Worthwhile prequels are rare, in film or any other medium for that matter. Typically, filmmakers’ efforts at crafting prequels result in over-explanatory, pandering, cinematic tragedies. Just look at Dumb and Dumberer, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, or Star Wars: Episode I-III. As such, the prospect of a Planet of the Apes prequel, especially after Tim Burton’s abomination of a remake in 2001, struck me as somewhat less than promising. Much to my, and I think everyone’s, surprise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes not only serves as an excellent prequel, but is an all-around solid story with intense action and stunning visuals.
The events that lead to an Earth run by talking apes in the 1968 Planet of the Apes begin with Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco). Searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s, Rodman creates a drug that increases the brain function, and consequently the intelligence, of those treated with it, namely the chimpanzee test subjects. After one of his chimpanzee subjects wreaks havoc on the test facility, his project is scrapped. All but one of his subjects is put down, a super-intelligent baby chimp named Caesar (Andy Serkis) that Rodman takes home and raises in secret as a child. The journey of this sentient ape ultimately finds him at the forefront of an ape army in the film’s incredible climactic action sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge.
The apes here are rendered through computer animation built on motion capture of real actors, Serkis being the star of course. The realism of the film’s ape characters humanistic nuances, especially as their intelligence grows, represents not only an incredible technical achievement for the filmmakers, but a landmark in motion-captured performances. The brilliant realization of Serkis’ Caesar demonstrates that even computer-generated characters need a human performance at their core. Sure, there may be a few hokey lines in the opening and some slightly forced references to the original films throughout, but Rise is certainly more triumph than tragedy.
The video and sound quality of the Blu-ray release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is spectacular. The AVC-encoded video is consistently spotless and vibrant throughout and the dynamic 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio rises and falls in intensity to match the fervor of each sequence in very natural and engaging ways. Alternate audio tracks on the disc include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, and a French 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. The Blu-ray/DVD combo of Rise also includes a digital copy of the film in addition to a wealth of special features. These features include:
-the “Mythology of the Apes” featurette, which situates the film within the series as a whole and addresses the elements from the other films that the writers drew from in scripting Rise;
-“The Genius of Andy Serkis,” which celebrates and explores how the actor has become the premiere motion capture performer today;
-“A New Generation of Apes,” looking at the technical innovations employed by the filmmakers in realizing the apes through motion capture;
-“The Great Apes,” a three-part nature doc.-style featurette exploring the lifestyles of gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans;
-“Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle;”
-11 deleted scenes;
-a scene breakdown including early animation and motion capture footage;
-trailers and sneak peeks;
-& a character concept art gallery.
What’s more, there are additional features available for Rise through BD Live.