August 14, 2011

Movie Monday: Planet of the Apes

We saw the new Planet of the Apes while we were home last week...oh my word, I miss the Warren Theater. But that's a post for another day. While it's not great cinema (neither were the originals) it was well done and a good watch.

Quick summary: James Franco is a scientist testing Alzheimer's medicine on monkeys apes. During this process, one of the monkeys apes they test on has a baby monkey ape, which inherited the effects of the drugs and has the increased mental capacity they are looking for. Sadly, something goes horribly wrong and all the monkeys apes are put down. Franco saves the little baby monkey ape and raises it at home. His father, suffering from Alzheimer's, names the monkey ape Caesar. As Caesar ages, and his mental and emotional capabilities mature, he starts seeing how hostile the human world around him really is, and decides to change things.

The thing I was impressed by most was how they were able to make Caesar, a mostly non-verbal character, so sympathetic. It's not automatic, or just because the "big bad humans" test on animals. (More on that later) That is, it's not the circumstances that make you sympathize with him per se (we don't sympathize with villains who are killed), but rather that he is, as a character, sympathetic.

One of the funniest "criticisms" I read online was that "the monkeys looked too fake." Really. Exactly how would you suggest they train 50 some-odd monkeys apes to sign and talk and respond emotionally on-command? For CG, I thought it was pretty impressive.

It's been a long time since I've seen the originals, so I still had some questions at the end. Not so much that I hope they make more....because I don't. That would be a disaster. One is enough. Especially since we already know how the story ends. Similar to watching Valkyrie. I kept hoping they'd actually get to kill Hitler, then suddenly remember, "oh that's right." One thing that was weird was, whenever the monkeys apes had some victory over the humans battling them, a good section of the audience applauded. I think they forgot that the monkeys apes aren't on our side, that this doesn't end well for us. But oh well.

I can't leave without mentioning John Lithgow, who plays James Franco's father. He absolutely tears your heart out as a man struggling with the late stages of Alzheimer's. A lot could be said vilifying James Franco's character for practicing his drug on monkeys apes, but it's not done because he wants to get rich. He just wants to save his father, so we forgive him for it. That's one of the flaws of the story, I think. When the original Planet of the Apes storyline was conceived, well, animal testing wasn't revealed until the third or fourth movie, and that was in a time when it wasn't illegal, so it didn't have the same dark undercurrents. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I wouldn't be alive without animal testing. Infant heart surgery was practiced on stray puppies like my Jeb multiple times before they performed it on a human baby. Just throwing that out there.

So, there you go. I'd give it a solid B, maybe even a B+. It's a very emotional movie with lots of good effects. If you don't go see it in theaters, it's definitely worth a rental.

We're now just over halfway into the movie year, and coming out of the summer lineup. So I think it's a good time for a poll, before the holiday movie season starts. So, answer below:

What was your favorite movie of 2011 (so far)?


  1. Mind you, my vote is based on not having seen quite a few of these movies. Not for lack of wanting to, but I'm in a small town in AUS, and I missed Pirates, when it was in the theatre. :( My vote might change, once Captain America arrives in our theater. I quite enjoyed Hoodwinked Too, though.

  2. I did not want to see this one at all. {I really do not like movies with monkeys in them} I may have to check this out now, once it is on DVD. Thanks for the review!

  3. I'm still not sure I want to see it. I know the Mark Whalberg {spelling?} version was BAD, but I didn't really care for the original either. Luckily Joe went to see it with a friend a week ago so I didn't have to endure it. Monkeys - excuse me, APES - taking over the world isn't exactly a movie I care about seeing. =P

    HP 7.2 is definitely the best movie of 2011 so far. Such a good ending. I'd love to go see it again.

  4. I probably won't see this movie because I have a deep passion hate for James Franco and usually don't watch anything with him in it.

    I loved Harry Potter!!!! I also really loved Bad Teacher.

  5. I voted for Other - Crazy, Stupid, Love. I watched it while Collin had staff duty one night and it was the perfect movie to watch by myself - no friends, just me and a big bucket full of kettle corn. :)

    I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes and loved it. Collin introduced me to the original a few weeks before and I loved that one too - I had never seen it before.


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