At the Movies: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This movie opened two weeks ago. Nobody wants to read a review of a movie that’s been in theaters two weeks. I understand and I agree with you. But cut me some slack.

“Rise” opened the weekend I was on vacation so I couldn’t review it then. I’ve been incapacitated the past week and couldn’t see it then. I know I should move on, but, “Glee: The Movie?” “Final Destination 5?” Haven’t I suffered enough?

Besides, I love the “Apes” movies (well, maybe not the Tim Burton one). I would have gladly written a Before You Go “Planet of the Apes” history lesson if I’d been here. Why should I miss out just because of bad timing? I put up with a lot of nerd stuff I didn’t care about lately — “Transformers,” “Harry Potter” — so I’m not going to miss out on something I’m actually interested in just because I’m a little late to the party. And I may as well drag you along for the ride.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a reboot of the horribly hokey but oh, so entertaining “Apes” series of the ’60-’70s. James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a scientist looking for a cure for his father’s (John Lithgow) Alzheimer’s. He thinks he’s found one but when the ape he’s been testing it on goes on a rampage, the project is terminated.

The ape is killed and Rodman learns it was hiding a newborn in its cage. Will takes the young chimp home and continues his research there. The young ape is named Caesar (Andy Serkis) and proves to be quite a prodigy. Will’s virus, in addition to helping his father, has given Caesar near-human intelligence.

All is well until Caesar has an altercation with a neighbor and winds up sent to the local ape asylum. Here, he is exposed to his own kind for the first time — as well as the darker side of humanity. After a few weeks of mistreatment, Caesar decides it’s time to rally his ape brethren and rise up.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” joins “Star Trek” and “Batman Begins” as a top-notch restart of a familiar franchise. Director Rupert Wyatt delivers a nice mix of ’60s-style creepy science fiction with modern-day action and special effects. The film is always moving and rarely drags. There are plenty of clever nods to the original films.

While Franco does a nice job the real stars are Andy Serkis and the effects people at Weta Digital. Computer generated apes are much more effective than people in ape suits. Serkis also really makes you feel for Caesar’s plight.

Like all “Apes” movies it can be pretty absurd and it’s best not to think too hard about a lot of it. Just how many apes are there in San Francisco? It also amuses me how humans don’t have any trouble taking down alien invaders — be it the old west or modern L.A. — but they can’t stop a herd of primates with spears.

Did it work for me? “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is one of my favorite movies of the summer.


One response to “At the Movies: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  1. I still don’t understand how they get those monkeys to talk.

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