RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES or The Descent Of American Intelligence


Has anyone else noticed that around the time we elected Ronald Reagan president, American cinema began a steady decline? The same mentality that led us to George Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and the Tea Party, has led us to deliver films like RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES to a public no longer interested in using their brains. In fact, “intelligent” and “educated” have become dirty words, perhaps even anti-American. So for a country that helped shepherd in cinema as an art and a craft –as we did Democracy and Capitalism as schools of thought– we have shamed ourselves by veering so far off course as to appear like adults who have grown into infancy.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is the perfect example of how bad a film can be in this current age of Hollywood. And how brain-washed or starved film critics are that they would actually apply words like “smart,” “intelligent,” and “complex” to a film like APES.

“An emotionally complex story, evocative and engaging.” —Bruce Diones, The New Yorker 

“The cautionary tale feels surprisingly fresh and entertaining… Franco is charismatic as a dedicated scientist… With top-notch computer-generated images, this sci-fi action thriller revives the series and creates a palpable sense of tension.” —Claudia Puig, USA Today  

“The film, which Rupert Wyatt directed from an audacious screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, rises above its dramatic deficits, boosts the collective IQ of this summer’s movies and swings into flights of kinetic fantasy that blow the collective mind…” —Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal  

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” does it right. Smart, fun and thoroughly enjoyable, it’s a model summer diversion that entertains without insulting your intelligence… “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is as good as it is partly because it’s strong in the areas all films, not just summer blockbusters, should be. It’s effectively written by the team of Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and well acted both by stars like James Franco and John Lithgow and supporting players like the protean Brian Cox… British director Rupert Wyatt’s previous feature was the excellent prison-break drama “The Escapist,” but he proved to be a shrewd choice to make a film about an entire species breaking free of eons of restraint, one that includes some of the most potent species versus species conflict since Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds.” …A director who knows how to bring drive and momentum to material he connects with, Wyatt works with editors Conrad Buff and Mark Goldblatt (both veterans of several James Cameron projects) to create a crackerjack sense of pace. And cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who shot the “Lord of the Rings” films, gives “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” an exciting wide-screen feeling while providing numerous bravura visual moments.” —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times 

“Precisely the kind of summer diversion that the studios have such a hard time making now.” —Manohla Dargis, New York Times 

Excuse me for a moment while I attempt to lift my jaw off the ground.

These comments are straight out of the Twilight Zone for me. They are truly from a different planet than the one I inhabit. Now granted, most of our film critics today are either fancy bloggers (far fancier than myself) or journalists hired as a paper’s film critic for reasons other than having any knowledge of film, its history or its craft. But there are a number of critics who have been around a while who have given this film glowing reviews. I say this with all seriousness: I will never read them again. I cannot trust them.

For the record, I take no issue with anyone who simply found the experience of watching APES enjoyable. It’s one thing to enjoy a film even though you know it’s highly flawed. It’s another to call it smart, well-written, complex. Those are two very, very different things. There are many films I recognize as not being particularly impressive works of cinema, some I even recognize as downright awful, but for one reason or many, I still find them enjoyable. Guilty-pleasures, as it were.

Thankfully, I am not completely alone in being appalled by this film’s brain-dead incompetence. There are some critics out there who recognized this tepid mess for what it was and were not afraid to say so in their reviews. They have my respect and I will be looking forward to more of their opinions and observations regarding film. Hopefully, with one or two of them, their ability to recognize weak, lazy screenwriting and uninspired directing and acting will be reflected in future reviews. Here are a handful of them who have, at least this time around, garnered my respect:

 “A creature feature of disappointing stupidity… Those early [APE] movies may look cheesy now, but the guys in the monkey suits at least gave Charlton Heston something solid to respond to. The stars of this incarnation, like the sick chimps of 28 Days Later, are just barreling balls of unspecified quadruped fury, swarming over the Golden Gate Bridge and tossing manhole covers like discuses. For all we know they could be protesting the lack of primate roles on network television.” –Jeannette Catsoulis, NPR  

“The production notes for Rise of the Planet of the Apes” calls it “the first live-action film in the history of movies to star, and be told from the point of view of, a sentient animal – a character with human-like qualities, who can strategize, organize, and ultimately lead a revolution, and with whom audiences will experience a real emotional bond.” Didn’t “Zookeeper” already do that? What about “Rocky”?… This is the kind of movie where the characters are always saying things like, “What are you saying?” Plot points are continually reiterated. Obviously director Rupert Wyatt doesn’t think we in the audience are as smart as Caesar.” —Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor  

“They probably should have called it “Beneath the Dignity of the Planet of the Apes… Freida Pinto gets to spend the movie doing nothing except standing next to Franco looking like Freida Pinto, which ought to be enough but somehow isn’t. Three years from Best Picture to Best Human Scenery? Depressing… A nasty guard (Tom Felton, a k a Draco Malfoy) has “first victim” written all over him. Yet it takes the movie a good 45 minutes to catch up to the audience. Why the guard — a twerp who looks like your average Kinko’s employee, not a sadist whose brutality is responsible for changing the fate of the Earth — gets so much screen time is a mystery. Especially when the movie’s got the ably villainous Brian Cox, who once played Hannibal Lecter, sitting around nearby… The monkeys don’t seem to want anything except to live in the redwood forest and maybe an apology for the 1976 version of “King Kong.” But as they settle down and establish themselves as the alpha species, I couldn’t quite summon much terror. Could they really be any worse than the real-life government of the state of California?” —Kyle Smith, New York Post

“Less wonderful [than the ape effects] are his fully human co-stars. James Franco, no matter how many degrees he amasses in real life, will never convince as a brilliant research scientist. The script, at its worst, stoops to having [Freida Pinto] pause before a cataclysmic battle, give Franco a kiss and whisper “Be careful.” If you have popcorn, you may want to throw it.” —Stephen Whitty, The Star Ledger 

“The filmmakers seem to have spent so much attention and, presumably, money on getting the primates right that they completely forgot about the people. Led by a mumble-mouthed James Franco in the role of Will Rodman, the cast of human actors is uniformly weak. John Lithgow is especially embarrassing as Will’s dodderingly senile father, but the list of offenders – and their acting offenses – is long. At one end of the dramatic spectrum is Freida Pinto, who’s almost invisible as Will’s veterinarian girlfriend. At the other end there’s David Oyelowo, who chews the scenery and spits it out as Will’s money-grubbing pharmaceutical-company boss. Brian Cox is somewhere in between. As the director of the animal shelter where the apes foment their revolution after Caesar is sent there for attacking a human, Cox exudes smarmily sinister incompetence but little else. As for Felton, his character’s malevolence is even more over the top than the actor’s work in the “Harry Potter” movies, where he played the maleficent Draco Malfoy. Here’s a movie mixing live action and CGI in which the humans are the least interesting thing about it. Not to mention the least plausible.” —Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

“[A] lineup of dull characters and a limp story that functions like a conveyor belt. Viewers get on, know where it’s heading, and that’s where it goes.” —Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

To suffer through the writing that accompanies RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is something only Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld could condone. Now I personally know all too well that the script as it appears on screen and the script as it may have been originally written or envisioned may not be one and the same. Oftentimes writers-for-hire are simply reflecting the desires of those who sign their checks. For good or ill. But it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a film with characters so paper-thin and generic. Poor James Franco, such a good actor when he cares about the material, but so awkward and bland when he doesn’t. Now I can’t speak for what was actually going through Franco’s mind while the cameras were rolling on this puppy, but let’s just say the end result was reminiscent of his performance as host of the Academy Awards. It seems when Franco knows the material’s bad, he gives it the least amount of effort possible; as if silently saying “Don’t believe for a second that I think this is good.” There’s an air of embarrassment to his performance. A dull “I wish I were anywhere but here” quality that no paycheck can erase. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I have a great respect for James Franco and his talent. I think he’s one of our more fascinating and talented young actors. But when you give him little-to-nothing to work with, he accurately reflects that back.

The only character in this film with anything to do is the ape Caesar. And he is played (via digital recreation) by the now quite famous Andy Serkis. And his performance has been singled out by both lovers and haters of the film. And rightfully so. Serkis commits. But that doesn’t make the script any better. But it does give us something to hold on to, however tenuous that may be. Perhaps this is what has captured audiences’s attention: that they could care for a digital character in a minefield of dull, dimwitted humans. But at the end of the day, this technological achievement still has backward momentum insofar as storytelling goes. THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS director Gillo Pontecorvo’s now famous statement, “Technically U.S. directors keep improving. But this technical expertise hides an emptiness that keeps getting bigger. They’re very good at saying nothing,” seems to have been quite a prescient commentary on this very film; APES is the epitome of the decline Pontecorvo was witnessing in American cinema.

So how do films like this get made? Well, let’s look at some of the comments and advice that have been tossed my way by other filmmakers and producers: Clive Barker’s insistence that a horror film should have a scare planted every seven minutes (as if it were a recipe for the perfect blintz) is one that boggles my mind. Talk about formulas! I’m glad most of the great horror filmmakers didn’t have the opportunity to confer with Barker before moving into production. Then there was producer Chris Sievernich, who insisted a filmmaker should never do more than one take on any individual shot or performance. Unless of course the gate was dirty and we HAD to do another. Chris’s concern wasn’t with the quality of the filmmaking or the acting, but with the delivery of exposed celluloid. And as little of it as humanly possible, regardless of the caliber of its contents. Or how about the conversation I recently had with a producer (who shall remain nameless) whose latest big Hollywood remake was filled with so many gaps of inner logic as to drive an armada of luxury motor yachts through. When asked about the making of the film, he informed me that they knew the film had no inner logic, that it broke every rule it set up. But they didn’t care. He claimed that none of the test audiences noticed it so they figured it didn’t matter.

It. Didn’t. Matter.

What ever happened to pride in filmmaking? What ever happened to a desire to not only make money, but to make the best film possible? Is it that hard, once you’ve gathered all the elements together and have the money in place, to actually strive for quality beyond visual effects?

And speaking of visual effects, I have to say that at least half the time in APES, I found the digital chimps to be more distracting than engaging. No matter how far along we are, we still haven’t managed to give these things weight. There’s an insubstantial smoothness to the characters that make them feel shallow to me. Like wax museum figures come to life. There’s something to be said for trying too hard to make something look “real.” Cinema is not reality. I will take the artistry of a Stan Winston, Rob Bottin or John Chambers over the greatest digital artists working today. Not to diminish those talents, mind you. Digital has a place, it’s a wonderful tool and a very valid art, but it has not reached a point where I, personally, prefer it over actual three-dimensional objects or, by the same token, a beautiful matte painting. I go more on how it “feels” rather than how “realistic” it appears.

So director Rupert Wyatt’s direction of following a very digital baby chimp around as it swings and careens over lamps and through tree branches feels nothing more than a gimmick weighed down by an unwelcome, over-used familiarity. It lacks inspiration or originality. I would go so far as to say that I found the film’s visual style –Wyatt’s storytelling choices– to be, aside from its widescreen aspect ratio, more in sync with a made-for-televsion-movie than with something one expects to find showing at the local cinema. There was not a single image or movement in this film that carried an ounce of weight for me. Wyatt’s direction felt as unsubstantial as most of the digital characters bounding tirelessly across the screen. I could find no distinct vision there. Not even Andrew Lesnie’s lighting could save this film from the lifeless compositions and predictable camera-moves.

As for the other actors, I’ve always loved John Lithgow, and I would like to think he did as much as could be done with what he was given, but what he was given never attempted to move beyond the generic and obvious depictions of someone with Alzheimer’s. For me, the end result –within the context of this film– bordered on camp. Mr. Lithgow was, quite simply put, not in good hands. And while Freida Pinto may well be the single most beautiful woman ever created, she has little-to-nothing to do here. Or, as critic Stephen Whitty of the Star-Ledger observed: “Freida Pinto plays one of those movie girlfriends who seems to be there simply to prove that the hero isn’t gay.”

Brian Cox is completely wasted as a character with no arc, no purpose and no resolution. And Tom Felton as his son is such a one-note villain, such a first-draft concept of a character, that throwing the classic line “Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” into his mouth makes us even more aware of how little originality or care was taken in creating these characters, this world. The film would not have played any worse if the human actors had been nothing more than cardboard cutouts on sticks. They were certainly written as such.

For the record, I would much rather be writing a glowing piece on APES congratulating it on breaking free of the doldrums of contemporary Hollywood to offer us something of value, something inspired. But I cannot. At the end of the day, I would rather see a film that tries for greatness and fails, than see a film like APES which appears to strive for very little and –box office numbers notwithstanding– succeeds.

Luckily, there is always a silver lining. If nothing else, this APES reminds us just how great the original film was. And how, even at their worst, the four original sequels that followed never stooped this low. Not even the wretched BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES which at least shows effort in the face of an almost non-existent budget.

Beyond that, I think this film should be a fantastic motivator for American writers and filmmakers to do everything they can to return us to an age where we strive for more from our art, from our entertainment, as I hope we will one day strive for more from our politicians, our government. In a town like Hollywood, overrun with writers, to allow a script of this low-quality, something this lazy, this poorly written and executed to make its way into a multi-million dollar production, should shame us into action. I see it as a call to arms. A “RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE WRITERS,” as it were.

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RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES or The Descent Of American Intelligence

21 thoughts on “RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES or The Descent Of American Intelligence

  1. RJ Kennedy says:

    Like yourself, I am a dedicated life-long POTA enthusiast. I’m also a fan of good pizza, and I think I can offer the following ape-flick-to-pie quality comparison:

    Planet of the Apes (1968) Pepe’s cheese, red sauce and sausage, piping hot, right out of the oven and washed down with an ice-cold IPA.
    Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Modern clam and bacon, to go.
    Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Something Mom makes from scratch; still pretty good. The neighbors take most of it to eat on the way to the circus.
    Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Sally’s pepperoni, reheated.
    Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Take out from a local place—tasty but could have been baked longer. Eaten while wearing an ape mask that shows no emotion.

    Planet of the Apes TV Series (1974-‘75) Tony’s frozen with questionable “sausage” bits, consumed on a TV tray in front of the “set.”

    Planet of the Apes (2001) Papa Ginos’s pepperoni (slice, reheated) eaten in the car while driving away from the theater.
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Domino’s mushroom and green peppers, not terrible, but it could have been worse.

    1. halmasonberg says:

      I agree with everything you said except… I think CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is Sally’s Pepperoni fresh. I love CONQUEST. Daring and timely. Does what good sci-fi should do in addressing current social topics. And it isn’t afraid to be harsh and disturbing.

      Then, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. I can’t imagine how it could have been worse. Unless it’s sort of like saying 9/11 could have been worse. That would be true, but what’s there is pretty fucking awful, pretty god-damned horrible.

  2. RJ Kennedy says:

    I still watch the first two at least once a year on DVD. Saw Battle, last year. Haven’t seen Escape or Conquest in a decade–I look forward to watching them both again, soon.

  3. Maybe antidepressants instead of popcorn. I loved Rise. Far from some of your accusations, this was a bold original bit of writing that changed protagonists and went with an ape protagonist, discarding the human world halfway through. You can’t even name me another film that did something like this.

    Perhaps the human characters were intentionally banal and appropriate for their stations? The film was an indictment of humanity itself and the routine atrocities perpetrated on the animal kingdom as business as usual. Pretty fucking brilliant, actually, and the pacing was perfect throughout.

    As for Franco, he was obsessed, with clear and understandable motivation, to do what he did. He didn’t need to turn into something from your imagination in order to get that across. Most of your complaints are about what the film didn’t do (your expectations) as opposed to any alleged sins on the screen. Reasonable people can disagree about what hit the screen. As for whatever you were expecting — who cares?

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    Rotten Tomatoes
    Critics 83% / Audience 87%

    May you never fail as miserably.

    1. halmasonberg says:

      As with all things, opinions are opinions. But I still stand behind this being one of the laziest pieces of writing and filmmaking I’ve seen in decades. Rotten Tomatoes or any other avenue to dissect the opinions of the average person is of little to no interest to me. The intent behind the concept may have been interesting, but it works in theory only. I found the execution in this film to be abysmal and embarrassing on almost every level. Only seconded by the discouraging and all too realistic fact that there are a large enough number of people out there who cannot tell the difference between a moderately interesting idea and insipid storytelling. Not to mention sloppy craftsmanship. For me, the mere fact that you or anyone else could apply the word “brilliant” to a film like this is the perfect illustration of everything I’ve written. Yes, my expectations were not met, that’s true. But what you heard and saw hitting the screen was not intelligent, well-executed cinema, but the proverbial splat of sub-par mediocrity with little-to-no artistic merit precariously exalted to the status of astute by people I must be forced to assume are shamelessly easy to impress. Your comments, welcome as they are here, simply showcase the fact that we do not gauge “success” by the same meter.

      1. Well of all the thousands upon thousands of films you could have chosen as the poster child for all that ails Hollywood, this ain’t it. That plot twist WAS brilliant.

        As for your pretentious stance insulting the intelligence of those behind the movie and anyone who actually likes it, you must admit the original Planet of the Apes took a ridiculous, implausible and scientifically ignorant stab at evolution. No? So what are we comparing to? (Cue naked emperor.)

  4. halmasonberg says:

    While far from perfect, the original PLANET OF THE APES was, in my opinion, far more intelligent and, on a purely cinematic level, far more competent and creative. Performances also excelled. Particularly by comparison. I’m glad you enjoyed RISE. I’m glad you got something out of it. But I would be lying if I said anything other than applying the world “brilliant” to the film leaves me with no choice but to distrust your tastes in cinema when it comes to gauging what I consider quality filmmaking and quality storytelling. And why is it that people so easily turn to using the word pretentious when someone is not satisfied and demands more? RISE was and remains, IMHO, the current poster-child for what passes for “brilliant” cinema in circles I cannot trust. I, personally, require a great deal more from the films I see. Pretentious, I know. But again, my gauge is different than yours. Clearly. To me, calling RISE brilliant makes no more sense than claiming Rick Santorum is open-minded or Sarah Palin well-informed. There are those who think so and will take to the streets to stand behind their conviction. But from where I stand, I cannot trust their ability to gauge such things. To make such claims seems, at worst, madness. At best, easily misled. They are, one way or another, a reflection of our society with a right to their opinion. But I’d be lying if I said I trusted that opinion. Anyone who tells me the Olive Garden is great Italian food is simply going to be seen, by me, as someone who doesn’t really know what good Italian food is. By my standards of Italian food. I won’t be able to trust their opinion on that particular subject. Doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to their opinion. Or the right to genuinely love that food and offer an award to the chef. And they may well find me pretentious. But for my personal tastes, that source is simply unreliable. In the same way that my opinion is, I’m certain, unreliable for you.

    1. I’m afraid the witness is being evasive. As a plot twist unique and appropriate to the material, you haven’t commented on the point I made, and don’t appear to want to go there. The film did something new and unique, which you won’t acknowledge, which was completely appropriate and unexpected. The twist ushered in the end of humanity and the beginning of the ape’s side of the story, and it did so in a fantastic visual and visceral fashion that the 87% of the audience appreciated without the need for over-thinking it and a bunch of irrelevant tangents on taste. Similar non-response on the scientific gibberish that spawned the entire franchise. Your responses are dripping with ego, and short on analysis. Let’s say they’re not to my taste.

      Heard Tree of Life got booed at Cannes. Haven’t been interested in seeing it since rumors of religious nuttery spread. Perhaps it’s worth a dollar twenty nine at the Redbox. Then again, we mistrust each other’s tastes, so there you go.

      PS

      Worldwide: $481,800,873

      And 87% audience approval.

      What complete and utter morons, huh?

  5. halmasonberg says:

    Again, you seem to confuse popularity with quality. They are not one and the same, no matter how much you try and offer it up as a no-argument sign of artistic merit. To me, it is nothing more than the perfect example of what my post was commenting on. As for the twist in the film and the direction it went, I found it to be obvious and ridiculously executed with one-dimensional cartoonish characters that responded to situations with little believable motivation. Franco’s boss was a ludicrous character and villain whose convictions turned on the unmotivated whim of easy solutions and a lack of creative, thought-out writing. I think the fact that you so readily dismiss TREE OF LIFE while embracing RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES as provocative, creative cinema is extremely telling. Again, the concept behind RISE has the potential for an interesting film, but for me they simply didn’t pull it off. Again, many may have found it entertaining, but by my standards the writers almost always took the easy way out. It seems to me to be a textbook example of inorganic writing and character development. Everyone was lacking in dimension. And what dimension was attempted was obvious and hackneyed. I get that it worked for you. And for many other people. But the whole point of my post was the fact that so many people, not just enjoying this film (which I have no issues with and wrote as such), but actually thinking it’s smart (or “brilliant” to use your term), is a sad reflection (again, by my standards) of the state of American cinema and Americans as discerning audience. I’m sorry my post insults you. But yes, I think to apply the word “brilliant” to this film reflects a person far less demanding in their cinema and storytelling than myself. Your standards are simply different. And your comments are, while honest and valuable and without question sincere, the epitome of what I was writing about. They serve, for me, to drive my point home with lasting effect.

  6. halmasonberg says:

    I’m sorry you find me snobbish. But name-calling is not an argument. Nor is it a stance. And for the record, the original PLANET OF THE APES series of 5 films turned the Apes into the protagonists. As the first film revealed –in what was truly a wonderful and now classic twist– that it was mankind at fault, that the rise of the apes was due to our own misdeeds and lack of forward-thinking. That this was Earth. On its head. The twist in RISE is not unique nor original. Nor is it done with much eloquence or depth. It is presented, as is the entire film, on a one-dimensional plain geared toward an audience not used to seeking out smart or challenging cinematic fare. It’s fluff with a message. Nothing wrong with that. It has its place. Cinema history is full of those types of films from the dawn of its creation. And many are damn enjoyable and incredibly well-made. But we as audience members have been fed such shallow, poorly executed fare for so long now) particularly from Hollywood) that many no longer know how to recognize smart writing and filmmaking and, instead, praise films like RISE as intelligent and THE DESCENDANTS as deep. Given the hundred-plus years of filmmaking that we have to explore, these films are, comparatively, lacking in scope and complexity. They barely scrape the surface of a much deeper pond. And they do so with tired and oversimplified plots and visuals, hence their popularity with the masses who have often shied away from truly artistic and complex fare. It is unsophisticated escapism at best, soaked through with clichéd villains and shamelessly simple protagonists. Pablum, to put it gently. Any halfway decent screenwriter would shake his or her head at the obviousness of RISE’s script and the tired arc of its characters. It’s the stuff of first year film students. I know all of this comes across as name-calling as well, and I suppose it is. But nonetheless, it is how I feel. It is my honest reaction to the film and some of the comments made on its behalf. I guess that does make me a snob. At least so far as film is concerned. I can live with that.

    Believe it or not, I’ve enjoyed our little spat. Thanks.

    1. Well I thought we were done here. The snobbishness stems from your reliance on sophistry and “taste” and the ignoring of nearly every concrete point I’ve made. Nearly all your attacks on the film (and on me) are generalities lacking specific bite. You’re slinging mud at some amorphous perceived condition out there in the world, rather than actually analyzing the film in context. The context of the world we’re discussing makes all the difference, here.

      “It is unsophisticated escapism at best, soaked through with clichéd villains and shamelessly simple protagonists.”

      Have you seen the original?

      This is an escapist film about chimps taking over the world. You have yet to offer what it is you would have done differently (and why, actually defending your choices). Your eloquent rants come off as so much flung monkey poo, and a bit jealous to boot.

      Apparently you would have taken the money to produce an opera instead. Just because. Or, perhaps Tarkovsky’s Rise of the Apes, because long static shots where next to nothing happens for minutes at a time is the essence cinematic grandiosity.

      You’ve even glancingly attacked the production value and filming of Rise, which was outstanding. In what universe is this film not shot at the highest level of the art? I find your gushing bile more reflective of your own psychological makeup than of the film we’re discussing.

      If a supermajority of critics and audience opinions means nothing to you, as well as half a billion in cash, then I’m not sure I really care what it is that means so much to you.

      You ignore specific arguments, and yet you claim the monopoly on intelligence. This film was a children of all ages bit of escapism and ape conquest, and it succeeded by every measure of note. A minority, which you find yourself in, want to hate on it. So be it.

      This is going to end how these things must always end: “Whatever.”

      1. halmasonberg says:

        Unfortunately, I think you may be projecting a bit here. Some of what you say is true, but much is not. I have gone out of my way to frame everything as being “my opinion,” my taste,” “by my standards.” Yet, despite that, you accuse me of claiming “the monopoly on intelligence.” No. But I do claim a monopoly on my personal taste and standards. Those are, indeed, mine. And I also claim the right to dismiss the tastes of others as not being a good gauge of whether or not I would share or trust someone else’s opinions.

        And what we’ve both written here is a reflection of both of us. Why or how you would use that as a negative personal attack seems rather misguided to me.

        It also seems that you’re under the impression that you laid out some detailed breakdown of why the film is great while accusing me of mud-slinging. I’ve gone back and read what you wrote and all I can see is a general proclamation that the film has good acting, a wholly original “bold” and “brilliant” socially-conscious twist, and is very popular. And I have simply disagreed with you.

        But you seem to need to relegate my comments to the snobbish and the pretentious. If that makes you feel better, by all means continue. But the reality is, my tastes and standards are my own. I love the original film so I think it’s quite clear that I don’t need Andrei Tarkovsky to direct a film in order for me to love it. Or even like it. But it seems you’ve taken the stance (based on what you wrote) that that is who I am. Understand, you base that on very little of knowledge of me. And in order to do so, you would have had to ignore much of what I wrote in our exchange. It seems you’re reacting as if I’d personally attacked you. I don’t know you, I have no need to attack you. But it is true that I do not trust your opinions on film based on what you’ve written here.

        Be clear, I presented my opinions, as often as I could, as being my reaction to the film. My standards of quality. The words you’ve chosen seem to be doing exactly what you accused me of: claiming your opinion as irrefutable fact. Never once did the context of your comments on the film, what you thought was so bold and brilliant about it, fall into a clearly defined category of opinion, but instead of universal truth. Something you accused me of doing.

        Yes, it’s all very revealing of both of us, isn’t it? Opinions like yours, on this particular film, sadden me as it means more films may be judged based on critical reviews and popularity as opposed to the actual merits (or lack thereof) of the film in question. It also means that there are more than enough people (or at least one more) who will find deep satisfaction with something I find sub-par, paving the way for more of the same.

        Box office is no gauge for the quality of a film. Nor is high production value. Money does not automatically equal great art. You commented “In what universe is this film not shot at the highest level of the art?” It is a question that makes no sense to me based on your comments leading up to this statement. From where I stand, the question would be “In what universe is this film interpreted as high art?” Two sides of a coin.

        I don’t go to films expecting every one to be a masterpiece of cinema. But I do go expecting a level of competence that goes beyond a high production value. I see a fair amount of films (both past and present) and I walked out of this one shocked at how horrible the acting and script was. Astounded in a way I hadn’t been for many, many years. And I stand by my reaction. I stand by my personal standards of what constitutes good filmmaking. For me. And by whose opinions I trust and whose I don’t. As I assume you do as well.

        Be careful of what you accuse others of doing before you double-check to make sure you are not doing them yourself.

        Again, as before, thanks for the opportunity for a somewhat heated, opinionated discussion. I enjoyed it.

      2. Well I’m afraid I’m far more interested in this, today:

        http://johnbrawley.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/blackmagic-cinema-camera-lets-take-it-from-the-top/

        But, contrary to your claims that it’s all about your personal opinion, you have repeatedly attacked the “intelligence” of those you disagree with. Protest all you like, but someone of such discerning intelligence might remember the title at the top of the page: “…The Descent Of American Intelligence”

        Your peeves prove nothing about American intelligence other than you didn’t personally like the acting and characters, and you claim that the plot was somehow stupid, without elaborating as to why. The original film of the series was similarly a bit of monkey business, with an over the top ape general villain and a blustering astronaut simply trying to regain his freedom. So much for the complexity and artistic zenith you imply must be there.

        Okay, you enjoyed the original, disliked the higher budget origin story. This has no bearing on the intelligence of the rest of us. Peace out.

  7. Randy says:

    “It’s a mad house! A maaaad house!”

    The film was OK, in my opinion. Could have been better…could have been muchworse. Another appropriate Taylor quote: “I’m a seeker too. But my dreams aren’t like yours. I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better…”

    I guess I was also expecting better.

    It had its moments, but I give it two stars out of five. Why? The CGI. They kept telling me Cornelius; I kept seeing Golemn. And CGI.

    A finel quote from Tay-lor:

    “And that completes my final report until we reach touchdown. We’re now on full automatic, in the hands of the computers.”

  8. Randy says:

    Indeed. Saw the CGI as a major crutch in Rise, but I expected more, given the $90 million budget. Same for other Heston-original-connection remake of the Omega Man, with Will Smith, I Am Legend. Darkseekers were cartoonish computer-generated nonsense. I imagine the conversation going something like: “We’re already spending a lot on this movie…so let’s save a bunch of cash and make them all CGI. No one will even notice.”

    It’s all about getting the largest-possible number of the lowest-common denominator to cough up maximum ticket money. After all, more people will laugh at a guy walking into a lamp post than will laugh at (or understand) a really clever joke.

    Sometimes, even mediocre can bring in a lot of coin–especially if it uses lots of computers and hyped just right.

  9. halmasonberg says:

    Um… Editor, seeing a trend in what I consider a decline in American intelligence in terms of what people respond to as brilliant, bold or smart is, whether you like it or not, an opinion. By my definition of intelligent, RISE lingers somewhere down at the bottom of the heap. And so does the taste of the average American moviegoer. IMHO. How you don’t see that as an opinion I do not know. Again, the only person I see here not separating their opinions from irrefutable fact is you.

    I’m not the only person who thinks Americans have been spoon-fed more in the past 20 years than ever before. At least in terms of cinema. It’s not something that I alone have noticed or commented on. I don’t know how old (or young) you are, but popular cinema was far more challenging and demanding and, in my opinion, competent when I was younger. I’ve seen a very distinct, tangible change. And, for me, RISE is the perfect example of that unfortunate (again, in my opinion) transformation. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/movies/09scot.html?_r=2

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