"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is the seventh film in the popular sci-fi series that began in 1968 with the Charlton Heston classic "Planet of the Apes."
"Rise" is not a continuation of that series, nor is it a sequel to Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" in 2001. This new "Apes" opus directed by Rupert Wyatt does share some DNA with 1972's "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes," in which a super intelligent ape inspires his simian sisters and brothers to revolution, but "Rise" is actually a reboot intended to jumpstart a new series. Given the excellent reviews and the Oscar push for Andy Serkis -- not to mention the $480 million worldwide box-office tally, which isn't exactly chimp change -- expect Fox to go ape over more sequels soon.
James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a San Francisco neuroscientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease by testing on chimpanzees. The gene therapy has the side effect of making the apes hyperintelligent, especially a female whom Will calls Bright Eyes who secretly gives birth and hides her baby in her cage. After tragedy occurs at the research facility and the baby is orphaned, Will takes the chimp home to live with him and his Alzheimer's-stricken father, Charles (John Lithgow).
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As the years roll by, it becomes apparent that Bright Eyes' intelligence has been passed onto her son, Caesar (Serkis), who uses advanced sign language to communicate with Will and enjoys a happy home life with Will and his father, who has recovered from Alzheimer's thanks to the serum. Will often takes Caesar to the heretofore unheard-of redwood forest on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge to play, but Caesar begins to worry that he is a pet, even though Will assures him that that is not the case.
The delicate balance of Caesar's home life is shattered when he attacks a neighbor having an argument with Charles. Animal control whisks Caesar off to a primate sanctuary that is more like a prison staffed with sadistic help that has little regard for its charges, which include chimps, gorillas and a circus orangutan with whom Caesar can sign. Although the other apes are initially hostile towards Caesar, he soon rallies his fellow beasts to rebellion, which leads to their escape and an epic showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge between the apes and authorities. Once he reaches the safety of the redwood forest beyond, Caesar vocalizes his feelings to a stunned Will and audience.
The motion-capture apes on display in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" are the most realistic simians in the entire franchise, which in the past relied on rubber masks and makeup. Just as he did playing Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings," Serkis brings such a range of complex emotions to Caesar that it will be criminal if the Academy once again declines to nominate a landmark motion-capture performance .
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With the exception of Lithgow, who is excellent as a man fighting a losing battle against a debilitating disease, the human characters are the film's sole weak point, with Franco laughably unconvincing as a scientific genius and Freida Pinto equally unbelievable as the primatologist with whom Will monkeys around. Still, when any of the apes are on-screen, the riveting "Rise" rises to the very top of the "Planet of the Apes" franchise.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, "The Mythology of Apes" and "The Genius of Andy Serkis." The Blu-ray adds "Pre-vis for the Future," "Ape Facts (Chimpanzee, Gorilla and Orangutan)," "Capturing Caesar -- Script to Screen," audio commentaries, character concept art galleries, "Multi-Angle: Rocket Cookie Scene," "Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries" and "Breaking New Sound Barriers: The Music and Sound Design of 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes.'"