Friday, 16 May 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - like the worst movie EVER

Rise of the planet of the Apes
The best reviewed film of 2011

Most of us don’t really remember much about the original planet of 
the apes, and fewer of us still have bothered to sit through
the sequels. This is because they’re camp, silly films with high if terribly unrealistic concepts that are enjoyable once, then just sort of disappear into the clouds of memory where we keep fluffy things and pictures of rainbows we don't admit we kept when we were nine. Rainbows are awesome forces of nature and I defy you not to find them such.

Anyway. So, obviously we don’t care how the apes evolved, the fun of it is that in this film, they have and it’s probably the fault of man or bad town planning or some vague thing like nuclear war.

The makers of this flick believe two things – in a film with nothing original to say about anything, which lifts entire scenes and lines from all the other movies and calls them in-jokes, they are doing something new; and that “Deep Blue Sea” never happened.

To explain – the plot of Deep Blue Sea is as follows – genetic scientists create a compound that, when applied to the brain, not only allows it to repair itself, but actually betters it, therefore creating a greater intelligence in the host brain and better cognitive abilities. This is being created to help altzeimers, and being developed by an obsessive genetic scientist because her father has the disease. They test this on sharks. The sharks rise up and attack the humans, who only have themselves to blame. The money is being provided by a black man.

That is the exact plot of Rise. The only difference is, in Rise, the black fellow is the big baddie. And to compound things, he’s English. That bastard. And because they want a sequel to the prequel, they don’t blow the monkeys up at the end.

So the film starts in the jungle – a bunch of CGI pixels are running through the forest, just frolicking in an impossibly large group, having the time of their lives, free, free, free, swinging and probably throwing poo at each other. Suddenly, a bunch of black men come charging in, with their machetes and their knives and their nets and their guns and their big black greed ( see, the film patiently explains by casting James Franco as the white obsessive scientist, the blacks are motivated by greed and a gutter-level intelligance based on narcissistic self preservation, while the whites are driven only by a desire to help the human race, just like in real life, yo. )

They sell the CGI pixels to the corporation Franco works for, and we cut forward in time by zooming into one of the cgi pixels eyes as it emotes much like a human might if it was a cgi pixel. That same CGI pixel is doing well at a test involving CGI pixels being moved around CGI pixels. This is exciting to James Franco because the pixel is showing signs of massively increased intelligence. He runs to the bad black english-man to go to the board and get more money. Only the black english man can do this because he speaks the language of greed. But oh no!!! At exactly the same time as James Franco is saying just how awesome his compound “running time of original planet of the apes” is, the cgi pixel suddenly goes mad, beating up stuntmen and throwing them around, then running through windows, smashing into the boardroom just as the board are about to vote in the positive. Such bad timing. They vote in the negative, and decide that the only course of action is to destroy all the cgi pixels they bought from the bad black men and pretend like nothing happened. This of course is like throwing out your DVD collection because Rise of the Planet of The Apes is shit.

But see, the cgi pixel was running mad because – unknown to the entire force of scientists who have been carefully monitoring the cgi pixel for what would appear to be months, the cgi pixel was pregnant with a smaller version of a cgi pixel and then without anyone knowing, gave birth to a baby cgi pixel without any blood, or mess, or anything. THAT’s how good “running time of the original planet of the apes” is. But now all the cgi pixels are to be murdered and disposed of, something I imagine would be somewhat more expensive and damning than actually continuing with the research. But that’s why I don’t run a gentic science laboratory and evil-because-he's-black and english man does.

So James Franco takes the baby home and with absolutely no knowledge as to how to raise a child, let alone a monkey, manages to raise it for three years while looking after his sick – and presumably getting worse – father. The cgi pixel grows up like Eric Stoltz in "The Fly 2", really quickly for pacing reasons, and all genetically compounded because of his mother – called Bright Eyes which is what the monkeys called Charlton Heston in the original, you see. It’s great to have decades-old blueprints for your original movie.

Over the course of the next two years James Franco and his increasingly hooded eyes test the serum on his dad – as all movie sickness-solutions do, it works and then it doesn’t. He falls in love with a medical love interest – Indian, because all doctors are indian, even vets ( but not genetic scientists obviously, since God was white ) – who is stunned by the cgi pixel’s ability with sign language, but not at its remarkably human facial expressions that accompany the signing. This amazing capability for facial expressionism generally appears to be a clever, Shakespearean style aside for the audience. Score one for the makers of this movie for comparing their CGI pixel to Hamlet. Nice ones guys, for exhibiting such cleverness. It's not like you're so contemptuous of your idiot audience that you would believe that without such facial expressionism they couldn't understand all by themselves what emotions to feel. Right? It's Shakespearean. Right?

So! The cgi pixel exhibits signs of being a monkey by climbing trees, then gets all sad with its confinement in suburbia. Then daddy goes all crazy, drives his neighbours car, who attacks him. The cgi pixel scrunches its cgi face to show the idiot audience its angry then attacks the neighbour by yanking his finger off with his mouth. The finger then magically grows back on because the makers of this movie are toothless and don’t want it to be all dark and stuff, man. Then Ceasar the cgi pixel gets taken away and put in what appears to be a decent place for cgi pixels – but can only be bad because its run by Hannibal Lektor and Draco Malfoy. Long story short, these guys then repeat scenes from the original planet of the apes, abusing the cgi pixels to the point that it makes them angry and 
want to escape. Weird.

Okay, the plot from there is this – James Franco tells the bad black English-man that he tested “running time of original planet of the apes” on his daddy. Bad black english man, in a complete reversal of his earlier decision to exterminate all the cgi pixels ( based on protecting the company etc etc ), suddenly throws all caution to wind – despite being told that it works but it doesn’t work – and forces Franco into testing a new viral strain of “running time of planet of the apes” on more cgi pixels. That black greed is getting the better of him, I guess. Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy is mean to all the cgi pixels, but especially to Ceaser the cgi pixel – even going so far as leaving Ceaser’s clothing on because, for some reason this will upset the other CGI pixels. And indeed it does, with one in particular establishing his dominance by tearing off Ceaser’s shirt ! That bastard. He’s probably black. Eventually Ceaser has enough, escapes, goes to James Francos workplace, steals the viral strain of “running time of original planet of the apes” and makes all the other cgi pixels as smart as him. They “rise up”, and attack San Francisco exhibiting not only signs of increased intelligence, but have managed to gain working knowledge of the human world in order to turn it against the humans. They clearly haven’t wasted their time in the muggle jail. Obviously, in between being abused by the murderer of Dumbledore, they’ve done a lot of reading and googling and stuff. That must be in the deleted scenes though. They probably cut that stuff for pacing.

Okay, enough on the plot – lets face it, it’s called Rise of the “Planet of the Apes”, that title alone should tell you where all originality and thought went. What’s galling is how they sell this – in the same way Spielberg sold “Jurassic Park” – as in some way being Science Fact. They think they’re being smart. They believe that someone slipped “running time of original planet of the apes” in their frappachinos. But Spielberg never believed his own bullshit – he’s just a master salesman.

The major, major flaws then.

Starting with the humans. There are only goodies, and baddies in this film. James Franco is so damn nice that – even though he approves of testing his drugs on cgi pixels – he’ll take a baby cgi pixel home and dates an indian girl. Meanwhile, the villains are old school dastardly – sneering and mugging and making sure we know just how evil they are by grinning evilly when only we the audience can see them. It gets uncomfortable at times.

Everything is a set up, so if we see Malfoy abuse Ceasar with a hose and a tazer, we just know for sure what’s going to happen next. If the cowardly but decent brother doesn't approve of Malfoy's actions, well lucky for him Ceasar is actually one of the goodies and will let him live. See? He's better than human! And – spoiler alert – guess what happens to the bad black English-man. 

Yes!!! He crashes in a helicopter and is pushed off a bridge by an evil cgi pixel he sort of, kind of abusive to earlier. One weird thing is how the film treats the previously finger-bitten neighbour throughout – a cgi pixel invades his home and endangers his children, then the mad father breaks into his car and smashes it up, then the cgi pixel beats the shit out of him and sort of kind of bites his finger off. But we’re supposed to think – what a prick. Fuck that, his neigbours are from hell, they are spawns of the deveel – he should move out quickly and firebomb his house. Instead he stays and has infected blood spat over him by a doctor with a beard. Go figure. Even when they're not CGI pixels, the characters feel like cyphers.

Everything is movie archetype, completely unimaginative. The alzeimers is typical movie alzeimers – daddy is goofy, thinking his son is back in school and taking a test, or insistant on going out driving. Sometimes he gets violent because forgetting what age your child is does that. He’s also white, so he spends his time trying to regain his ability to play classical music on the piano. I’ll bet that mean black english man listens to hippity hop.

And how are we expected to believe that James Franco is a genius genetic scientist? He can barely get his lines out from those lovely drooping eyelids of his, let alone repeat dialogue about dna. Why is it in films like this and the dreadful “Splice” they always hire actors who clearly have no idea of what they're saying? If THEY don't understand it, how the hell are we the idiot audience supposed to? One can only suspend disbelief if one understands what part of disbelief one is supposed to be suspending.

Draco Malfoy meanwhile is so evil that the only time he smiles is 
when he’s abusing cgi pixels. Don’t worry, he gets his. Obviously.

To the monkeys then.

The cgi pixels are never, ever believable as monkeys or apes or whatever they’re meant to be. This is because – aside from the obvious flaws of cgi, in that it just can’t fool the eye yet – they’ve gone for Andy Serkis and his Motion Capture – sorry, performance – stylee. The failing in this is that the monkeys come across as far too human, right from the beginning, even before they’re dosed up on the megadrug. 

This is clearly to give the monkeys emotive empathy – because obviously we the idiot audience are so stupid we couldn’t possibly sympathise with a normal simian protagonist without it exhibiting human expressionism. So, for example, when a monkey is sad, it doesn’t just hang its head, or show it through slumped body language, it has to express it with an overly emotive emoticon face. 

Another major flaw with motion capture – sorry performance – is that the actor has studied a monkey, and then approximated it. Therefore, it becomes mannered – he scratches himself because he saw an ape do it once; but there’s no reason for it in the context of the moment. It means the creatures are always performing, even when just sitting there, or when being driven in the back of a car. It becomes the equivalent of an extra making a face in the background of a major plot development. Your eye is drawn to it and you lose the movie.

Now, this human expression could be excused in Ceasar because he was born with “running time of original planet of the apes” for acid for blood or something. Not that that would explain why he would suddenly have more muscles in his face, or whatever, to produce all these expressions but okay, I’ll give it that he’s been living with humans since birth and could’ve picked it up with his massive intellect etc. But all the monkeys in this film regardless of whether they have “running time of original planet of the apes” for blood or not, exhibit these human signs, in their body language, in the way they emote for the camera, in particular the scarred test-veteran who will probably end up being the cgi pixel villain in “Return of the Rise of The Planet of The Apes” when that gets made.

The film-makers have made the executive decision here to make the animals more human so that we the idiot audience can sympathise with them, not quite understanding that we the idiot audience often sympathise with animals more than humans, so by giving the creatures overly-human expressions and body language, they become creepy, not more empathetic.

So oh yeah, then Ceasar speaks. Because, you know, they spoke in the original films and like Indiana Jones acquiring ALL of his tropes at the beginning of “Indiana Jones is beginning to Look Old and the Last Crusade,” something that was simply a fun part of the lore of “Planet of the Apes” has to be idiotically spelled out by cowardly film-makers.

He says “No” a bunch of times at Draco Malfoy who is appropriately shocked. You would be I guess. Apparently “No” was the first word ever spoken by a planet of the ape according to lore. 

Just for the record, monkeys don’t have complex vocal chords. They can’t form words, which is why they don't as a rule. It didn’t matter in the original because they had evolved and anyway were clearly more human than monkey or whatever. Okay, looking for logic in a film about smart monkeys might be churlish, except that the film-makers clearly think of themselves as making an important warning against the evils of letting black english men dabble in genetics. But why would the wonderdrug also change the monkey’s vocal chords ? And even if it did, unless there’s another deleted scene where Ceasar practiced speaking first thing every morning for the last two years, when did he learn how to speak ? See, when kids learn how to speak they do so by mimicking their parents, or television. They do this for two years or so, constantly burbling noises while their parents – unless they're Fred West and Mrs West his wife or something – encourage them with burbling of their own. Evolution.

( Incidentally, a strange side-not – in the original films, the idea seems to have been that as a result of nuclear war, mankind wiped himself out, giving monkeys the opportunity to evolve, perhaps assisted by the fall-out of radiation left by the war, perhaps simply by virtue of being the dominant species on the planet. Either way, it is a meditation ultimately on evolution. Whereas the film-makers of this monstrosity seem to be quietly pushing a more religious throughline, consciously or otherwise – in this film, there is no evolution, only what man and therefore God creates. By going against lore, by stating that rather than possibly nuclear assisted evolution creating the Apes of the future it was a man-made virus, the twatanine filmatists are essentially stating that man has gone against God, thereby presupposing that there is a God, therefore pushing a somewhat religious agenda that wasn't present in the originals. ( Ceasar could even be seen as a Jesus Christ figure, born in a stable, fatherless, taken in and nurtured, misunderstood even as he becomes the prophet of a new age - his name even sounds like Jesus!))

To the effects themselves then. I don’t know how else they could have done it, but the cgi just doesn’t work. The film is so in love with its fx that it consistently directs the monkey action scenes completely differently to the human scenes, with long motion control shots following the cgi pixels around cgi rooms, up cgi stairs, into cgi attics, or up cgi trees. It all looks very cartoony and unrealistic mainly because it lingers so lovingly when, with proper set-ups and edits, it could have passed muster. Call this the curse of Weta, who clearly directed these scenes with no specification from the actual director of these films ( who in the extras on the DVD just seems to be completely in awe of everyone around him, of the original films, of Andy Serkis and of everything else to the point that he didn’t feel any need to put his own stamp on proceedings. ) At no point do these CGI creatures convince.

Did the masked actors in the original Apes films? Sure. A mask allows the audience to project their own feelings onto the actors. CGI performance hammers it home so an audience doesn't need to think.

And what is this wonder-drug anyway ? It not only seems to make these cgi pixels more intelligent, but makes them act more human. Why would it do that ? Especially since, when the scientist who begrudgingly killed all his pet cgi pixlels at the beginning gets sprayed with the viral strain, he just ends up dying. So it’s obviously only a cgi pixel strain. But the cgi pixels just act more human, even down to having Ceasar doing that gesture GIs do in Vietnam films to make the troops stop and look in paranoia around the trees. Maybe Ceasar is a fan of “Platoon.” Bet he thinks he’s Willem Dafoe though, and not Tom Berenger. Actually, come to think of it, Tom Berenger has the same scar in platoon as the cgi pixel villain that kills the black English-man in the helicopter, and has that shotgun in the deleted scene and knows how to use it! That’s because Tom Berenger is bad-ass. Remember that scene when Charlie Sheen saw him crying over the death of his men and the futility of it all? That was so awesome, it totally threw you for a loop 'cause the whole time you were thinking, this guy's just EVIL man, just EVIL, and then you totally see him crying and it all kind of makes a weird, complex sense. “Platoon” is a pretty god damn good movie.

And here’s a thing – these guys are just bad scientists. When someone gets sprayed with the viral strain of “running time of original planet of the apes”, he’s never tested or quarantined or watched with paranoid curiosity even after he sneezes up blood. No one thinks – hey, this guy’s been off for two days, wonder if it has something to do with the viral strain of “running time…” he snorted. Wonder what's for dinner. Hope it's Bacon Beans and Mash. I love potato. And these are the geniuses. No wonder earth blew itself up and paved the way for the planet of the apes to take over.

There’s such a ridiculous belief on the behalf of the film makers that audiences need to be spoon-fed, that nothing is left to the imagination. All set ups are completed, all baddies are dispatched with and goodies given another day to fight.

There’s a circus orangutang who knows sign language ( obviously having been taught by a literate clown or something ) and is already intelligent enough to explain to Ceasar the cgi pixel that he learned sign in a circus. He doesn’t feel the need to explain what a circus is though. He obviously senses how world-knowing Ceasar the cgi pixel already is because of Google. Respect.

The cgi pixels don’t just exhibit signs of intelligence, they exhibit signs of preternatural telepathy – learning to ride horses, using guns, talking, doing vietnam movie gestures, all without practice or reference points. They probably learned it from the internet in that deleted montage scene scored by Moby. It also makes them even more human, which I guess is the point or something.

What is infuriating about this film is, it never needed to exist in the first place. The original movies explored the lore in a truly satisfying way, cleverly working exposition about their history into the characters interactions with each other, into semi-believable dialogue. As each sequel came out, they made – often hamfisted – attempts to discuss “issues.” Racism, sexism, beastiality as a viable option – all formed the subtexts of these movies.

This movie says – move over Cronenberg – when man acts like God, God gets vewy vewy angwy. And monkeys will kill you by jumping off a bridge onto a helicopter and then smashing the window of the helicopter and then the helicopter will crash and then another monkey will kick man - still IN the helicopter off the ledge the crashed helicopter is precariously balanced on. Fuck God.

So why make this movie if you have nothing new to add? I mean obviously it had to be more than just cynical re-appropriation of a brand name people are familiar with to make money, right? Right you guys? Right?

At the end of the day, this film is as bad as “Transformers” and for exactly the same reasons. It’s frustrating and anger making that this seems to be what people – critics included – are looking for, even as they congratulate themselves with high fives for hating the “Transformers” movies.

This film was the best reviewed movie of 2011.


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