Who's In It: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo
The Basics: Will Rodman (Franco) is a scientist on a mission to cure Alzheimer's, motivated by his kind heart and also his father's (Lithgow) deterioration at the hands of the disease. They are testing the world-changing serum on apes, and everyone is on pins and needles about it. When they run into a little hiccup like a monkey named Bright Eyes escaping, trashing the laboratory, and threatening every human it sees, the ape gets five to the dome and the program is shut down. What no one realized was that Bright Eyes was only acting territorial because of her surprise newborn baby. Dr. Rodman, still determined to further his studies, takes the orphan monkey home, names it Caesar, and raises it as his own. Caesar (Serkis) has reaped the mental benefits of his mother being injected with the serum, and from there, Rodman develops a new strain. Of course, there's only so long you can house a chimpanzee without it going stir crazy, and later, Caesar is forced to take charge of his own life.
What's The Deal (A Little Spoiler-y): My reflex was to cringe when thinking of another movie in the Apes franchise (thanks, Tim Burton). Luckily this movie was like brushing my teeth after a long night of boozing and carousing, fresh and ready to greet the day. Although the CG started out a little shaky, Andy Serkis and his motion capture work quickly won me over as Caesar aged. I completely forgot I wasn't watching a real ape take everything over. In fact, he became my favorite character. Somehow the script managed to make this simple story feel relatively new, and the climax of the movie is really satisfying. The only problem is that there really isn't a rise of the planet of the apes, it's more like a "rise of a lab full of apes that just want to hang out in nature." Not that I minded, it's just the title suggests a plot that wasn't present here.
The Men Behind The Creatures: The good news for humankind is that even though the majority of our filmmaking is altered by computers these days, human beings are still required to make it a watchable enterprise. Actors like Serkis (and even Doug Jones in Hellboy and Rise of the Silver Surfer) have an amazing ability to bring the unreal to life. Here, the CGI Caesar conveys more emotion than Freida Pinto does (placing most of the blame on the script for that, of course). I am already chomping at the bit to see the next film in this series, where things really break bad for civilization, and we are forced to trade in our dollars for bananas as currency. Hopefully one day Serkis and actors like him will get the recognition they truly deserve for bringing performance into the new millennium.
Is This Movie For The Kids? There is an enormous amount of violence in the film, and it's quite scary throughout. These monkeys do not hesitate to return injustices that they suffer, and I'm guessing the only reason it got rated PG-13 was because there is no nudity and they keep blood mostly out of the shots. It's one of the more surprisingly intense films of the summer, which is both the reason I loved it and why I might not go back for a second viewing.