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The true star of this prequel
(it started with the 1968 classic starring Charlton Heston) is the
performance capture technology that enables Andy Serkis, who plays
Caesar the Chimpanzee, to really look like an ape with intelligence.
According to Fox, this film could only be made due to the technology
that was developed for the film Avatar. Unlike Avatar,
however, this was not filmed in a controlled environment. Rather, it was
filmed on various locations, including San Francisco, which is the
locale of the story.
Basically, the film is a setup
to explain how technology ran wild, enabling apes to obtain human
intelligence and, eventually, take over the world, resulting in Heston's
famous discovery when he returns from a space mission. However, they
don't take over the world in this movie.
It's told from the POV of the
apes, sort of a modern Call of the Wild, Jack London's classic
story of an Alaskan dogsled dog told entirely from the dog's POV.
There are some good
performances by humans, too. James Franco gives a good performance as
Caesar's adoptive father, and John Lithgow is effective as Franco's
father who is suffering from dementia.
Director Rupert Wyatt keeps
the pace up throughout the film, aided by a smart script by Amanda
Silver, with her husband and writing partner Rick Jaffa. These Planet of
the Apes movies need good direction to keep them from descending into
ludicrous satire, and Wyatt accomplishes that very well.
But, as I said, the true star
of the film is the performance capture technology, so how they did it
needs to be explained because that was what was running through my mind
throughout the film. Says senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri,
“As we did with Avatar, we used the performance capture suit and
headgear to capture the actors’ facial expressions and get the full
range of their performances. But here, for the first time, we used
performance capture as a fully integrated part of the live action
performance. Working on Rise of the Planet of the Apes became all
about the performances and the actors interacting with one another. We
would take care of the rest – the actual visual effects – later.”
Clearly, what they accomplished is Oscar®-quality.