One of the surprise hits of Summer 2011 Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a sci-fi thriller out of place in a season full of superheroes sequels and animated movies. Though its CGI and state-of-the-art motion capture technology is what drove the masses to the theaters the sociological message at the film’s core is what made it such a unique blockbuster. That and Andy Serkis of course. The former (and future) Lord of the Rings star takes on the role of Caesar in the big-budget prequel to the classic franchise and is without a doubt the greatest special effect the film boasts. His performance evokes more emotion than any of the other actors were able to deliver and the digital character he helps create is one of the true cinematic marvels of the year. Lucky for me (and all fans of the film) Fox’s home entertainment release of Apes is an in-depth look at how it was made as well as an ode to the original series.
Before I tell you all about the great special features the Blu-ray contains I must first make mention of how incredible the HD transfer of the film is. The 1080p picture enhances the aesthetic of the Apes and the natural environments featured in the movie ten-fold; this is perhaps the first time that I preferred a home-viewing instead of a theater screening. And don’t even get me started on the sound: with a decent 5.1 surround sound system you’ll be able to hear the Apes in a virtual three-dimensional setting as they make their way from tree to tree and roof to roof. It’s a world that you’ll be happy to be immersed in and the bonus content will take you even further inside.
The deleted scenes don’t just add to the story they inform the viewer of the genius of Andy Serkis as most feature the performer’s raw unfinished footage as Caesar. These clips show you how his movements and facial expressions would eventually translate to the final cut and it’s incredibly fascinating to behold. A perfect complement to these scenes then is a featurette entitled “The Genius of Andy Serkis” in which his co-stars producers and director gloat about his superpowers. For the longtime Apes follower another extra “Mythology of the Apes” finds the filmmakers discussing the legacy of the Charlton Heston movies at length including how older plot points informed the prequel. With “A New Generation of Apes” the WETA visual effects team dishes on the challenge of bringing an army of Apes to the big screen while “Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries” expands on it with on-set footage that shows you the equipment used to make the monkeys and doubles as a stunt display that breaks down the gripping Golden Gate bridge sequence at the climax of the movie.
The musically inclined audience will love another featurette that finds composer Patrick Doyle discussing the thought-process behind the beautiful score of the film. It’s an enlightening piece of content as I find it most interesting to hear why certain harmonic choices were made at pivotal points in the picture. All too often a movie’s non-pop soundtrack doesn’t get the attention it deserves so it’s nice to see the Fox was willing to give this incredibly talented department its due on the disc. Additional features include “The Great Apes” a documentary that shows you how various primates live in today’s world a concept art gallery trailers sneak peaks and two separate commentary tracks one with director Rupert Wyatt and another with writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver which are both worth tuning in to.
I’m often disappointed with the lack of bonus content available to consumers on Blu-ray discs but Fox Home Entertainment treated this release with utmost care and consideration so my advice is to add Rise of the Planet of the Apes to the stockings of the movie fan in your home this season.