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Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Blu-ray Review

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes


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3 stars

Going back to the start of Pierre Boulle's mythology, Rise of the Planet of the Apes sets the stage for the ape revolution and delivers their first uprising.  Half the movie is welcomed sci-fi soul courtesy of snappy WETA effects and a great performance from Andy Serkis (The only digitized superstar of our lifetime, folks).  The other half is stuck in prequel hell with gnawingly cutesy references to the 1968 original and a parent-approved attitude toward its violence and social thought.  Gone are the days of real science fiction, folks.

Stylistically, the movie doesn’t really fit into the pre-established legacy of five films (1968–1973) that were produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and included one 14-episode television show and animated cartoon series.  Names are the same, but the faces have changed.  Yes, indeed, for all its know-how in the sequel/prequel department, it seems Twentieth Century Fox rebooted the glossy look of the wrong Planet of the Apes movie…kinda.

The narrative, written by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, opens with the capture of a group of African chimpanzees who are crated and sent to San Francisco for testing on an Alzheimer's Disease cure by Will Rodman (James Franco) and his team of scientists and Sys-Gen.  For Rodman, the experiments are a little more personal as his father, Charles (John Lithgow), still living with him, is suffering from the ailment.  Right away, real human heart is injected into the film making it thoroughly relatable and sincere.

Born under rule of these needle and gas experiments, one chimpanzee displays incredible brain power and, long after the experiments are shut down (after a nasty accident), finds himself at home with his creator, Rodman.  Caesar (Serkis) is the perfect son.  Loving and loyal, he spends his days with Rodman and Charles who is quite well thanks to some illegal activity from Rodman.

Until, after a few years of domestic bliss, his memory starts to slip again. Here, the herky jerky handling of the science fiction element begins its obvious march toward a head-on collision.

Caesar notices it first and corrects the poorly handled fork in his hands while at dinner.  Rodman recognizes it, too.  Caesar gets smarter.  Charles does not.  It seems humans, after five years or so, build up an immunity to the drug Rodman has developed.  The breaking point is reached when Caesar tries to protect Charles from their annoying neighbor and, quite suddenly, Caesar’s domestication is over.  Locked up in a holding cell by authorities, Caesar struggles to understand why he can’t return home and why he is suddenly tortured by his new human handlers, John (Brian Cox) and Dodge Landon (Tom Felton).  Yet, he soon realizes just how smart he is and, aided by a couple hundred ape cohorts, thus begins the ape uprising.

While never as surprising or as poignantly edgy as it ought to be (see the original 1968 classic), Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in spite of its wretched title, is a bit of a soulful journey through human and monkey relations…for at least 30 minutes.  Scenes between Lithgow, Franco, and Serkis are next to perfect for establishing sentimentality.  This is the real argument for performance capture in filmmaking.  It’s honest and real and the effects are pretty CGI stunning…time will tell if they continue to hold up.  That’s the real fear in relying on technology to tell a story.  Practical effects are much more stable and have better longevity.  So, for a good chuck of the time, you are with Franco and Serkis and Lithgow and the family dynamic is driven home.

Moments between the three will bring you close to tears; however, Caesar is not a pet and soon enough he won’t even be lovable.  And when his world changes for the worse, he changes the world for the worse.  Out of the need for survival and freedom.  Still, our own need for survival through the movie needs more real characters not just elbow-in-the-ribs references to the original film.  The inclusion of Franco’s ridiculously unbelievable girlfriend (Freida Pinto), the laughably silly “there’s the leader” moment of Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), and the mishandling of scientist sidekick Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) and his arc are all incredibly weak and undeveloped.  And when you have a powerhouse like Brian Cox as Casear’s capturer in the movie, there better be a reason.

There isn’t one.

The only battle scene is the one on San Francisco's fog-soaked Golden Gate Bridge.  It is heavily featured in the advertisement campaign for the movie.  It’s a tight little number and features some pretty gnarly CGI work from WETA, but the ‘hospital white’ sterile camera from director Rupert Wyatt is unwilling to show the extent of the violence.  This should be bloody and never shy away from the moment of uprising the film has been leading to.  Caesar just wants to get to the Redwoods to be home with his new family.  The humans just want to put the unsafe animal down.  The humans should be pissed.  They should feel more threat from these apes.  That is never truly communicated, so the epic scope of the battle is more of a made-for-television mentality.

There are lots of wasted moments in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and lots of moments that will melt your heart.  While unchallengingly enjoyable, the prequel never confidently thumps its chest in ceremonious triumph.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t that strong of a motion picture.  The design of the apes is the only confident aspect the film has going for it and those, in my opinion, rely too heavily on Tim Burton’s 2001 re-imagining of the original to make clear exactly what version is getting rebooted here.  You have nods and lines from the original film, yet the creature designs look too much like Rick Baker's prosthetic makeup for actors Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Paul Giamatti and they aren’t even the same characters.  Weird and confusing all at the same time especially since Conquest of the Planet of the Apes already covered the rise of Caesar in 1972.

When earnest science fiction and paternal hearts fail, Rise of the Planet of the Apes turns its brain off and coasts with too many insipid characters and a couple of side stories that, while interesting, only show support for Twentieth Century Fox’s idea for a prequel trilogy rather than servicing the immediate needs of the narrative.  It isn’t entirely a failure, but it was my hope that Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be at home in the similar forest of the 1968 original.  Unfortunately, this ape prefers its science fiction in modern day captivity.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Rise of the Planet of the ApesMPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Director: Rupert Wyatt
: Pierre Boulle
Cast: James Franco; Freida Pinto; John Lithgow; Brian Cox; Tom Felton
: Drama | Action
Memorable Movie Quote:
"We're talking about huge potential for millions of people."
Apes will rise
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date: August 4, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
December 13, 2011

Plot Synopsis:

A single act of both compassion and arrogance leads to a war unlike any other -- and to the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The Oscar-winning visual effects team that brought to life the worlds of Avatar and Lord of the Rings is breaking new ground, creating a CGI ape that delivers a dramatic performance of unprecedented emotion and intelligence, and epic battles on which rest the upended destinies of man and primate.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc

5 Stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 13, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy; BD-Live; D-Box
Playback: Locked to Region A

Flawless AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. Picture retains the subtle grain of the film stock, is rich is colour and depth, and shows no sign of banding, edge enhancement, or noise in the darks. Sound is aggressive and well dispersed through the speakers, creating an immersive environment for the living room viewer. Extras are a good mix of short featurettes, trailers and two commentaries from Wyatt and the writers. Not extensive for an auspicious restart to a long loved franchise, but not bad.



  • Audio Commentary by Director Rupert Wyatt
  • Audio Commentary by Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
    • 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 Neighbors Finger
    • Will Ignores the Risks of an Airborne Mutated Virus
    • Rodney Gives Caesar a Cookie
    • Rocket Gets Hosed by Dodge
    • Caesar Destroys the Lab and Koba’s Attempted Revenge on Jacobs
    • Caesar Pushes Helicopter
    • Koba with Shotgun
  • Pre-vis for The Future
  • Capturing Caesar – Script to Screen
  • Studying the Genius of Andy Serkis
  • Multi-Angle: Rocket Cookie Scene
  • A New Generation of Apes
  • Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries
  • Breaking New Sound Barriers: The Music and Sound Design of Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Ape Facts
    • Chimpanzee
    • Gorilla
    • Orangutan
  • Character Concept Art Gallery
  • Three Theatrical Trailers

{2jtab: Trailer}


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