RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES reboots a franchise that was in need of resuscitation

If you thought the “Planet of the Apes” franchise was dead thanks to Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, do not fear because “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is here to make your forget about that Burton debacle.

In “Rise” scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a serum on chimpanzees that could cure Alzheimer’s, which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. When tragedy occurs that leads to all the tested chimps to be put down, he decides to take home a baby chimp that would be named Caesar. Will eventually finds out that Caesar has been affected by his serum, which makes him super smart, leading to Will tasting the drug on his father. When an incident lands Caesar in primate reserve, he is treated cruelly while trying to get along with own kind.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is not just your standard sci-fi film, but a strong and dramatic character-driven film where the audience can identify with most of the characters in the film whether they are human or not.

The story of the film focuses on many themes with antagonists to go hand-in-hand with the themes whether it is corporate greed in the form of Will’s boss (David Oyelowo) to animal cruelty in the form of one of Caesar’s captors (Tom Felton). When Caesar is placed in the primate reserve, the story gets more interesting as it is played more like a prison movie ala “Cool Hand Luke” and “A Prophet” with Caesar transforming from naïve chimp to a tough militant leader thanks to his ever-increasing intelligence as he develops an ape army and plots out an elaborate escape from the reserve.

The last twenty minutes is filled with memorable and amazing sequences that involve apes rampaging through San Francisco. The sequence culminates in a showdown on the Golden State Bridge between the apes armed with spears and the whole San Francisco Police Department including the SWAT team. The monkeys in the film, believe or not, are all computer-generated and created by Weta Digital. The animation is so impressive that it makes you believe for a second that the primates on screen are real with so much incredible details to the animals’ skin, hair and facial structure.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is all about Caesar, who is played brilliantly and convincingly by Andy Serkis and brought to physical life by the animation team of Weta Digital. As the king of motion capture, Serkis understands the technology more than any actor can thanks to his roles as Gollum in the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy and Kong in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”. His performance as Caesar gives you an immediate and emotional connection to his character as he manages to make us care about this digital monkey as much as we would care for flesh-and-blood human actor.

James Franco is a bit stiff compared to his on-screen digital companion, but he manages to stick to it with an average performance that is nowhere near the caliber of his brilliant performances in “Milk” and “127 Hours”. John Lithgow fared much better as his father with his performance making you understand the scariness and frustration of a man who is mentally fading away. In the role of Will’s girlfriend, Frieda Pinto add nothing to the film as she is more like eye candy. The role could have been played by any actress in Hollywood whether it could have been Olivia Wilde or Blake Lively. Even though Brian Cox and Tom Felton happens to be good in their roles, they are once again typecast here as untrustworthy characters.  

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” also happens to become somewhat of bridge that would connect this film to the original film with a couple of nods that fans of the first movie would recognize.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is not only the last great summer blockbuster of the year, but a terrific reboot/prequel to the 1969 sci-fi classic with a fascinating story, award-winning CGI work and an amazing performance from Andy Serkis.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”: 4.5 starts out of 5

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