August 05, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The 2001 Planet of the Apes remake was so dismal that I went into this one with low expectations. But Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an entrancing diversion, with James Franco as a scientist injecting apes with a virus that makes them super-chimps. He's working on a cure for Alzheimer's, and even tries an experimental batch on his ailing father (John Lithgow), who's got Dementia.

You're never sure if director Rupert Wyatt intends for this to be funny, but it is. The movie doesn't exactly wink at the audience, but with Franco in the lead, who's never far away from being tongue-in-cheek, you feel the director has given the audience permission to laugh and have a good time. Besides, the movie is genuinely entertaining, and makes good use of San Francisco as its setting (including a well-paced and exciting showdown between apes and police on the Golden Gate bridge).

The computerized apes look fairly realistic. CGI never sells itself to me all the way. There's something not quite believable in it, but the creators of these formidable creatures accomplish quite a lot with the technology at hand, and the movie avoids hokeyness for the most part. The apes are compelling characters, and most of the time they're the more sympathetic creatures in the movie.

With Freida Pinto as a veterinarian/love interest, Andy Serkis as Caesar, the star Ape, Tom Felton, as a scummy caretaker at the facility in which Caesar becomes a captive, and David Oyelowo as Franco's boss, the man holding the purse strings behind the mad scientist's work.

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