Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my favorite action films of the year. In my review, which can be read here in its entirety, I stated the filmmakers did "an impressive job rebooting the franchise by delivering an exciting action film" that has me "looking forward to revisiting this world and seeing what lies ahead for both man and ape." The creation of Caesar by Andy Serkis and Weta Digital was amazing. Not only is it the best thing about the film, but also a milestone in effects work that will long be remembered. Serkis has previously done motion-capture work as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the titular King Kong for Peter Jackson, but this performance may well be his best because he does such great job conveying the feeling and emotions of Caesar as the character transforms through the film. What he does is very subtle, and if the technology and the fact that it takes place in a summer blockbuster aren't held against him, Serkis may earn some well-deserved recognition as an actor.
The Blu-ray has been given an impressive 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. The color palette uses warm colors but the orange and teal portions look stronger than I remember. Blacks are solid and contribute to the solid contrast. The textures are strong and evident throughout, particularly on the CGI apes. The hairs and facial features on them show more detail than their human counterparts. Unfortunately, the high definition destroys some of the illusion of the effects work, especially in the battle scenes in the end, but they are fleeting moments that are soon forgotten as the action propels the viewer.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 delivers a comparable experience, sure to delight action fans and keep them immersed. As the film opens, the viewer is immersed as the sounds of an African jungle and the chase that occurs when poachers captures chimps fills the system. Soon after, the ambiance of different areas of civilized San Francisco help set scenes. The bombastic scenes perform well, whether one ape or an army of them. Enraged gorillas frequently force the subwoofer to deliver some great bottom end, demonstrating a well-balanced mix as the bass doesn't distort when it easily could. Dialogue and quieter moments also demonstrate great clarity.
The Blu-ray is chock full of high-def extras to show how the movie was made. There are 11 Deleted Scenes (12 min), the best of which show Serkis at work pre-CGI and help make the case for why he's deserving of an acting award. "The Genius of Andy Serkis" (8 min), which focuses on his performance, does so as well. "The Mythology of the Apes" (7 min) compares the new film with original and mentions some of the references to the first film. Would have liked a feature that pointed out all of them. "A New Generation of Apes" (10 min) reveals the creation of the creatures.
"Scene Breakdown" (2 min) shows a scene in three variations: pre-effects performance capture, in an early animation, and then the completed scene with picture-in-picture reference. "Character Concept Art Gallery" shows the characters in stills. Will is inaccessible, but there's likely some way to access him. "Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries" (9 min) documents the Golden Gate Bridge sequence with Weta shooting outdoors for the first time. "Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle" (8 min), who talks about his work on the film. "The Great Apes" (23 min) are informative pieces about the Chimpanzee, Gorilla, and Orangutan. There are also three Theatrical Trailers
Though the human characters, the performances of those characters, and plot had room for improvement, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is highly recommended for action fans. It's as good a Blu-ray experience as it was a movie experience.