First the Academy Awards–tomorrow the world! Not content with wreaking havoc with his hosting gig at the Oscars, James Franco has now set his sights—on all mankind. In another cinematic case of man meddling in things he should have left alone, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes casts Franco as a dedicated scientist earnestly looking to cure Alzheimer’s by testing an experimental serum on chimpanzees. While the results are questionable for humans (such as Franco’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father John Lithgow) the serum does result in greater intelligence for the chimps, especially Caesar, who has been raised by Franco after an unfortunate earlier incident results in the killing of Caesar’s mom.
Now I could go into more details about how Caesar ends up at a primate facility under the brutal care of Brian Cox and son Tom Felton (Draco of Harry Potter fame and evolving into a dead ringer for Anthony Michael Hall)—as well as the unintended effects of the antivirus– but what you want to know is—how goes it with the action—and the ape effects? Well, it goes very well. The scenes of the primates plotting their escape from captivity (under Caesar’s guidance) are fairly suspenseful, and the revolt against their bestial masters (echoes of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) packs a punch, as the apes extend their rebellion to the chemical lab, and ultimately the streets of San Francisco. Lithgow, Franco, Cox, Felton and Freida Pinto (as the veterinarian love interest) acquit themselves well, but this is Andy Serkis’ show. His Caesar is a marvel of vulnerability, angst and ultimately power. You won’t soon forget his yearning to go “home.” As for Franco and his (character’s) role in endangering life as we know it, see the film–and watch for the sequels.