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Rise of the Planet of the Apes [Double-Take]

Welcome to Double-Take, a series that offers dual perspectives on theatrical and DVD releases. Today we look at Rise of the Planet of the Apes from director Rupert Wyatt, which stars James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, and Freida Pinto.

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After the disappointment which followed the release of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes back in 2001, the much beloved franchise from the late 60’s and early 70’s needed a reboot that did it justice; Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes does exactly that. The movie is armed with the motion capture technology utilized in the 2009 box-office record breaker Avatar and a powerful story that isn’t afraid to associate the audience with the movie’s main protagonist, Caesar the ape. While testing an alleged cure for Alzheimer’s on chimpanzees, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) finds that this cure has a profound effect on the intelligence of the apes. The project is then shut down due to some complications and Rodman saves the offspring of one genetically tested chimpanzee and takes it home, naming it Caesar. The movie then follows the incredibly intelligent ape on an entertaining and emotive journey which sees him ignite a believable maternal bond with Rodman (a role that James Franco portrays perfectly) before becoming a tormented inmate at San Francisco’s Primate Facility, and rising up to become the leader of the apes. The primary reason Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeds is because it’s believable (setting aside the moment when an Orangutan frisbees a man hole cover into an oncoming police car). This is not only due to unimaginable CGI, the brilliant Andy Serkis (who deserves props for his work as Caesar) and the enthralling action sequences towards the end of the flick, but because the movie never goes beyond the boundaries which separate the human from the ape. Believe the word of mouth, this movie is Awesome. [Guest contributor Cameron Jones also blogs at The Audio Beast.]

Grantland’s Andy Greenwald and Lane Brown wrote a great article counting down the reasons as to why Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a success, and one thought in particular rings as especially significant when thinking back on the movie: they deemphasized James Franco. Despite boasting a cast which includes notable actors and fresh faces alike, there is no star in Rise, nor is there any sort of unnecessary sub-plot which interferes with its main directive. The audience is left to focus on the development of the apes’ story, keeping romance and back-story to bearable minimums. That said, Franco does well with the role, allowing his star to become transparent among the environment cast on the screen. The CGI is remarkable and when combined with such a thoughtful script, it’s tough to avoid being caught up in the story, encapsulated by the emotion and attached to the personality of the apes themselves. Not only is Rise a great movie, but I’d happily welcome a sequel. [Chris DeLine]

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