I know that with the amount of money it takes to make movies nowadays, those investing in movie-making are anxious about whether or not their money will come back to them. One way of making them a little more comfortable is to go with an idea that's already been proven -- Smurfs, for example. I mean how many of us since 1981, when the program first aired on NBC, have been able to resist saying "Smurf you, smurf hole?" Maybe we said it in the privacy of our car during the morning commute, or while watching a paid political announcement during the elections, but we said it, and the Money People in Hollywood know we said it. From their point of view, our little indiscretion means that half the battle of getting us into a theater (and their money back in their pockets) has already been won.
Remakes, or reboots as they call them now, are safe bets. I'd expect to see a rebooted Gidget movie soon. Gidget Goes Goth perhaps, with the Gidget slutted up a bit and dealing with a few sexual orientation issues down on the beach polluted by evil corporate thugs whom Gidget and her friends confront and defeat with simple weapons that they purchase at the Army-Na'vi surplus store.
While you are waiting for that one, however, you can catch another reboot in theaters now -- Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It's been more than forty years since the original movie where Charlton Heston (shirtless astronaut) lands on a planet populated by scantily clad primitive humans whose women have nice hair, excellent strong and straight teeth and pretty darn good eye makeup, and apes who hold all the elected public offices and tenured professorships. I know that I am not spoiling anything by saying that the shirtless astronaut ultimately finds that he is on earth, and that the apes are simply filling the ecological niche left open when mankind somehow blew itself into extinction. The story captured our imagination back then, enough so that even after forty years, we remember it.
I don't know that this new movie is good enough to last forty years. The story is clever enough: it tells the tale of how the apes' rise to dominance began, in the time just before mankind wipes itself out. It is a somewhat dark tale, covering a lot of ground, but doing it well enough that although the plot rockets along, the story is clearly told. You know where you're going, you get there quickly, but it is a satisfying journey.
The star of the movie of course is the motion capture technology that allows Andy Serkis to portray the chimp Caesar with incredible realism, a far cry from the rubber monkey suits that made the original movie so memorable. The ability of Serkis to portray the emotional development of the chimp make this movie clearly Caesar's story, and the humans in the film are a merely supporting cast.
Speaking of the humans, if the film has an obvious weakness, it is the acting (or lack thereof) of James Franco, the allegedly stoned host of last year's Oscar's. Frankly, it would have been more agreeable to have switched his role with his co-star Freida Pinto and let her take the lead. It's still not clear how well Pinto can act, and her role gave her little chance to demonstrate anything, but she sure looked a lot better trying than Franco did.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good movie: a clever retelling of the original story; a quantum leap forward in technology that makes the reboot worth the effort; and an opportunity for Freida Pinto to be on camera. Grab your popcorn, settle in, and enjoy this fast paced science fiction thriller.
I've read numerous reviews about this movie, and the majority of them refer back to the original Planet of the Apes as though that was a pinnacle of movie-making history. Fact is, I saw the original only because Charlton Heston looked great in skivvies. And uhhh, well, I've seen it many times for the Charlton Heston factor, and because the horses used in the movie were so uniform that I wondered if they were all one breed or chosen for their uniform looks ... the story, even back then, was kind of lame.
We fast forward past icky sequels and Burton's dumbass reboot.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes unabashedly says (behind the screen) that this picture has nothing to do with Burton's film, and wipes clean the white-board of the previous franchise. New story, they say, new mythology. Thank you, Hollywood. The Tim Burton Apes was less than stellar.
Now why, when you want to do a fresh reboot of an iconic movie, you hire James Franco, I have no idea. If you have never seen any of his movies, nor watched his performance at the Oscars, then you might not know he can't act worth a damn. You will see this once again if you watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes. My advice is to not look at him. He can't act; focus instead upon the CGI character "Caesar" -- the chimpanzee who has been unintentionally been infected with a prototype drug designed to allow brain cells to re-generate and GENERATE in a laboratory attempt to treat Alzheimer's Syndrome.
All the chimps in the experiment are supposed to be euthanized, but Dr. Will Rodman can't kill the newborn baby chimpanzee. He raises Caesar in his own home. The formula which gave Caesar his impressive intellectual boost was applied to his mother -- the serum's effects can be transmitted genetically.
Caesar, in spite of his tranquil home life, is exposed to the reality of his existence -- he is considered an animal, not an equal, and when the going gets tough, he's put in a cage, with other primates who have led a life of abuse and exploitation.
Andy Serkis is brilliant in his CGI portrayal of Caesar. Serkis and the CGI crews are the stars of this film.
Overall, I found the film very watchable, and I enjoyed every fast-paced minute of it. Dr. Rodman's desperation for a cure for Alzheimer's struck a positive chord with me because my mother died of it, and I myself, like Dr. Rodman, would have done almost anything to get her extraordinary mind back.
However, the one bit of the movie that was really stupid was the mounted police being sent to quell the apes' exodus from the city. Horses will not deal with sudden apey smell willingly, and no mounted police would send their mounts against anything at a gallop in between cars stopped for an emergency. Somebody didn't know horses, or mounted police. And seriously, batons against gorillas? Definitely a non-thought-out scene.
Will there be more Apes movies based on this new origins story? I find myself hoping that there will be, and suspect I'll go see them if and when they come out.