We've been bombarded by superheroes this year--Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men, Captain America, and even Daniel Craig fighting Aliens, but none of these compares with the best action movie in some time--RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Yes, I'm talking about the prequel and/or reboot of the somewhat musty franchise that started with a loin-clothed Charlton Heston captured by civilized apes. Well, we know how that turned out.
But this one IS actually different and much more inventive. For starters, it has a strong, emotionally involving story that leads to the terrific action sequences that dominate the second half of the film. The engaging and believable James Franco plays a brilliant scientist hell-bent on discovering a cure for Altzheimer's Disease. His beloved father is quickly degenerating before his eyes. When Franco brings home a new-born chimp who carries the intelligence-producing drug, he injects his father (a moving John Lithgow) with the serum. Not only does Dad improve he becomes brilliant and starts playing piano like Lang Lang. Skip a few years, Dad is still great and Caesar is getting bigger and more dangerous; after all he's a teenager.
I won't give too much away, but this emotional beginning leads to a slam-bang series of suspenseful, hair-raising set pieces wherein Caesar becomes the leader of an ape rebellion. Sounds ridiculous? Driven by superb editing and photography, the apes (all digitally rendered but highly realistic) perform amazing human pet tricks such as a home grown political organization and escape from labs and zoos, all led by the shrewd Caesar. The technical expertise that enables every movement, every grimace is so seamless that, for once, it all seems real, not photo-shopped. Dare I say it? I went ape for this movie!