Thursday, 25 August 2011

Capturing the Emotion - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(Spoiler Warning! If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now!)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an awesome movie.

Sure, the technology for this kind of thing has been around for a few years now, but what elevates this beyond other CG heavy flicks is that the special effects are integrated so well on an emotional level.

Of course, watching the revolution of an army of ‘clever’ apes on the screen is great fun, but for me, the crux of the film hinges on the central character Caesar’s emotional state to explain why he acts the way he does and the path that ultimately leads to the apes taking over.

And he does this. Just through his physical acting and facial expressions.

Andy Serkis needs an oscar for this.

For those of you who don't know, Rise was filmed in a similar way to Avatar or the Uncharted games, where actors are mo-capped and facial performances recorded at the same time. So everything you see of Caesar in the film (bar the ridiculous ape stunts of course) is Andy Serkis’ performance – and in my opinion, this blows Gollum out the water.

As well as Lord of the Rings, Serkis played the title role in King Kong and Monkey in the game Enslaved (which you can read about here) which pretty much makes him the go-to guy when you want an ape in your film.

In fact, if you think about it, Rise couldn't be made (well) any other way. Humans acting as apes in prosthetics would be stiff and too rubbery (remember those unmoving lips from the original Planet of the Apes films?), real monkeys would be a nightmare to wrangle not to mention their inability to accurately act the emotions (which as previously mentioned makes this film so great).

The only other option is animated CG – but that alone wouldn't be enough, you need the human in there – the human side of Caesar as he grows in intelligence. The human side so we can relate to his emotional state and be with him on the journey he takes throughout he film.

Which makes the ‘No!!!!’ moment more shocking than ever – the entire audience literally gasped at the cinema where I saw it.

Other things I like about the film include sly nods to the other Apes films, such as news of a rocket going missing in space, the Orangutan character (Dr.Zaius, Dr. Zaius!), Caeser riding a horse, as well as that iconic ‘damn dirty ape!’ line popping up.

So although the action and the spectacle is enjoyable to watch (the police attempt to hold off the advancing apes on the Golden Gate bridge – duh, its only the world’s biggest climbing frame, what did they think was going to happen?), the emotional core and how it was brilliantly realised through motion capture proves to be the most arresting element of this film and allows it to rise above all others to be the best film of the summer.

23 Aug 2011

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