First some history and perspective. We caught two versions of Planet of the Apes. The first in 1968 with Charlton Heston kicked the series off. The other, done in 2001 is from Tim Burton and starred Mark Wahlberg. Heston’s is classic.
Burton’s? Not so much.
In between the two takes on the original — in films on the big screen and made just for TV — we found ourselves beneath, escaping from, doing a battle for, going behind, returning to and taking a trip back to, involved in a conquest of, and saying farewell to the planet of the Apes.
Alas. No farewell. At least not yet. Now we get a rise out of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (The Relic) and director Rupert Wyatt — dare we say — “monkey” with the source of the rise of the apes from the original series. In the 1970s series, dogs and cats all die from a mysterious disease so humans take monkeys as pets. Later they’re trained to be slaves. Tiring of slavery, eventually the apes take over.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes changes the premise. In this version James Franco is cast as a scientist trying to cure Alzheimer’s. He uses chimpanzees to test his drug. It makes them super intelligent. After a fracas at the lab, Franco’s Will Rodman smuggles a baby chimp out and names him Caesar. He’s named after the character in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
The story of Caesar’s journey from carefree chimp to mankind’s worst enemy clumsily asks the usual questions about the insanity of messing with Mother Nature. Fortunately, the message isn’t preachy. It’s also easy to root for the abused Caesar who — after attacking an aggressive and ill-mannered neighbor — winds up in a care center for unwanted primates.
There he is tortured by ex-Harry Potter villain Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy). Miserable and seething with royal rage, Caesar becomes very, very dangerous.
While you won’t totally go ape over what is obviously going to be a new series, this one does feature terrific — at least most of the time — animatronic and computer generated apes and some excellent action sequences. The story, however, wanders a bit and doesn’t really rise to the occasion.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes salvation is plenty of action, decent effects and dialogue and pretty good acting.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It opens Friday, Aug. 5 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.