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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
4/5
dir Rupert Wyatt
scr Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
prd Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
with James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, David Hewlett, Ty Olsson, Madison Bell
release US 5.Aug.11, UK 11.Aug.11
11/US Fox 1h45
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Brothers in arms: Caesar and Franco

serkis pinto lithgow

31st Shadows Awards
SUPPORTING ACTOR
ANDY SERKIS

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Rise of the Planet of the Apes Rebooting this franchise seemed somewhat iffy until we heard it would involve Weta performance-capture technology (complete with Serkis). And indeed, it's an eye-popping, involving summer movie that manages to layer thoughtful substance with the lively action.

Will (Franco) is a San Francisco scientist experimenting with a new Alzheimer's medication he hopes will cure his father (Lithgow). But things take an unexpected turn when his greedy boss (Oyelowo) gets rid of his lab-test chimps, leaving Will to raise infant ape Caesar (Serkis) in secret. But Caesar's super-human intelligence can't keep him out of the clutches of the nasty father-son animal controllers (Cox and Felton), who badly underestimate him. Can Will and his chimp-expert girlfriend (Pinto) sort out the mess before a furious Caesar takes matters into his own capable hands?

The filmmakers cleverly rework themes from an earlier prequel (1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes), plus elements from the movies and TV series, to create an intriguing origin story that also works as a stand-alone popcorn thriller. And the big issues, from the nature-nurture debate to a cautionary exploration of humanity's casually destructiveness, add a sense of depth that makes this film stand out from other summer blockbusters, even if these themes aren't addressed with much depth. But the story is hugely involving.

The always-engaging Franco is superb as a too-nice guy whose struggle against his own good will is a sort of tragic flaw. And his scenes with Caesar are made riveting by Serkis' full-on performance; the intelligence in his eyes and his raw physicality evolve strikingly along the way. By contrast, the likable Pinto only seems on-hand to provide some feminine beauty, while an over-emotive Lithgow at least finds some wrenching dignity. And three gifted Brits provide the one-note bad guys, with Cox and Felton as low-life slimeballs and Oyelowo in the thankless greedy-jerk role.

But this is essentially a romantic-drama about a boy and his chimp, and it's a rousing romp with moments that are seriously chilling as the filmmakers lightly explore the dangers of tinkering with nature. They also create a solid back-story for the continuing franchise, plus a terrific template for even more unsettling effects work.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 7.Aug.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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