Franco bonds, believably, with Serkis' Caesar"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Rupert Wyatt's socially aware, achingly humane update of the venerable Fox franchise, is a supreme reminder never to assume. I mean, who thought that this seemingly well-worn series could be rehabilitated in such a clever, sophisticated way?
Wyatt and his scenarists Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver surmounted this challenge by honoring the soul of Pierre Boulle's original French novel, "La planète des singes," while bringing a timeless modernity to the piece.
The Biritsh filmmaker has also contrasted the free-wheeling '60s of the original film with the unfortunate conformist mentality that pervades the so-called New Millenium, giving this update a '50s aftertaste.
James Franco is utterly convincing as a San Francisco scientist/idealist, with both a mission and an agenda, who is experimenting on chimps to find a cure for the Alzheimer's disease that afflicts his father (John Lithgow). And Wyatt brings a certain element to his film, one essential to all films, that has fallen in disrepair in recent years - namely, exposition.
He takes his time creating the timeline that will take baby Caesar, a chimp from Franco's high-tech pharmaceutical headquarters (named Gen-Sys), to his home where Caesar bonds with his father, to the animal refuge which is anything but. Here, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" becomes a shrewd take on the prison-film genre, and the innocent, loving Caesar (brilliantly played by a digitally costumed Andy Serkis) becomes a hardened inmate. Think Eastwood in Don Siegel's "Escape from Alcatraz."
All of this plays as a commantary/allegory on the fate of all captive animals, including those who we think are comfortably domesticated.
The film's big setpiece is a standoff between Caesar and his fellow escapees and gun-toting authorities on the expansive Golden Gate Bridge (there's never any question which species is the superior one) - a huge action scene amidst a film that's largely spoken. The dialogue penned by Jaffa and Silver is often quick, alert and literate, but there's one word here, a mere monosylable, that speaks volumes. Memorably.