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(Terrifying, frightening sci-fi)
The structure of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is like a good symphony. It begins calmly and peacefully and builds to a striking crescendo.
James Franco plays Dr. Will Rodman, a scientist who has devoted his life to finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Motivated by his father's (John Lithgow) struggle with the disease, Will pushes hard in his development of a serum given to laboratory apes. When his key subject turns violent from the serum, his boss orders all of the apes destroyed.
The ape had just given birth to a son. Not wanting the baby destroyed, Will brings him home and raises him, quickly discovering that Caesar has all the genes of his mother and is even more intelligent.
Three years pass. The ape exceeds expectations. Five years pass. Will has met a vet (Freida Pinto) who becomes attached to him and his ape. They take Caesar to Muir Woods, where he romps freely among the redwoods.
Things are looking up. Will keeps up his experiments at home and at the lab. He tries the serum on his father, with amazing results.
All this time, the movie's mood suggests impending doom, and it comes down hard. We hesitate to tell you more, because we don't want to spoil that element of surprise, but you just know that things are going to turn for the worse when Caesar is sent to a "primate center" after a violent incident.
Just remember the name of the movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and you know things are going to get violent and eerie, and that both man and ape will behave badly. The ending is exciting and oddly will have you rooting for the apes.
The movie uses a unique effect called "performance capture,” using a complicated digital technology where actual actors assume the ape's form and then are digitally transformed into apes. Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays Caesar with a remarkable passion. Just watching the eyes of these creatures will give you the chills.
And chilling it is, from beginning to end, including a short postscript during the credits.
Rated PG-13, but definitely too intense for young folks...and maybe some older ones.