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Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 09:07 am

A worthy addition to Planet of the Apes

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Putting the Tim Burton reboot debacle firmly behind them, 20th Century-Fox has produced a worthy prequel to their Planet of the Apes franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Spending virtually no time on character development, which is the film’s biggest drawback, this entry focuses on Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) who’s developed a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Rodman comes to this discovery after testing his formula on chimpanzees. The offspring of one, prophetically named Caesar, comes into the doctor’s care. Far smarter than any of his peers, the chimp eventually becomes overly aggressive and a series of events results in him being sent to an ape sanctuary where he’s integrated with others like him. Soon, with the inventive use of tools, some animal kingdom posturing and a couple of bags of “Chips-Ahoy” cookies, Caesar is running the place and is priming his cohorts for a revolution.

Actor Andy Serkis provides Caesar with fluid motions and detailed facial expressions while the magic of motion-capture technology completes the illusion that these simians are sharing the screen with their human counterparts. The result is fascinating, a bit unnerving and always realistic. There is a genuine sense of interaction between the apes and humans here that gives this film an immediacy others have lacked. Because of this, Rise is a satisfying, inventive and at times clever cautionary tale that once more puts on the table the issues of animal cruelty and the dangers of tampering with the natural order of things.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.