REVIEW: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Is Solid, But Hardly a Classic

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”  is hardly the best in its franchise, but is still a worthy entry into the pantheon of “Apes” movies. Dramatic, dark and often pulling the heartstrings, “Rise” is a mature sci-fi tale of science gone awry.

Just about every recent film about science run amuck has been superficially tucked away in a super-hero movie. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” however, takes that ages-old dilemma and puts it to a more frightening effect. The first two-thirds of “Rise” successfully shows that, like many classic science fiction movies before, science born out of compassion will always lose to corruption and greed.

James Franco (“127 Hours”) is maverick scientist Will Rodman, who is close to finding the cure to Alzheimer’s. Curing the disease is a personal journey for the scientist whose father, poignantly played by John Lithgow (“3rd Rock From the Sun”), is in a late stage of the illness. When lab testing on chimpanzees doesn’t work out so well and the greedy businessmen take control of the project, Will brings home an infant chimp to raise as his own.  Thus, the great and mighty Caesar is born.

Franco’s relationships with his sick father and the aging and domesticated Caesar are often touching when ultimately we know that the world will be rid of humans and the apes will rise.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” gives one or two nods to the original Charlton Heston classic, but unlike the original Franklin Scaffner masterpiece, the apes are CGI. Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Rings”) does a masterful job at bringing Caesar to near-human likeness, but the digital features are not nearly as convincing as the makeup effects of even the weakest of the original “Apes” films.

“Rise” is mostly told from the perspective of Caesar, which makes for an intriguing plot. While the humans’ relationships come across as superficial, we do feel Caesar’s love for Franco and Lithgow and adversely, his hatred toward the ape-torturing Tom Felton (“Harry Potter”). While the emotional first half of the film is inviting, the second half turns in to the drawn-out and tired chase-the-monster movie which has completely dominated every blockbuster this summer.

Apart from Franco, Lithgow and Felton, the other actors are wasted. Talented actors Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Brian Cox (“The Bourne Identity”) disappointingly serve no purpose in the film. While not the best of the series, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” succeeds in raising a dormant franchise.

3 out of 5 stars