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Blu-ray Review Rise of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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A beautifully written and compelling backstory to the original Planet of the Apes series, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes offers an action-filled and yet poignantly immersive story fleshed out with state of the art special effects which make the prosthetic make-ups of the original series seem quaint by comparison. Incisive performances from live action and performance-capture artists give a grounded legitimacy to the science fiction storytelling here making for one of the year’s most memorable action-based entertainments.



Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2011

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec  
Running Time: 106 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish

Region: A

MSRP: $ 39.99 


Release Date: December 13, 2011

Review Date: December 13, 2011



The Film

4.5/5


Rescued from euthanasia by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) when his chimpanzee  mother goes berserk in front of a group of business investors at the lab, young Caesar (performance capture artist Andy Serkis) grows more cognizant and intelligent by the day thanks to the drug ALZ-112 administered to his mother when she was one of the apes being used to test a new Alzheimer’s drug. But Caesar’s natural bond with Will and his father Charles (John Lithgow) gets him in hot water when Charles’ rapidly deteriorating mental state causes a neighbor to attack him as Caesar springs to his defense. Imprisoned in an animal control facility run by the bordering-on-sadistic John Landon (Brian Cox) and his surly son Dodge (Tom Felton), Will has no choice but to leave Caesar there until he can figure out a way to get him back home, but Caesar takes matters into his own hands as he methodically figures out a way to not only escape himself but to also give his fellow apes a dose of the drug which can make them evolve as he has.


Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have written a script that plays great homage to the Apes films of yesteryear keeping their prequel as true to the story already told in the 1968 original movie (we even see the launch of the Intrepid supposedly carrying Charlton Heston to Mars which got the whole yarn off the ground) while fashioning their own history of Caesar’s rise to leader of the growing, powerful ape population. Though there are loathsome humans to be sure in their scenario, humans we fully expect to eventually meet their match for their putrid behavior and ill-treatment of the simians, the two writers keep things balanced by taking the time to show Will and Charles as compassionate, attentive care-givers to the young chimp, and director Rupert Wyatt uses every opportunity to allow us to see Caesar’s maturation in a series of wonderfully shot sequences: from his negotiating his own house (how nimbly he gets himself a cookie) to a magisterial sequence set in California’s Muir Woods as Caesar has his first real outing in a natural habitat, a sequence that allows the quick passage of five years in his life taking him to young adulthood. Writers, director, and motion capture expert Andy Serkis also fashion a series of incidents which firmly put the viewer on the side of the apes: Caesar drawing a replica of his bedroom window in his cell, his overwhelming sense of abandonment, and his subsequent forthright rejection of humankind as he gains power and the respect of his peers are all magnificent to see. Of course, the climactic showdown on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is the film’s most impressively sustained bit of action, but the activity after that is what’s likely to remain in the memories of viewers who should find it in equal parts touching and triumphant.


James Franco is perfect casting as the scientist, initially cold and facts-oriented and later evolving into a truly compassionate, responsive man. Freida Pinto is a rather routine but nonetheless acceptable love interest. John Lithgow skillfully maneuvers the tricky nature of Alzheimer’s with alacrity, and Tyler Labine as Will’s fellow scientist is likewise concerned and admirably noble (even if his actions do tragically plant the seeds for man’s eventual destruction). Brian Cox is his usually steely administrator while Tom Felton continues his smugly nasty persona first made famous as Draco Malfoy, here as Dodge Landon, this time with an American accent. As the greedy corporation head out for the money with no regard for the welfare of the lab creatures, David Oyelowo’s Steven Jacobs is predictably vile. Andy Serkis, Karin Konoval (as orangutan Maurice) and Terry Notary (who plays the mother chimp Bright Eyes and served as the stunt coordinator for the other motion capture performers) all excel as believable simian characters.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent in the image with plenty of detail to be seen throughout, particularly in close-ups in which the CG-originated apes look completely real. Contrast may be dialed in a bit too strong causing flesh tones to vary throughout the movie, sometimes verging on too brown but occasionally looking just right. Color values elsewhere appear spot-on. Black levels are very good as well. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.



Audio Quality

5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers an aggressive sound palette that immerses the viewer in rock solid sound envelopment throughout. Split surrounds are a frequent occurrence and aid very much in bringing the action from the screen into your viewing space. Patrick Doyle's bombastic score has been channeled through the entire soundstage, and the sound mix features incredible bass response that occasionally reaches system-threatening levels of depth. Dialogue is never overwhelmed by the sound effects and music and has been rooted to the center channel.



Special Features

4.5/5


There are two audio commentaries, one by director Rupert Wyatt and the other by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Considering the number of pauses in each, it might have been better to have edited the two tracks together into a single, more viable commentary track. Wyatt pretty much praises everything he sees and offers anecdotes on various shots, actors, and situations. The writers do point out all of the allusions to previous Apes movies they’ve planted throughout the film.


All of the video featurettes are presented in 1080p.


There are eleven deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in one 12-minute grouping.


“Mythology of the Apes” features writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, director Rupert Wyatt, James Franco and Andy Serkis discussing the previous films in the series and how this one ties into the others. It runs 7 ¼ minutes.


“The Genius of Andy Serkis” shows behind the scenes glimpses of the actor at work in his motion capture suit and praised by actors James Franco, Tom Felton, Brian Cox, and John Lithgow as well as the film’s special effects technicians who all marvel at his expressiveness and agility. This runs 7 ¾ minutes.


“A New Generation of Apes” has director Rupert Wyatt, producer Kurt Williams, and stunt coordinator Terry Notary discussing the “ape camp” Notary conducted to get motion capture actors ready to perform for the camera. Executives from Weta Digital who handled the motion capture apes also weigh in on their work in this 9 ¾-minute featurette.


“Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries” finds stunt coordinator Terry Notary and director Rupert Wyatt discussing the work on the Golden Gate Bridge finale sequence with behind-the-scenes glimpses on how that was captured (obviously not on location). This runs 8 ¾ minutes.


“Rocket Cookie Scene” breakdown allows the viewer to switch between the early animation, the motion capture work, and the final rendered scene for a pivotal sequence in the picture. The viewer switches between each version using the color keys on the remote and can see via picture-in-picture views the various elements come together. This runs 1 ½ minutes.


“Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle” shows composer Patrick Doyle talking about his inspirations for music cues in the film and working with a choir for certain sequences in this 8 ¼-minute piece.


There is a character concept art gallery which allows the viewer to choose a sketch of seven various ape characters and then see their CG personas from the film.


“Ape Facts” offers three mini-documentaries on the three kinds of apes portrayed as characters in the movie. Each documentary runs about 7 ½ minutes for the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan featurettes or together in one 22 ¾-minute group.


Three theatrical trailers can be viewed individually or in one 6 ½-minute bunch.


The disc is BD-Live Ready and contains one exclusive featurette not on the disc: “Ape School” featuring Terry Notary at work with his motion capture actors. It runs 2 minutes.


The second disc in the set is a combination DVD version of the movie/digital copy of the movie.


The disc includes promo trailers for The Sitter, In Time, Machine Gun Preacher, Immortals, Another Earth, and There Be Dragons.



In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)


An exciting and heartrending prequel to a familiar franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes may in fact be beginning its own series of films. This richly rewarding action picture and human/ape interest story comes highly recommended on Blu-ray!



Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

 

Ronald Epstein

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Matt,


Thank you for the review. This was one of my favorite films

of 2011. What could have been another Tim Burton disaster

turned out to be the best surprise of the year.


Nice to see Fox did a fine job with the transfer and extras.
 

Gary Seven

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You mention this as a prequel to the series, but is this not a remake of Conquest?

I missed this in the theater so I will definitely have this on my list to rent (perhaps buy when the price is cheap).
 

benbess

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As usual, a very well written and thought provoking review. Thanks! I thought it was just a good film, but your review has made me re-evaluate it rate it more highly. I might well pick this up at some point... Did you notice that for about 2 seconds they did a little homage to Vertigo? In the redwood scene they pass by the stump/tree ring area with sign found in Hitchcock's film. I'm sure there's a message there, probably an obvious one, but I can't articulate it right now...
 

Colin Jacobson

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Originally Posted by Gary Seven

You mention this as a prequel to the series, but is this not a remake of Conquest?

I missed this in the theater so I will definitely have this on my list to rent (perhaps buy when the price is cheap).



"Rise" and "Conquest" have story similarities, but "Rise" isn't a remake...
 

Dick

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I just picked up a single-disc edition of this at Wally World for $19.96, sans slipcover. I have not yet opened this, because it appears this edition is exclusive to Wal Mart and I fear it may not have the special features of the Blu (movie) disc of the 2-disc set. The case lists none. Zero. Would Fox actually package the Blu disc (forget the DVD, which I don't need) differently for Wal Mart?
 

Mike Williams

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At such a minor price point difference, it seems more likely that the single disc you picked up is simply sans DVD and Digital Copy. The slipcover on my Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy doesn't list any special features either, although the actual blu-ray case insert does.
 

SD_Brian

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After Deep Blue Sea and now Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when will movie-scientists learn to stop experimenting with intelligence-enhancing Alzheimer's drugs on dangerous animals? Rise can't really be considered a back story to the original series for many reasons but mostly because
In the original Planet, mankind was wiped out by nuclear war and, at the end of Rise, it's revealed to be a virus that will do us all in. Also, the origin of the super-intelligent apes are different from the original series.
It's best to think of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as its own entity, separate from both the original series and the Tim Burton movie. All that said, I wasn't crazy about this movie. Sure it was much, much better than any of the previous Apes sequels or the remake but that's sort of the definition of damning with faint praise.
 

Bryan Tuck

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SD_Brian said:
Rise can't really be considered a back story to the original series for many reasons but mostly because
In the original Planet, mankind was wiped out by nuclear war and, at the end of Rise, it's revealed to be a virus that will do us all in. Also, the origin of the super-intelligent apes are different from the original series.
It's best to think of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as its own entity, separate from both the original series and the Tim Burton movie.
Right; Rise reprises a few ideas from the previous films, but it's not in continuity with any of them. "Reboot" is the correct term here, I think. Whatever you want to call it, though, it is indeed a very good movie. Thanks for the review, Matt!
 

Jason_V

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Originally Posted by SD_Brian

After Deep Blue Sea and now Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when will movie-scientists learn to stop experimenting with intelligence-enhancing Alzheimer's drugs on dangerous animals?
Rise can't really be considered a back story to the original series for many reasons but mostly because In the original Planet, mankind was wiped out by nuclear war and, at the end of Rise, it's revealed to be a virus that will do us all in. Also, the origin of the super-intelligent apes are different from the original series.
It's best to think of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as its own entity, separate from both the original series and the Tim Burton movie.
All that said, I wasn't crazy about this movie. Sure it was much, much better than any of the previous Apes sequels or the remake but that's sort of the definition of damning with faint praise.


We would have to extrapolate and speculate, but what happens at the end of Rise may, in some way, lead into the nuclear war referenced in the original series. I'm not going to get hot and bothered by a disagreement here; cases can be made for either a reboot or a prequel. I saw it as a prequel and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
 

Colin Jacobson

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Originally Posted by MattH.


There are two audio commentaries, one by director Rupert Wyatt and the other by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Considering the number of pauses in each, it might have been better to have edited the two tracks together into a single, more viable commentary track. Wyatt pretty much praises everything he sees and offers anecdotes on various shots, actors, and situations. The writers do point out all of the allusions to previous Apes movies they’ve planted throughout the film.



I disagree with the comment about all the pauses. Wyatt leaves some dead air, but he tends toward short gaps, not long stretches of emptiness.


There's not much dead air during the writers' commentary at all. I'd estimate they speak at least 90 percent of the time, and maybe more - and they offer good material, to boot.


There's no way these could be edited together without losing vast chunks of the original commentaries. The Wyatt commentary is a little dull, but I really like the writers' track - they give a nice overview of their choices and script development...
 

The Drifter

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Blu is great - excellent print. I had seen this theatrically (several times) back in Summer/early Fall 2011, and hadn't seen a movie in years that has moved me the way this film has. I was really looking forward to this ever since hearing about it, and the film definitely far exceeded my expectations (which were already high before even seeing the movie). IMHO, these re-booted films are far superior to the original Apes film in every way (and I used to be a huge fan of the original films back in the day). Some comments:

- Great beginning, i.e. the capture of the Apes in the remote jungle - and it was very ironic that, in a sense, the beginning of the end for humanity started in a place far from civilization.

- The CGI on the Apes was truly incredible - amazingly real movement & expressions - You really felt these were actual creatures, and not something created by/in a Computer. And, as I mentioned, the CGI re: the Apes in the film was far, far superior to the CGI creatures/characters I've seen in any other film up to that point, period. Caesar obviously stole the show, but the other Apes in the film were amazing as well, including the main Gorilla, the Orangatan, and the creepy-looking scarred Chimpanzee.

- I was very impressed by the progression of Caesar from cute Chimp to the much more menacing adult Ape - the passage of time when he was climbing the tree in the forest was particularly effective; and, the later scene when he turned around and suddenly growled at the barking dog was both shocking & chilling, since you didn't see it coming.

- The scientific explanation as to how the Apes became intelligent was very well-thought out and, from a fictional movie standpoint, completely plausible IMHO. The idea that Caesar was the most intelligent since his mother had been injected with the toxin?! and he had been born with it already in his bloodstream made perfect sense. And, the later scene when he exposed the rest of the Apes in the compound was plausible also, given the idea that the toxin/virus was also shown to be airborne. (Note that in all of the previous Apes films, there was no reason given as to how/why the Apes became intelligent - see one of my previous posts for more detail on this).

- I liked how Caesar was at first bullied by the Apes in the compound until he later asserted himself - this established him as a leader & led to leading the Apes to freedom.

- The sadistic worker at the compound was great as the guy you love to hate, and his death was classic. I felt his "Take your Stinking Paws off me..." line was very effective, and was a nice homage to the original film.

- The "NO!" said by Caesar was a great jolt, since you weren't expecting this - very well-done.

- The battle sequence at the end in the city streets and on the bridge were very well-done and plausible. I was not expecting a full-blown military-type battle with tanks & heavy machine guns against the Apes, so this small-scale battle made perfect sense in the context of what would probably happen if a group of 20-50?! Apes escaped from a zoo/compound; The authorities would first try to contain this with the local police force/SWAT teams before calling in the military. The sequence when the Apes used the bus as a shield was excellent - their new intelligence really showed through here.

- I enjoyed the scene when Caesar came riding through the smoke on the horse (on the bridge) - very effective & unexpected. I'm guessing this was an homage to the original film(s) as well.

- I liked how Caesar was a nuanced character - he was not depicted as being completely vicious & violent, since he showed remorse when he bit the finger of the jerk neighbor, and he also kept the gorilla from taking out the SWAT team member. Yet, the character was not always compassionate either, since he let the head of the research facility die when the helicopter fell off the bridge. I kind of saw him as someone who ended up being forced to do what he did, i.e. fight back when cornered & eventually lead his people to freedom, even though they had to fight to get there.

- The scene when the gorilla jumped at the helicopter was fantastic - well-done.

- I enjoyed the scene when the infected lab worker sneezed all over the jerk neighbor- it couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy!

- The virus that made the Apes intelligent & which is also presumably going to kill off a lot of humans was a very good plot-point, and made perfect sense in the context of the film itself; it made the eventual downfall of man & the eventual take-over of by Apes much more plausible. I.e., if the virus is already starting to take effect at the time of the Apes' escape, it will already have started spreading at this point, & humanity will soon be dealing with this horror rather than worrying about the group of Apes living in the forest. And, when the humans are dead/dying, the Apes eventually take over.

- Going along with the above, I also saw this toxin/virus as a classic case of "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"- the scientist (Franco) had completely altruistic reasons for making this substance, i.e. to treat Alzheimer's patients and give them back their quality of life. However, the head of the research facility where the scientists worked was primarily interested in the bottom line (i.e., $), and this ultimately led to humanity's downfall.
 
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