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Current picture shows: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

Et tu, Brute? – James Franco (right) with Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
Et tu, Brute? – James Franco (right) with Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
20th Century Fox



On June 15, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC’s Home Listing Report revealed that San Francisco was the 36th most expensive housing market in the United States from the period of September 2010 to March 2011, and that it ranked first among major U.S. cities – ahead of Honolulu and Los Angeles – with an average listing price of $807,691.

But not so fast.

On August 5, Twentieth Century Fox released Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which reveals that an army of hyper-intelligent apes, intent on the destruction of mankind, is living in the redwood forests north of Frisco.

So much for the robust housing market.

The origins of the simian situation can be traced to a scientist named Will Rodman (James Franco), who creates a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, called ALZ-112. Tests on lab chimps show a remarkable increase in brain functionality, but just when Will is ready to present his findings to the money men, an overprotective mother chimp goes nuts and trashes the conference room. Will is ordered to euthanize all the apes, but either out of kindness or hubris, he saves the baby chimp, which he adopts and names Caesar (as in Julius, but with more hair than Louis Calhern).

Caesar is a cute little monkey at first, always getting into mischief in a cute little monkey way, but when he grows up he develops a greater-than-human intelligence and suddenly isn’t so cute anymore, beating the crap out of a neighbor and landing in a shelter that’s like a chimp version of Alcatraz. There he endures the hazing of the other apes and the brutal treatment of a discontented guard (Tom Felton), causing him to undergo a Nietzschean transformation into a power hungry autocrat who believes in the superiority of the simian race. He escapes from the clink, steals a batch of ALZ-113 (the more powerful offshoot of ALZ-112) and turns his cellmates into a hyper-intelligent band of ape-warriors.

All of this is entertaining enough, but at a certain point – right around the time the apes storm a bunch of cops on a digitalized Golden Gate Bridge – I realized that there’s really no point to the movie. It’s just a bunch of apes gone wild.

Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, Rise of the Planet of the Apes most resembles a video game. The apes were successfully created using the same kind of motion-capture technology used in Avatar, but the problem is the rest of the movie, which is too obviously a CGI creation. When a young Caesar jumps and swings his way around his attic room, I felt like I was stuck in the “Spring Hill Zone” of Sonic the Hedgehog. Where are the guys in the monkey suits when you need them?

I’m at a loss as to why Franco signed on to the project, other than to satisfy some kind of perverse need for an eclectic change of pace after his Oscar-nominated turn in 127 Hours. He looks completely disinterested here, perhaps realizing that the material is not only beneath his talents, but that it lacks the metacinematic “performance art” qualities of his role on General Hospital.

But I’m at a greater loss as to why the filmmakers had Felton echo Charlton Heston’s iconic line from the first Planet of the Apes movie: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” I suppose they were trying to get a laugh or two, or maybe acknowledge the franchise’s indebtedness to good old Chuck, but I found it neither funny nor particularly clever.

It just made me miss the guys in the monkey suits.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently playing at the Roxy in Burlington, the Palace 9 in South Burlington, Essex Cinemas in Essex Jct., the Sunset Drive-In in Colchester, the Welden 3 in St. Albans, and the Capitol 5 in Montpelier.


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