Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Art Of Good Storytelling

Alert: There are some spoilers ahead for the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

This weekend I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes and I loved it. When there have been so many of these movies done in the last fifty years including a terrible reboot starring Marky Mark...why did I love this movie so much?  What set it apart?  Well the storytelling is awesome.

Hard science-fiction can be challenging to pull off well.  This is where all the science is accounted for, where everything is possible, only you just take it a step further which is what breaks the boundaries of fact and throws in the fiction.  I knew this going into the movie because sci-fi reviewers had given this movie great props for pulling off the hard science-fiction aspects of the story. That and they set up the sequels perfectly.

This is what the writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes did. They gave us an exposition of ground-breaking work in the world of Alzheimer's disease and took it one step further.  They showed us how the human drive to find a solution to a terrible malady could in fact produce evolution, result in a new life form, and that we...not them...would be the ones responsible for our own destruction.  And it all came about with the best of intentions.  The end result was never supposed to happen.

Andy Serkis
There were several parts of this film that I just absolutely loved. From being mesmerized that Andy Serkis could stand in for the motion capture of Caesar (who does some astounding things) to the lessons about humanity that I learn in just watching this splendid film take shape.  Tom Felton a.k.a. Draco Malfoy seems stereotyped as an asshole on screen.  I hope he can break out of this role and soon because he shows great promise as an actor that can play other types of roles.  James Franco as the scientist who created the drug stood in very well as the tragic genius who turned to all that he knew in order to make life better for his father (played by John Lithgow) who was robbed of his life with each passing day to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.  The film is filled with powerful foreshadowing.

Go see this movie.  As a writer, even if you only write YA or some other genre, you can benefit to see how sci-fi done well can have a lasting impression on you for hours after you have exited the movie.  By the way, if you are worried that you will see apes killing humans, that doesn't happen except by absolute accident or to defend themselves. In the end, it is the humans that destroy each other because our lack of humility with regard to the power of genetic engineering is the source of our own cataclysm.


  1. I had never watched any of the movies but the original tv series were so ingrained in me that I could still remember some of the scenes vividly. I read books, watch movies because of their stories and only ones that promise a happy ending.

  2. Planet of the Apes and Land of the Giants used to come on every Sunday when I was a kid. I never really thought I was into sci-fi or fantasy, but fact is, when it's done right like you said, it's great.

    And so true, these films have been redone a gazillion times, it's all about someone being able to put a fresh spin on it and make it interesting to today's viewers.

  3. I'm not going to read this, because I really want to see this movie, and don't want to have it spoiled. Andy Serkis is freaking amazing, though. I will say that.

  4. It sounds like a great movie. In the commercial, it sure looked like apes killing humans (or at least roaring into their faces).

  5. A scientist trying to cure Alzheimer's and creating superintelligent beasts that run amok was already done in "Deep Blue Sea" although that was sharks not apes and was more horror than sci-fi.

    At least from the previews the computer-generated apes look kind of cheap and crappy. I'd rather have the campy rubber mask ones from the '60s-'70s.

  6. I was weaned on hard sci fi and it's still my first love. Not many movies do that variety of story. I bet I could count all the ones I've seen on one hand.

    I'm sold now, I'll go see it.

  7. This medical end is the sci fi I really love--reminds me a little of Crichton that way. I think this looks like a great movie and I love what you've said about story telling--that 'we did this to ourselves with good intentions' is poignant as a message and is far more chilling than 'some evil others did this to us'.

  8. This film looks like one hubby and I would definitely go and see. Oh gosh but

    'even if you only write YA or some other genre'

    Now that's a stand out comment all of its own!!!

    I enjoy sci fi and many, many different genres and i'd like to think that will mature my writing and make me less stale and predictable than others who just concentrate on one area. ;O)

  9. Wow. I didn't know a remake of a remake could actually be good. In the science fiction genre, no less.

  10. Aishah: I liked the t.v. series when I was a kid. It's unwatchable now that I've been spoiled by good special effects.

    D.U.: Fresh spin makes all the difference.

    Matthew: Understood good sir!

    Cindy: hehe as per our conversation yesterday on Skype...yes it is amazing. :)

    Mutt: Why are you such a grump? And Deep Blue Sea was terribad.

    Rusty: I think you'll love it.

    Hart: I also love medical sci-fi.

    Madeline: hehe glad you liked the comment.

  11. LOL
    I knew someone would say something about that comment. Glad I wasn't the one. heh heh

    I want to see this movie. I have since the first trailer I saw for it. After that Burton mess... well, yeah... after that Burton mess.

  12. "Mutt: Why are you such a grump? And Deep Blue Sea was terribad."

    But what Deep Blue Sea had going for it for me was that it was one of the first horror movies I saw where the black guy lives! I kept waiting for LL Cool J to get chomped but (spoiler) he didn't! Though Samuel L. Jackson did, but still...

  13. Mutt: That's an excellent point. When I look back on Deep Blue Sea I'm trying to analyze where it went wrong. It wasn't special effects. Those sharks looked damn real. And I don't think it was with the dialogue or the plot or the humor.

    Maybe it's because the heroine died? Or maybe it's because they killed of Samuel L. Jackson after a rousing speech. I hated that.

  14. Come on that's the best part! He gives this big speech about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and working together and whatnot and then GULP! he's gone. Though I'll admit it is a little disappointing, like in "Executive Decision" where they killed off Steven Segal in the first act because I was all set for Segal/Kurt Russell to be working together to save the airplane and then BOOM! Segal's gone before hardly anything happens. But I bet like Jackson he got a nice paycheck for that cameo.

  15. yeah, people do recommend this movie :) looks like a good film.

  16. Do the monkey's fly? Because I saw this really good movie once where monkey's fly.

    It does sound like a great film, but I should have taken MM's tact and not read your (very well written) review... I like to see films with as little preview as possible.

  17. Now I have something good to see with my husband even if it is a late show. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Rogue, your comments should have "SPOILER ALERT" embedded in them.

    Also, everytime I see someone explain the science of the movie, I'm reminded of (I think) Fametracker, who described movies like "Journey To The Center of The Earth" as "Quick, we have to get the ___ to the ___ before the ___ blows up/melts down, so take that____ over to the ___."

    When you say both the sharks and the apes are Alzheimers' Research subjects, what I read is "We were trying to cure the ____ but the ___ we injected into/siphoned from the ____ have become ____."

  19. Awesome review! The other versions of POTA never caught my eye, but the trailers for this one immediately looked good to me. I think it's because they put the scientific explanation in. It's the same reason I liked the book Jurassic Park (and the movie version too...now, the sequels to Jurassic Park? Um, didn't like those so much).

  20. I'm kinda afraid to see this one.

  21. Liz - why afraid? It's a good enough show.
    I went with Mike and really enjoyed myself.
    *spoiler alert*
    I thought that the motivations were fairly realistic for why people were doing things one way or the other, I felt like the concepts and science behind what was going on was plausible and a fun explanation for things, and I like seeing nasty people being out-smarted by chimpanzees. It's just fun.
    The obvious-to-me foreshadowing made it somewhat predictable as the movie went on, so that was a tiny bit of a disappointment for me - sometimes I like things to be a bit more of a surprise.
    There were a few bits near the end that seemed either to be overlooked that left a bit of a hole here or there... but as the movie was going, I didn't seem to care so much... stuff related to the timing of the change in the apes from monkey smarts to "evolved" smarts and the relationship between the main chimp and the family that raised it.
    Anyway, I must say I definitely liked this movie better than the Tim Burton one.

  22. ...truly can't wait to see this! I was a fan of the classic series as a kid.

    Thanks Michael ;)