, she attacks. Of course this leads to a shutdown of the program and all of the apes are put down, except for that baby which Will takes home and raises in his attic.

    Will also starts using the drug on his father, who almost immediately shows amazing results and before you know it he’s back to his old self. Unfortunately, there are side effects. The ape, meanwhile, has grown larger and smarter thanks to the drug. Now named Caesar, he and Will become quite close until, when he sees Charles in danger, he attacks the man who lives next door. Caesar is put into a primate sanctuary where, after being mistreated, he escapes only to return with a few healthy doses of that mysterious drug which he unleashes on the primates in the sanctuary. Soon enough, hyper intelligent apes are running amok on the streets of San Francisco with the police, armed to the teeth, called in to take care of things.

    While James Franco may get top billing in this film, the real star of the show is Andy Serkis who, through the use of motion capture technology, gives Caesar some remarkably believable movements and personality. More than just a typical Hollywood CGI creation, the film lets us get to know Caesar and sympathize with him, but at the same time stops just short of really tugging at our heart strings. Instead, it lets us see how he grows, how he comes to realize that he is, in many ways, treated the same way as a leashed dog. Just as importantly, if not more so, we very quickly realize that Caesar isn’t going to stand for his imprisonment and it’s quite clever the way in which the writers show us his progression from cute, cuddly little monkey baby to the cunning leader of an ape revolution.

    Franco does handle himself well in the movie, however, once you get used to the idea of him playing a genius scientist – a role very far removed from a lot of the ‘stoner guy’ parts he’s played in the past. His back and forth with Lithgow, also solid here, is believable and moving and adds a needed human element to the film, much more so than the slapdash romance that’s tacked on between his character and a sexy veterinarian (Freida Pinto). It’s more likely, however, that you’re going to remember the simian characters here more so than the human ones, though the lines between the two understandably start to blur towards the end of the movie, obviously the point of the whole thing.

    The effects are done almost entirely digitally but they work well here, so credit where credit is due to the CGI technicians who worked on the picture. The first few minutes of digital monkeys are a little jarring but you get used to it quickly and they move so naturally thanks to the motion capture technology used that it’s easy enough to accept all of this. On top of that, you get some pretty impressive action set pieces, a script that’s smarter than your average big studio blockbuster and some nice nods to the original films that blazed the trail for this one.


    Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes looks gorgeous in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that presents the movie in its proper 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio. Clarity is top notch, especially in close up shots, and detail is excellent throughout the movie. Texture is strong, particularly on ‘real’ objects like cloth and plants and skin more so than on CGI beasties, but even there it remains impressive. Color reproduction is perfect, black levels are spot on, and overall it’s hard to imagine anyone complaining as the movie really does impress on every visual level that you would want it to.

    Audio options include an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and dubbed tracks in French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional subtitles available in English SDH and Spanish. The quality of the DTS-HD track is superb, with great dynamic range present throughout and loads of surround activity not just in the more action oriented scenes like the attack on the bridge but in the quieter moments as well. Dialogue stays clean, clear and razor sharp while bass response is plenty powerful and manages to anchor everything very effectively. A very aggressive mix but not overcooked, this is reference quality stuff from Fox – turn this one up load and take it all in, you’ll be glad you did.

    Fox has loaded this one up with extras providing not only an audio commentary with the film’s director, Rupert Wyatt, but also a second track with the writing team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Both tracks are informative and if Wyatt’s track gets a bit technical in spots, that’s okay as the writer’s track covers the more thematic side of things.

    There are also a host of Deleted Scenes included here:

    Alpha Gets Shot / Will’s Meeting With Lab Assistants / Will Discovers Caesar Has Solved Puzzles / Caesar Plays With Bicycle / Caesar Questions His Identity / Caesar Bites Off Neighbor’s Finger / Rodney Gives Caesar A Cookie / Rocket Gets Hosed By Dodge / Caesar Destroys The Lab / Koba’s Attempted Revenge On Jacobs / Caesar Pushes Helicopter / Koba With Shotgun

    Some of this material is actually pretty interesting and the bits with Rodney and Dodge might have improved that side of the story a little more had they been left in the movie.

    There are also a load of featurettes included here as well, starting with The Mythology Of The Apes (7:11) which is an interesting look at how the writing team tried to pay tribute to the original film series with some input from some of the actors as well. It isn’t all that in-depth but it’s interesting to see some of the little bits that have been snuck into the movie that long time fans of the franchise will appreciate. The Genius Of Andy Serkis (7:48) gives us a look at how Andy Serkis became Caesar in the movie through the use of motion capture technology while A New Generation of Apes (9:41) is more information on the use of motion capture and a look at the part that CGI played in the effects process for the film. Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries (8:43) is yet more information on the use of motion capture with an emphasis put on how it was used to bring the Golden Gate Bridge scene to life, while Composing The Score With Patrick Doyle (8:07) is an interview with the film’s composer who discusses the excellent work that he did for the film.

    Rounding out the extras are a Scene Breakdown section where you can use those nifty colored Blu-ray remote buttons to dig into some picture-in-picture material that includes motion capture footage and animation work, an interactive featurette called The Great Apes that gives us more information on the types of primates we see in the movie, a Character Concept Art Gallery, some trailers for the film and for a few other Fox properties, animated menus and chapter stops. All of the extras are presented in high definition. The disc is also Blu-ray Live enabled. As this is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, a DVD is also included in the keepcase which fits inside a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Fox redeems itself for the lackluster Burton ‘reimagining’ of Planet Of The Apes with this prequel, a film both stylish and smart and never lacking for entertainment value. Some strong acting compliments the effects and the storytelling and the presentation of the Blu-ray itself is pretty much perfect. All in all, a great release for a film wholly deserving of it.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!