Sunday, September 11, 2011

Radically Boosted CGI

Once I sat down in the theater for the highly anticipated Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I couldn't contain my geeky mind. How will the special effects look? Who is doing the score? This movie has a lot to live up to considering its' predecessor. And no, I'm not talking about the 2001 remake.
    If you have seen the 1968 original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston, you realize what retelling the story means to fans. It must be done well and must not be a copy of the original. Thankfully, this movie explains the process of how Earth became a planet of apes. The character Will Rodman, played by James Franco, is a scientist searching for a cure to Alzheimer's disease, not only for the company he is employed by, but also for his father, who suffers from the disease. Will and his team experiment with medicine on apes, which makes one in particular more intelligent. All of these events lead to one ape, Caesar, who Will is close with, discovering that the apes bend to the will of the humans. Caesar realizes that this must be stopped and hostility between man and ape ensues.
    Weta Digital, the special effects team that created Gollum for Lord of the Rings, worked on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Andy Serkis, who actually provided the movement and voice for Gollum, brought Caesar to life in this movie. The CGI in this film has made the character of Caesar and all of his ape companions believable. Often this type of imagery is used to create robots or explosion scenes, but this story uses it to humanize an essential non-human character. The CGI was very impressive and took great strides in its credibility. This film, although not a remake, reminded fans of why they loved the original. A few mini tributes were added throughout the film. Caesar's mother is named "Bright Eyes,” a tribute to what the apes called Taylor, Charlton Heston's character. When Caesar is in captivity he is often treated in the same manner as Taylor was when the apes experimented on humans. About three lines are direct quotes taken from the original. And finally, my favorite homage, a glimpse of a Charlton Heston movie plays on a television in the background right before a suspenseful breakout from captivity by the apes in the 2011 movie.
    Although I was enamored by the production of special effects and storytelling, there were one or two things I could have done without. There is a scene where the character Dodge Landon, who works at the Primate Sanctuary where Caesar is kept, decides to let his friends tour the cages where the apes are held. His friends are all drinking beer while Dodge harasses the apes. The girls in this scene act stupid and screechy, while the boys act macho and idiotic. It seemed like these characters had nothing better to do on a Saturday night than get drunk and go look at monkeys. This part of the movie felt unnecessary and boring. The rest of the film I thoroughly enjoyed, with its suspenseful and inspirational soundtrack and realistic imagery of the computer generated characters.
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes would please any audience member who enjoyed the computer graphics of Avatar or Lord of the Rings. To any fan of the original who is wary of seeing it, for fear of one of their favorite movies getting ruined, I recommend that you see this one. A great effort was put forth when it comes to special effects and storytelling in general. This movie has made great strides in cinematic effects, but the story is not lost within them. The audience can relate to its main messages of self-empowerment and freedom as well. Rise of the Planet of the Apes will take you on a journey through believable CGI and memorable tributes that will leave you wanting to watch it again and again.

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