Blu-Ray Review: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

2011 might go down as the year Hollywood finally figured out how to make a great prequel. Between the “X-cellent” X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes we have seen two high profile franchises recieve a much needed quality boost back into the lime light.

The most impressive part of this movie is the performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar the ape. Millions of words have been written on the subject of his brilliant digital performance, and every single one of them speaks the truth. We are seeing the line between animation and performance blends so much that it is almost impossible to tell the difference.

This Blu-Ray presents the film, and a whole bunch of features that help you understand what exactly went into the astonishing effects work on the film. Of all the films that have come out in the last few years, this is one of the most worthy of a great set of features.

The Movie Itself:

I unfortunately missed this movie when it originally hit theaters in the summer, a combination of bad timing and a stacked season of movies. Going into the movie I was worried about finding a character to root for, knowing that the actions of the protagonists of the film will eventually lead to the complete annihilation of the human species.

The movie is great, I want to get that out of the way because I have some philosophical issues with the movie that I want to spend time on, but don’t take that to mean I didn’t like the movie. My main issue is that there are no strong villains who earn your hate.

I think it is of paramount importance for you to set up villains who are truly evil, because at the end of the day the good guys are responsible for some pretty horrific things. I don’t think a business smart CEO, who is more practical than evil or greedy, or a mean animal shelter boss are enough to get me to understand the course of action that leads to human extinction.

At least Caesar is motivated by survival instincts and a burgeoning intelligence, which I can get behind. James Franco on the other hand is one of the worst humans in the movies this year. He is selfish, greedy, reckless and his actions, however well intentioned, lead directly to the deaths of everyone.

His motivation is to save his father. That sounds noble on the surface, and most people will probably side with him based on that fact alone, but hear me out. He steals an experimental drug, one that has never been tested on a human and uses it on his father. It seemingly works for a few years, but because he has to study the results on the down low and is not in a lab environment he is not able to stop the virus from coming back. So instead he tricks the CEO to letting him work on a new version of the cure by telling him it will make everyone Steven Hawking.

Then once the new cure is fast tracked he gets all bitchy and due diligence is not maintained during the testing process. This causes the cure, which is a virus BTW, to accidently get out and start infecting people. So there you have it folks, your main hero is a selfish ninny who created the virus that will kill everyone. You, your mom, that nice old man down the street who offers the neighborhood boys snickers bars, dead.

That is why this film needs a strong villain, because one hero leads a rebellion that will grow to over take humanity and the other actually invented the virus that will kill every one. Hard for me to root too hard for those guys when the “bad guys” are the ones who can prevent human extinction.

Other than that the movie is great! Well acted, well directed and the special effects are among the best we have ever seen. I also really appreciated the small touches that connect this film with the previous movies. I am not sure if this is meant to be a direct prequel or a reboot that intends on taking things forward a new, but either way it works. I am impressed that they were able to add so much credible seriousness to a franchise that is defined by walking, talking apes.

The Special Features:

-Theatrical Feature Blu-ray
-Deleted Scenes
-Mythology of the Apes
-The Genius of Andy Serkis
-A New Generation of Apes
-Scene Breakdown
-Character Concept Art Gallery
-Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries
-Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle
-The Great Apes
-Audio Commentary by Director Rupert Wyatt
-Audio Commentary by Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
-Theatrical Trailers

I am quite thrilled with the special features on this disc. First and foremost I want to acknowledge the inclusion of a featurette about the score with composer Patrick Doyle. It is always a welcome to see any time spent on the music of movies, especially a movie that had such a good score.

The ‘Mythology of the Apes’ feature does a really good job of detailing connections between Rise and the rest of the Apes films, with extra emphasis on the motivation for making the movie. I also really enjoyed the featurettes about the actual apes featured in the movie.

Those are nice, but the meat and potatoes of the features are the motion capture featurette and ‘The Genius of Andy Serkis’,  which showcase just how incredible the motion capture work is. The detail in Caesar’s performance as delivered by the effects crew and the actor is astonishing. These features give you a great sense of just what went into this groundbreaking character, particularly the problems inherent in the size difference between Serkis and Caesar. Well worth a watch for anyone who was captivated by the film.

The Packaging:

I love the cover design. It is simple, clean and evokes everything that rocks about the movie… namely Caesar and his nigh human gaze.

Like most Fox feature films the case comes with a slip sleeve which really makes all the difference in the world. It sits better on a shelf and it looks cleaner. The case itself is a standard blue ray case with a discs on both sides, nothing to special, although I like the new trend of keeping the DVD copy and Digital copy disc behind the promotionals.

The menu designs are cool and navigating to the features and the film is a breeze. Nothing to write home to mom about, but quality stuff for a quality film.

The Final Summation:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes stands as one of the better films of the year. Despite some apprehensions with the moral compass of the heroes, I still think this film is a blast to watch and this Blu-Ray is the best way to do it. The disc is packed with insightful and interesting features. I implore anyone who enjoyed the movie to break into the special features, it is so interesting to see how the digital motion capture process made Caesar come alive.

The movie is great and the disc is chopped full of worthwhile features that will keep you watching for hours after the movie is over. Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Blu-Ray is highly recommended.

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