The Morning After: Jul. 7, 2014

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Pierre Boule’s sci-fi masterpiece Planet of the Apes was hugely popular in its day, spawning a series of sequels that never quite lived up to the expectations of the original. Tim Burton attempted to revive the franchise just over a decade ago with poor results. Instead of trying to recapture the magical world of the original, producers decided to shake things up and instead of rebooting the franchise, go back to the beginning and try to explain just what happened to create the Planet of the Apes.

A genetic scientist working on a virus that could attack cells that cause Alzheimer’s has been testing his latest concoction on chimps. After one of his test subjects goes berserk before his research can be pushed to human trials, Will (James Franco) takes home the chimp’s child and discovers Caesar (motion captured performance by Andy Serkis) has developed high cognitive functions, proving the syrum may be working. He tests it on his father Charles (John Lithgow) and discovers that the formula works, but before he can put it effectively into trial, Caesar attacks a neighbor for manhandling Charles and ends up trapped in a primate sanctuary where he helps his cohorts rebel against the tyrannical caretaker who watches over them.

There’s a lot more to this film than can be described in a single paragraph, which is one of the reasons the film work so well. Some of the data is force-fed, but those moments are few and are punctuated by stunning segments of quiet observation and simple evocation. This is a tremendous origin story that plausibly establishes the environment that would one day become the future of the world. It seems like an organic, conscientious expansion of Boulle’s world, taking the audience to somewhere it never realized it wanted to go. While you can never replace that final scene of discovery in the original film, building up that mythos with a film like this is almost as fantastic.

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