'Rise of the Apes'
(James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis, Brian Cox, et al / PG-13 / 114 mins)
Overview: The Escapist director Rupert Wyatt takes the helm for this Planet of the Apes prequel centering on genetically engineered chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis), who was created in a San Francisco lab by an ambitious father/son scientist team (John Lithgow and James Franco), and who uses his powerful intellect to lead an ape uprising against all of humankind.
Verdict: Since the only really good 'Planet of the Apes' movie was the 1968 original with Charlton Heston, I’ve always wondered why filmmakers can’t just leave well enough alone. The current foray is rationalized in those same production notes: “The film was impossible to make until the technology, invented for ‘Avatar’ and now advanced to a new dimension, caught up to the idea behind the movie.”
In other words, having a guy traipse around in a phony-looking monkey suit just doesn’t cut it anymore! What the world has been waiting for is Andy Serkis – Gollum in 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy and Kong in 'King Kong' – traipsing around via performance capture technology. He plays Caesar, the supersmart chimpanzee whose education apparently does not include a single 'Planet of the Apes' movie.
Anyway, getting back on movie track, and (for my money) James Franco isn’t very convincing as a brooding scientist. He might have benefited from some performance capture technology, or at least better dialogue. This is the kind of movie where the characters are always saying things like, “What are you saying?” Plot points are continually reiterated. Obviously director Rupert Wyatt doesn’t think we in the audience are as smart as Caesar.
It all comes to a head when Caesar leads an ape revolt that spills out onto the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought there might be a 'Kong'-like moment when Caesar declares his love for the comely primatologist played by Freida Pinto, but no such luck. Instead, we’re left hanging in that twilight zone where fade-out morphs into sequel.