Next at bat in a long – long – queue of movie remakes this year (is it wishful thinking that “Footloose” remain on deck forever?): the motion-capture-sci-fi-action-o-rama: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
The film is described as a knock-off ... no wait, I’m sorry, a “reboot” of the original “Planet of the Apes” five-part series, which premiered in 1968 and starred the one, the only, Charlton Heston.
Tim Burton attempted to raise some apes himself in 2001 with the help of Marky Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter, to disastrous affect. (Dear Hollywood: Think of a new idea for once! Broadway, I’m looking at you, too. Please and thank you.)
Clearly Timmy B. was missing the magical piece: Gollum. Better known as motion-capture master actor Andy Serkis.
What? Did you think I was going to say James Franco. HA. Although he was bearable in director Rupert Wyatt’s Homer-esque journey, I also would say he was certainly the weakest link in the chain.
Overall, this new spin on the old story is compelling and captivating. We meet scientist Will Rodman (Franco) in his lab, where he is perfecting a master virus that enables complete gene rejuvenation. Or as he calls it, “the cure to Alzheimer’s.” Sadly, his research is cut short after a sudden, misunderstood act of aggression by their star ape. Our sympathy deepens when we meet his father, Charles, played with poignant humility by the incredible John Lithgow. Charles was once a brilliant man, but Alzheimer’s has stolen his mind and is after his dignity.
Frustrated by his research’s untimely end, Will pilfers a few doses of the drug and tries them out on his dad. And it works. At the same time he adopts a lab refugee, who they come to know and love as Caesar.
As Caesar grows he displays abnormal intelligence, and he struggles to find his place in a human-run world. If you’ve seen the preview, you know what happens next. Lots of screaming and running and explosions and apes on the Golden Gate Bridge. And this is all very exciting, but it’s that notion of home, the epic odyssey of Caesar and Will’s fight for his father, that make this “Rise” worth watching.
And if the ending is any indication, we’ll be following Caesar for many years to come.