Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

No apes were harmed in the making of the year's finest action fantasy. In fact, no apes appear in it: all are humans, filmed and transformed through motion capture by Peter Jackson's Weta Digital company. The star is Andy Serkis as Caesar, a genetically altered baby chimp raised lovingly at home by Bay Area scientist Will Rodman (James Franco). It is Caesar's destiny to realize that he is not a near-human but a great ape, a simian Spartacus leading his kind to freedom. Director Rupert Wyatt artfully synopsizes Caesar's growth in magical tracking shots as the ape lopes through the Rodman home and scales trees in Muir Woods. The script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver creates a story of emancipation as seen from both sides: the human (sympathetic liberals incapable of stanching an armed revolt) and the animal (we gotta be free). But even if you don't buy this as a semi-profound social document, the utterly seductive integration of apes and men should slacken your jaw in amazement. Rise restores wonder to the word "movie."