‘Apes’ prequel offers action, little else

The summer of 2011, thus far, has been a blockbuster season for prequels. One of the summer’s first hits was X-Men: First Class . Now, director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes has generated a significant amount of buzz, especially as part of a series that made its fame over four decades ago. The story of the apes begins with an experiment by Gyn-sys pharmaceutical lab technician Will Rodman (James Franco), the goal of which is to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. When the experiment is cut, the test chimps are killed – except for one baby chimp, whom Will takes home and names Caesar. When Will realizes via Caesar’s high intellect that the vaccine actually works, he steals a batch from Gyn-sys and gives it to his father (John Lithgow), who is beginning to sink deeply into Alzheimer’s. Inevitably, Caesar is sent away to an ape sanctuary, leaving him with a feeling of betrayal. Here is where most of the film’s cheese factor comes into play, including whole scenes of unspoken dialogue between the apes and even a sign language conversation between Caesar and an orangutan. The apes escape the enclosure when Caesar kills an abusive keeper (Tom Felton), ending a rather well-played combat scene. Eventually, Caesar and his legion of apes arrive at the Golden Gate Bridge, beginning a battle with the military that, despite its glorious atmosphere and fantastic visuals, doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Though there is plenty of action, most of it seems like filler. While Rise of the Planet of the Apes sports stunning special effects, an easy-to-follow plot, and even some good acting, it seems that it perhaps did not manage to live up to the big shoes it was expected to fill. Overall rating: 7/10