Rise of the Planet of the Apes

And that would be a bad thing, because “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” hoses off any stink Burton left behind. It’s one of the year’s nicest surprises.

An origin story to the sci-fi franchise that began on the big screen in 1968, “Rise” draws upon story elements of 1972’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (entry No. 4 for those as geeky as I), depicting how the baby monkey dubbed Caesar came to unite all gorillas, chimps and orangutans to overthrow the humans who have oppressed them.

It’s the fault, if unintended, of a scientist (James Franco, “127 Hours”) just trying to cure the Alzheimer’s eating away at the memories of his father (John Lithgow, TV’s “Dexter”). Science has to test on animals first for safety, and Caesar is the guinea pig — er, monkey — who experiences remarkable intelligence.
Too much brilliance, eventually leading to “Rise”’s bravura climax, an extended sequence in which Caesar’s assembled armies invade San Francisco by way of the Golden Gate Bridge. Director Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist”) stages this with pulse-raising tension, made possible by incredible special effects. The apes you see raising Cain are CGI, with the most remarkable being Caesar, in a startling motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis (“King Kong”). 

Consider how far the series has come: The original film earned an Oscar for its breakthrough makeup that turned men into monkeys. Now, no simian suits are needed, letting computers do the work. It’s the appeal of the “Apes” concept that stays unchanged.

Rod Lott

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