Aug 28, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): B+

I've only ever seen the 1968 Planet of the Apes, so if this reboot/prequel/whatever is going over anything thematically similar to any of the many sequels, I'm at least that much in the dark. Regardless of those relationships, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is still a damn fine bit of craftsmanship, thoughtful and exciting and only vaguely manifest of the cookie cutter production system that spawned it. A drug unofficially known as "the cure to Alzheimer's" has been proven wildly successful on its simian test subjects, and must gain investment board approval before moving on to humans, until a predictably thickheaded business snafu sees the project scrapped and the primates terminated. Emotionally invested scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) manages to save one of the babies and, naming it Ceasar, takes it into his home, where he soon learns that the effects of the drug were passed onto it at a genetic level. As in the original film, this entry speaks volumes to social biases and the subjugation of broad groups; a scrutinous eye towards the responsibilities of discovery and the dangers of a for-profit mindset don't hurt the thematically juicy proceedings, either. As Caesar, along with the f/x animators, Andy Serkis turns in a thoroughly mesmeric performance; you'll be rooting for the apes in the end, even if you're not rooting against the humans (although one in particular's well-deserved comeuppance is particularly savory). Among the more cerebral popcorn films in memory, and the last-act set piece atop (and beneath) the Golden Gate Bridge can hold its own with the best of them. Sporadically profound (you'll know it when it happens), not unlike a riff on the "Dawn of Man" chapter from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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