Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rupert Wyatt: Slow Evolution of the Popcorn Flick (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of The Apes, 20th Century Fox, 2011.

Pierre Boulle's fanciful futuristic novel became one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of the 60s and 70s, which was apt as it functioned as a razor sharp social commentary on evolution and civil rights, among other things. Tim Burton re-envisioned the first film in the series as a darkened blockbuster in his style, which worked in its own curious way. The new prequel, which sounds unnecessary, reveals itself to be more of the same said commentary, however disjointed in its totality.

Director Rupert Wyatt moves on from his overlooked prison thriller The Escapist and crafts a fluid piece of studio fare which avidly materializes the rich promise of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's multi-layered script. Scientific ethics, questions of evolution and a clash of species bristle within a fascinating plot line involving a scientist played by a reliably charismatic James Franco and a super smart chimp named Caesar (played brilliantly through visual wizardry by Andy Serkis). The emotion which seeps through the big budget is all the more remarkable for the morality it underscores, which is rare in usually tepid or braindead Summer fare. The first half of the film is unmissable though uneven.

The elasticity of Wyatt's images are wrapped in the saturation of Andrew Lesnie's gorgeous style, and buoyed by Patrick Doyle's pulsating score. Yet, despite the intelligence of the entire design and Serkis' magnetic turn as a chimp, the picture falls apart in its third act. In place of what should have been a rip roaring climax, we have a belabored, shrug inducing reliance on action cliches which don't feel right here, having come after the popcorn profundities which proceeded it.

Thankful as we must be for producers, writers and a director who refuse to insult our intelligence, the seeds have been planted to hope for better, that the evolution has only just begun.

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