Was the world asking for a new Planet of the Apes film? Since Tim Burton's disappointing "re-imagining" 2001 of the cult-classic sci-fi film, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who said, "You know what we need at our local cineplex? A new Planet of the Apes movie." But sometimes the best ideas for movies are the ones that the public didn't realize they wanted to see. Hence, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is essentially the origin story of the first Planet of the Apes. A scientist named Will Rodman, played by an uncharacteristically understated James Franco, is developing a drug intended to cure altzheimer's and possibly other diseases. He and the other scientists in his lab test this drug on apes which in turn makes them smarter. It's easy to guess how the movie progresses from there but that won't take away from your enjoyment of it.
Surprisingly, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one the better movies to come out this summer and possibly this year. The previews for this one, at least for this critic, didn't make it seem like it would be worth checking out. Per my remarks made in the opening paragraph, was anyone crying out for a reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise? Certainly not me. But the beauty of this film is that you're caught off guard by how good it ends up being. The story is laid out intricately with some subtle and not-so-subtle references to the first Planet of The Apes movie. The performances, especially by Franco and John Lithgow, who plays his father Charles, are thoughtful and earnest without being melodramatic.
Another performance worth noting is that of Andy Serkis, who plays the main ape Caesar. Using motion capture technology, much the same way they did when Serkis portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, he gives Caesar real emotions and a human-like quality essential to buying into the premise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As the film progresses and Caesar becomes more and more human, you can see the subtle nuances Serkis uses to pepper his performance. It's impressive to say the least.