"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Movie Review
The "Planet of the Apes" series, especially the classic 1968 film starring Charlton Heston, was a cautionary tale about the unthinkable consequences of man playing God. That main thesis is highlighted in the new "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" which shows the evolution of the apes revolution.
Set in present day San Francisco, James Franco as scientist Will Rodman is the one playing God. He works for Gen-Sys, a large pharmaceutical corporation conducting genetic research to develop a benign virus that restores damaged human brain tissue.
Will is married to his science of finding a cure for Alzheimer's. His father, Charles (John Lithgow), is afflicted with the disease. The promising new drug, ALZ-112, could help. But there's only one problem -- the simian test subjects of the drug are suddenly displaying bizarrely aggressive behavior.
One of the most promising test subjects, a female chimp nicknamed Bright Eyes, unexplainably erupts in rage. After being put down, Will discovers that she was just protecting her newborn. That young chimp is named Caesar.
Told from the point of view of the super-intelligent Caesar, the story begins with a childlike wonderment and ends with our current civilization reaching the point of no return. The first act is intriguing and heartwarming featuring scenes of Will being a father to both Caesar and his Dementia-suffering dad.
The dynamic between the three characters propels the prequel. Franco is believable as a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and Lithgow shines as a former music teacher who can no longer remember a musical note.
The second act of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" takes a decidedly sinister turn when Caesar discerns the darkness of the human heart. Exhibiting evil is Tom Felton (that's Draco Malfoy to you "Harry Potter" fans), one of the workers of the San Bruno Primate Sanctuary -- a dumping ground for unwanted or abandoned apes.
By the time the third act arrives, you will be enthralled with the whole movie. One can't help but root for Caesar and his fellow chimps. It's a bewildering notion since we know what happens in the future.
I was very impressed with the confidence of director Rupert Wyatt. Since his 2008 film, "The Escapist," detailed the prison break of a group on inmates, it's very easy to say that Wyatt got the job because he's an expert in jail uprising. But look closely and you will see subtle scenes of incredible nuances.
The heartfelt moments between Caesar and Will are bound to break your heart. Or the smart, non-verbal scene between Caesar and Charles where the young chimp tries to teach the older human about using a fork to eat.
"Rise of the Planets" is not perfect though. Like most action-driven films, the female characters are hardly developed such as Caroline (played by "Slumdog Millionaire'" Freida Pinto), a primatologist who becomes Caesar's vet.
But great science fiction explores the "What If?" factor and screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are very respectful of the series. The scribes pay homage to the original film, even borrowing the famous line "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape." Yes, there's even a scene with the Statue of Liberty, and we're told that the spacecraft Icarus has entered Mars' atmosphere.
The real hero of the movie is Andy Serkis, the world's foremost performance capture artist. You may remember the actor for his splendid portrayal of Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, and you will definitely be amazed with his performance as Caesar, the chimp destined for greatness.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a great contemporary view of the franchise we've all known and loved. You will go ape over this thrilling and captivating ride.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" gets 3 1/2 kisses
Country: United States
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