‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ falls flat

Photo from MCT

“The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” had a lot of potential. The beloved 1968 original had a twist to end all twists, and this prequel’s cast ­—James Franco, Freida Pinto—looked promising.

It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t quite measure up.

The film opens at the pristine and futuristic Gen-Sys pharmaceutical lab, where Will Rodman (Franco) has created a supposed cure for Alzheimer’s, ALZ-112, which he tests on chimpanzees.  The drug causes the chimps to make dramatic increases in IQ as well as sign language abilities.

However, the major breakthrough goes awry when one of the drug-infused female chimps goes berserk, crashing through an important investment meeting, ending in a dramatic shoot out and orphaning her son, Caesar.

Will brings home the helpless orphaned chimp with every intention of sending him to a sanctuary in a matter of days.  Years pass, however, as Caesar goes through the stages of normal development: the terrible twos, the angsty teenage debacle of identity and young adulthood.

During this time, Will develops a romantic relationship with Caroline (Pinto). The relationship is unexpected, as the two share little screen time and the romance is built barely up.

Other guest stars include John Lithgow as Will’s Alzheimer’s stricken father and Tom Felton as a purposefully malicious keeper at a primate facility.

All of the human characters, oddly, are extremely underwritten. Not even James Franco’s charm could save him from his limited role.

All things considered, the animation and art save the film.

It’s the animated characters that truly come to life. Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, brings the most emotion to a character out of the entire cast. There is a fierceness to Caesar’s desire to be free that is palpable.  Serkis’ demeanor and eyes give Caesar a distinctly human feel. The mix of brilliant animation, graphics and color make for a visually stunning film.

The generally entertaining and relaxed plot comes to a climactic ending. Anyone who has seen the original can assume what it is.

While it’s a strong movie, it doesn’t go above any expectations.

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