One ape goes human in this half-smart reboot of the franchise, yet more often than not, the movie just wants them to go bananas. It's why Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though far superior to Tim Burton's stillborn 2001 remake of the original film, will only speak in grunts to true fans of the series. They'll have to sublimate their love of the philosophical for manic, fairly ridiculous action sequences---like an early boardroom presentation of scientist James Franco's wonder drug, a meeting rudely interrupted by a rampaging simian leaping onto the table. Undaunted, our human hero continues with his work and secretly adopts an adorable chimp scheduled for destruction. (If you've seen the fine documentary Project Nim, you'll know this is a bad idea.)
The middle section of the story is where Rise truly takes off, perhaps in ways that will have viewers forgiving the rest. Caesar (as the baby is named) grows into a beast of remarkable emotional complexity, staring out of an attic window with wonderment or peeking nervously from a carriage while his species-mates hoot at the pretender. The facial motion-capture effects, by New Zealand's Weta Digital, are exquisite; now is the time to recognize Caesar's portrayer, Andy Serkis (also The Lord of the Rings' Gollum), as the soul of an industry that often skimps on it. Even after the film gets around to its apocalyptic Golden Gate Bridge human-ape standoff, Serkis's expressions coo in the mind.
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