With an opening weekend of $54 million, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, has proved to be an even bigger hit than anticipated. The film builds with just the right amount of tension, packs with in-your-face action, and even briefly warms the viewer into imagining the possibility of a world where man and ape walk upright and wear one another's pants.
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James Franco plays Will, a scientist and the brain-child behind a potential Alzheimer’s cure being experimented on primates. While testing, one of the subject apes goes ballistic, forcing the scientists to abort further experiments and put the remaining subjects down.
A compassionate Will rescues and takes in a baby primate for what he thinks will only be a few days. Days turn to years and now Caesar (Andy Serkis) is more of an adopted son than a pet. At 3 years old, he’s fluent in sign language and has more smarts than a first grader. Caesar also serves as great company to Will’s father (John Lithgow), whose suffering from severe Alzheimer’s.
Will meets Caroline (Freida Pinto), an animal doctor who’s fascinated with Caesar’s rapid development. It’s inevitable that romance blooms between Will and Caroline – because that’s what beautiful people do – nominating them the surrogate parents of a wonder ape. Caroline forewarns Will that his adoration for Caesar will not change the fact that Caesar’s an animal not meant to be domesticated. (Although, I would’ve probably taken it further – “Not only does Caesar have the strength to rip our faces off, but one day he’s going to be smarter than both of us combined.”)
They continue to have picnics in the forest, allowing Caesar to climb treetops endlessly. But now with the stature of a 12-year-old boy, a leashed Caesar is curious (no George reference) and demands answers on his origin. This is a pivotal moment in the movie, and the beginning of the wedge drawn between the human-ape relationships.
Caesar gets remarkably smarter as aforementioned. But more importantly he longs to find his place. Although he’s loved by a family of humans, he’s thwarted, causing him to seek comfort in others like him.
Although Oscar-nominated James Franco receives top-billing, he’s vastly outshined by Caesar. The winning combination of CGI and Andy Serkis help catapult an unforgettable performance. Also, after the revolt, the action is breathtaking, taking us from apes roller-skating with cars on each foot to the very tippy top of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. And unlike the latest Transformers installment, Apes was able to utilize the human actors in the bigger picture of the film.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is gratifying both visually and narratively, swinging in as not only one of the summer’s best films but one of the best this year – earning it 3.5 out of 4 stars.