Plot: What’s it about?
When I first saw the ads for Rise of the Planet of the Apes I had to think if it was the “new” series or if somehow Fox was making yet another installment in the original series. This wasn’t the smartest assessment as the original “…Apes” films are nearly forty years old now. Then again, it’s been a decade since the re-make of the original starring Mark Wahlberg so I think some minor confusion was to be expected (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself). Whatever the case, I guess it’s fairly evident that I’m not the biggest fan of this franchise. Until now. I’ve never been a fan of talking animals in movies even when it’s expected like in Babe or the more recent Zookeeper. It just freaks me out. At any rate, I am a big fan of James Franco and despite his performance at last year’s Oscar ceremony, I’ll still continue to see the films that he stars in. So we’ve got a well-established franchise, the current “It” actor in Hollywood and super-intelligent primates. This is Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) is in the midst of searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This hits close to home as his father (John Lithgow) is a shell of the man he used to be. Rodman is doing experiments on chimps and is getting some positive results. But after a few have some adverse reactions, the project is cancelled and Rodman finds himself nursing a baby chimp at home. The chimp’s name is Caesar and is exhibits signs of extreme intelligence and as the years pass, his intelligence grows. After an incident Caesar is brought to a primate reserve (and evidently those places do exist) where he’ll live with other apes, monkeys and gorillas. He starts to resent Will and becomes more accepting of those around him. Caesar quickly adapts to his new surroundings becoming a leader of sorts. You see, there’s a battle on the horizon and the apes long to break free of their “prison.” Will San Francisco be taken over by our primate friends or will Dr. Rodman and company find a way to put the smack down on them?
Ok, I wasn’t sure what to expect when seeing this movie but I’d heard that it was actually quite good. And after viewing it I’d have to say that I concur. The film benefits from a very strong script and James Franco essentially carries the film from a “human” perspective. Rise of the Planet of the Apes somewhat thwarts convention in the sense that movies with anthropomorphic characters might be misconstrued as, well, “cheesy.” Thankfully this isn’t the case. There’s enough plot development to keep the action and suspense moving and the ensemble cast does a fine job as well (including John Lithgow, Tom Felton and Brian Cox). Given the critical acclaim that this movie got I don’t think we’ll need to wait another decade for the next installment and after watching the ending credits, I’m sure that this cliffhanger ending was put in place for a reason. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Movies in 4K are both good and bad. Yes, the expanded color range is a good thing, but sometimes, especially in movies with a lot of CGI (like this one), it adds a “too” realistic element. The 2.40:1 image for Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks pretty impressive and is what we’d expect from a major studio, big budget film. Colors are strong throughout and the thing that really impressed me was the detail. The increased level of resolution is more noticeable so the increased visuals do show. The CGI on the apes is barely noticeable, we can see the individual hairs on Caesar. Black levels are very strong as is contrast. It does look better than the Blu-ray…in spots, but it tends to add a bit too much at times as well. An improvement? Of course. But this entire issue is about marketing, not giving us the best image possible.
Audio: How does it sound?
This would have been a prime opportunity to include a new Dolby Atmos mix, but sadly the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack from the Blu-ray is what we have. That said, vocals are strong and well-focused and there’s just enough action to engage all of the surround channels. There are a few explosions, several fight scenes and even a climatic finale on the Golden Gate Bridge of all places. We also get a very imposing score that amps up the tension level as the apes start to think for themselves. Like the video, there’s nothing I can really find fault with when it comes to how this film sounds. On a technical level this delivers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One – Ultra HD/4K
The only supplements that appear on the 4K disc are the audio commentaries. The remainder of the supplements are on the included Blu-ray disc.
- Audio Commentaries – A duo of audio commentaries, the first with director Rupert Wyatt and the next with Rick Jaffa and Amanda silver (the screenwriters). Both commentaries have their pros and cons, the cons in the first one being that there’s some unusually long periods of silence. The more engaging track is with the screenwriters as they tell us their influences and the overall story and character motivation.
Disc Two – Blu-ray
- Deleted Scenes – These are rough in form and showcase the acting “talents” of Andy Serkis doing his “ape thing.”
- Mythology of the Apes – We get some cast and crew comments as they pay homage to the original films and what they’re trying to accomplish here.
- The Genius of Andy Serkis – I’ve got to give the guy credit, he’s pretty much the “it” guy when it comes to motion-capture acting. This showcases him even further.
- A New Generation of Apes – The execs of the movie explain to us what it took to bring Caesar to the screen – again.
- Scene Breakdown – Using your remote, you can switch between different incarnations of the scene, from rough to final cut.
- Character Concept Art Gallery – Concept images of several of the apes in the film can be viewed here.
- Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries – A featurette showing how the Golden Gate Bridge finale was shot and compiled.
- Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle – We get a candid interview with the film’s composer, who details his motivations with the score.
- The Great Apes – If you’ve ever wanted to know all about chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans then you’ll start here…
- Theatrical Trailers
- Sneak Peaks – Trailers for other Fox titles.
The Bottom Line
I’d kind of forgotten about this movie and it took the arrival of the 4K disc to remind me that it existed. I really enjoyed it. There’s a certain “campy” look and feel to the originals, but these new films are very well done. Unfortunately Fox’s Ultra HD version offers only a minor upgrade in picture quality with everything else being the same. If you already own the Blu-ray – keep it, as this is just marketing fluff for the next installment.