As I was growing up, my father loved science fiction movies. I partially owe my love of that genre to him. When I was younger, I’d often find him watching Alien, Planet of the Apes, and The Terminator just to name a few. Mostly, they were the TV edited versions so there wasn’t anything too graphic for a child of my age, but they were certainly still fun to watch. Not long ago, I found myself differentiating between “good” science fiction and filler sci-fi. I find that the best examples of the genre have a message to convey.
In the movie, scientists begin using apes for their tests in an attempt to find a cure for human ails. The apes experienced certain side effects – mainly increased intelligence – yet this didn’t seem to raise any ethical questions to those in charge. The protagonist (an ape named Caesar) finds himself in a unique position as a direct result of man’s intervention. He is an anomaly – too smart to fit in with primates, but too primal to fit within human society. So another question is raised: if we had the power, should we be allowed to interfere in the evolution of another species?
The first images I saw of this movie were online; a short clip (maybe ten seconds) was released to showcase the effects that were to be used to animate Caesar. Before this, I was quite reluctant about another Apes movie. The last entry into the franchise, Planet of the Apes directed by Tim Burton was OK at best, but certainly nothing that would stand the test of time. Once I saw the clip of Caesar (and his facial expressions) I was instantly interested in seeing the movie. The trailers that were released later only served to cement my position.
Suffice to say that the trailers ended up filling me with high expectations. I’m glad to report that I was not disappointed.
The cast had worried me at first due mainly to the decision to include James Franco. I haven’t seen him in many movies, but his wooden performance in Spider-Man 2 still haunts me to this day. His portrayal of Harry Osborne was just terrible. However, in Apes he managed to give a solid performance as Will Rodman, the scientist who develops the “miracle drug.” His performance is nothing spectacular, but he certainly didn’t stand out as weak me. My only complaint would lie in the fact that there were some scenes in which I thought his character would’ve been more emotional, but that’s nitpicking. John Lithgow does a solid job in his role of Will’s father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The supporting cast is quite decent as well. However, there are two performances that really stood out to me. The first I’ll mention is that of Tom Felton; he works at the primate enclosure in which Caesar eventually comes to stay. By the end of the movie, I hated this guy. What an outstanding job by Felton in making his character truly despicable. Finally, the actor who steals the show is Andy Serkis, the motion capture actor for Caesar. The emotion that he is able to convey without using words is astounding. Every minute of the movie I was rooting for Caesar. I understood what he was thinking and felt his emotion to the point that there was no denying that if I were put in similar circumstances, I would want to react in the same manner.
The pacing of the movie overall was handled quite well. I expected the action sequences to be a larger part of the movie, but the creators proved that this was unneeded. Instead, we spent more time with Caesar and gained insight into his world, which ultimately caused me to feel sympathy for him.