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Art&CultureReview
A finely wrought prequel, with an emotional punch'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': Hollywood hits the reset button, again, on an aging franchise
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승인 2011.09.24  17:47:52
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▲ 20th Century Fox

Though one of the last blockbusters of the season, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” eschews the typical formula of all-out action and glistening bodies to draw in the crowds in these waning days of summer. Instead, in the vein of the decades old series it descends from, the film takes a more measured approach to its subject matter, slowly building to its rampaging final half hour. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” shows enough self-restraint in order to fully develop its characters, both human and primate, making it a modest, but deserving, addition to the franchise.

Following his terrific performance in “127 Hours,” James Franco stars in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” as Will Rodman, a scientist working for a biotechnology company. Mr. Franco’s Rodman is a lead researcher in pursuit of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, driven by the demeaning battle his father (played by John Lithgow) undergoes with the condition. His company develops a drug, a gene therapy that can stimulate brain-cell growth, but an unfortunate turn during trials of the drug sends a heartbroken Rodman back to the drawing board for another five years.

He is not alone, however, during this half-decade, as Rodman smuggles home one of the baby apes involved in those intial trials. This hyper-intelligent creature, named Caesar by Rodman’s Shakespeare-ophile of a father, becomes the other central protagonist of the story. Rodman raises Caesar, trains him and observes him over the years, and eventually becomes convinced of the drug’s stability and potency enough to perform his own human trial on his father.

When the miraculous happens and his father’s Alzheimer’s begins to improve, Rodman is welcomed with open arms back into the company that shunned him. Research and development of the new drug is placed on a fast track, especially after Rodman reveals that indications show the drug may improve cognitive functioning in healthy individuals.

Life at home, however, remains tenuous as Caesar starts to enter a stage of teenage inquisitiveness and rebellion. This, coupled with a reemergence of the Alzheimer’s, leads to a tragic and affecting scene where Caesar commits his first act of violence in attempting to protect Rodman’s father. The authorities remove Caesar from the Rodman home, incarcerating him in a primate sanctuary while the state decides his fate.

When Caesar enters the monkey house, the film divides its focus between Rodman rushing to perfect his drug and Caesar learning to navigate the dangerous social dynamics of the ape world. Caesar quickly learns to use his linguistic talents to be a leader amongst the fractious environment of the sancutary, even as Rodmen desperately attempts to free his former friend from his imprisonment.

As mentioned, the latter half of the film delivers on the action-packed trailer for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Caesar leads an uprising by the inhabitants of the primate sanctuary and the apes rain chaos down on the streets of San Francisco. These scenes of pandemonium prove the efficacy of using computer generated apes throughout the film, despite the series’ long and venerable tradition of using actors in glorified gorilla suits.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” impresses not only in its seamless use of the computer generated creatures, but also in being one of the most emotionally affecting entries in the series. The scenes between Caesar (played by Andy Serkis in motion capture) and Rodman capture a bond of love and compassion that is stunning in the context of Caesar’s insubstantiality in the world outside the screen.

With its Shakespearean allusions, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” draws our attention to the hubris displayed by Rodman and his colleagues in attempting to create biotechnologies that rewrite fundamental neurological functioning. The film, however, does not follow through on the intriguing critique it seems to offer initially. The ending, a final pseudo-confrontation between Rodman and Caesar, leaves the audience perplexed and dangling. If Hollywood seeks to do justice to the original “Planet of the Apes,” it needs to wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of satire that pervades the first film should it continue plumbing the franchise with prequels.

Please check your local listings for times and locations. — Ed.



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