Rise of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
Shadowlocked's 'ape' about the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray...
We’re all pretty much onboard with this one, right?
I mean, there are varying degrees of appreciation, and I certainly have some issues with the script, but I was hard-pressed to find anyone who outright hated Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was...kind of nice, actually. So while I don’t buy that a laboratory wouldn’t know one of its apes was pregnant (much less had given birth), or that James Franco wouldn’t tell Freida Pinto (or she wouldn’t ask) about where Caesar came from for five years, or that a laboratory wouldn’t quarantine and keep tabs on a technician who was exposed to an experimental medicine, the film is still damn entertaining, and has a pretty decent emotional arc as well. All of the stuff involving Caesar and his slow assembly of the army of apes is fantastic, genuinely rousing, and all the stuff of a good prison movie. But, you know, about monkeys.
For his part, director Rupert Wyatt brings a steady hand that’s more involved than many perhaps give him credit for. Willing to stage exchanges in one shot that many directors would employ several for is pretty admirable, especially for a big-budget blockbuster, as is the abject resistance towards handheld camera. This is a very assured breakout film (he’d previously directed another feature, The Escapist, that even I didn’t see), and it’ll be exciting to see where his career goes from here. Unless it’s just ape after ape after ape, though they’d probably still be pretty good.
Andy Serkis has been getting a lot of buzz as a potential Oscar contender, and though this Blu-ray release falls at the expected time (four months after its theatrical release), the timing couldn’t be better in that regard. As Caesar (using motion-capture magic), Serkis is undoubtedly the soul of the film. He holds nothing back, committing totally to what many other actors would regard as kind of silly (especially as the process involves Serkis prancing around the set in the unitard, making ape noises).
Watching the film again, I was struck by how well it holds up, how much more involved I was for the second go-around. Some of the human stuff is still a bit of a wash (the performances of Franco and Pinto suggest Wyatt doesn’t quite have the sure hand with actors that he does with the camera), but luckily, the film focuses more and more on the apes as it progresses. But it proves that with a pretty good script, a confident director, and incredible, focused visual effects (here on the part of Weta), summer entertainment can still do tight thrills on a small(ish) scale.
What do you expect? It’s a brand new film on a brand-new Blu-ray. It looks amazing. You can perhaps see the seams of some of the special effects (particularly during those loooooooonnnnnng CGI-assisted tracking shots) than you would on 35mm, but this looks damn spiffy. The animated apes actually look even more impressive with this level of detail in the image. Tremendous depth, blacks are crisp and clear, and the nighttime scenes are totally free from noise. The color palette during the daytime scenes is particularly robust, and equally well-conveyed. Basically, couldn’t find any problems with this.
The audio is equally robust - voices come through crisp, clear, and are well-balanced amongst the film’s wonderful sound design and, even more so, awesome score.
Special Features -
Pretty far on the EPK/promotional side of things, but interesting enough if you dig the film.
First up, we get two commentary tracks, one with director Rupert Wyatt and the other with screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Wyatt’s is pretty repetitive, focusing on production challenges, complimenting the actors and technicians, and the occasional mention of something he’d like to have done differently.
After the first twenty minutes or so, you’ll pretty much get the idea. Jaffa and Silver’s track is much better, taking us step-by-step through the film, and pointing out the little pieces that add up to the big picture. They talk about the difficulties of writing for what is pretty much a silent character (Caesar can sign, but once he’s in the ape sanctuary, Jaffa and Silver have to rely purely on the actors and effective imagery to get their story told), writing by committee and how some good can actually come from that process (this being a big studio tentpole, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen), and the fundamentals of screenwriting. Good stuff.
Then we get a series of short (under 10 minutes apiece, except the Deleted Scenes) featurettes.
Deleted Scenes rises a little above the standard. You can tell why they’ve been cut (except the two that present an alternate version), but they’re a little bit more meaty than the average deleted scenes section. Predictably, the special effects, color timing, and sound mixing aren’t quite complete, but they are offered in high definition. And you do get to see some more live Andy Serkis performance, so that’s pretty cool.
- The Genius of Andy Serkis is exactly what it sounds like. A lot of praise for a great actor. Not a lot about the process of creating the character, however.
- A New Generation of Apes focuses on the rest of the cast that played the apes (all of whom are digital in the film), and the artists at Weta who brought them to life. The visual effects stuff is pretty intrinsic and interesting if you don’t know the process - as my girlfriend said, “visual effects be crazy!”
- Mythology of the Apes starts out at looking at how screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver went about writing a screenplay that has to fit into a larger story, but devolves pretty fast into pointing out the references they made to the original film. Cute, but not terribly interesting or insightful.
- Scene Breakdown gives you a look at one scene with all the different elements - onset live performance, rough assembly of special effects, and final render. It’s pretty cool, but not nearly as extensive as Avatar’s exploration of same. If you’re really keen on the process this will give you some slight insight.
- Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries looks at the Golden Gate Bridge sequence, as it was a complex use of motion capture, especially in how the actors interact with the environment around them, and it was the first time the motion capture process was done outdoors. Endlessly fascinating look at the future of the industry.
- Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle is awesome. Doyle is a...pretty unique fellow, clearly having a ball with his job. He offers some nice insight into a process that most behind-the-scenes pieces mostly gloss over.
- The Great Apes gives us three short pieces on different kinds of apes - Chimpanzee, Gorilla, and Orangutan. Pretty interesting stuff, as far as it goes, exploring their intelligence especially.
Sneak Peaks offers trailers for a few other movies and programs - Machine Gun Preacher; Immortals; Another Earth; There Be Dragons; FX Networks.
On the whole, it’s a pretty nice little package, even if the special features are too focused on promoting the product you’ve already bought. The film sounds and looks amazing - perfect, in fact, as far as I can tell - and it holds up well to repeated viewings. If you dig the movie already, this is an easy one to recommend, and if you haven’t seen it, get thee to it.
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