Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow. Rated PG. Now playing
There was some talk floating around the Georgia Straight editorial department recently about the latest Planet of the Apes film, and the talk was: “Hey, it’s gotta be better than the last one!” The good news is that, as expected, Rise of the Planet of the Apes puts Tim Burton’s crummy 2001 remake of the 1968 original to shame. The bad news is that whenever this prequel’s CGI apes aren’t on-screen, you’re wishing the flesh-and-blood actors would get the hell off!
James Franco battles blandness as Will Rodman, a brilliant genetic scientist experimenting on chimps at a San Francisco drug-research facility, hoping to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, from which his live-in father—the equally unconvincing John Lithgow—conveniently suffers. Rodman makes amazing progress with the serum he’s concocted, as an ape named Bright Eyes (yes, Charlton Heston fans) is able to ace all intelligence tests. But after this hairy genius goes on a boardroom rampage in front of potential investors, Rodman’s greedy boss (David Oyelowo) freezes the project and orders all the “contaminated” test subjects put down.
Shamed into adopting the purge’s sole survivor by his research assistant (Jack Black wannabe Tyler Labine), Rodman takes Bright Eyes’ baby son home—along with enough doses of banned serum for both chimp and Dad.
Several years later, the cookie-swiping, rafter-swinging Caesar has transformed into the primate version of the sullen human teen, and he’s only happy when allowed to scamper freely up the towering redwoods in a nearby forest. But a neighbourhood incident causes the scowling Caesar—effectively played via motion-capture technology by Andy Serkis, who evoked similar sympathy and trepidation as Gollum in Lord of the Rings—to be sent to a local ape sanctuary/prison, where he is tormented nonstop by a sneering asshole keeper (blond weasel boy Tom Felton of the Harry Potter films).
About this time, the movie’s entertainment quotient kicks in and you start cheering for the put-upon primates and their goal of making it across the Golden Gate Bridge to redwood-climbing paradise (and, eventually, as the story goes, world domination). The smartly executed ape rebellion is thrilling enough to make up for the film’s human inadequacies, so Franco just barely escapes being god-damned, being god-damned all to hell!
Watch the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
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