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movie-reviews Updated: Feb 11, 2012 00:18 IST

Hindustan Times
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Excel/20th Century Fox,

Before this film inspired by French novelist Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel The Planet of the Apes (he also wrote the novel The Bridge Over the River Kwai that was made into the Alec Guinness-starring 1957 film by David Lean), there was a long list of other ‘Planet of the Apes' films. The 1968 original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston remains iconic, especially with its last scene of a destroyed Statue of Liberty on a beach front. The 2001 Tim Burton remake with Mark Wahlberg updated the original with a sitting 'Aperaham Lincoln' statue at Washington DC's Lincoln Memorial in the final scene. Then there are the 1970s Planet of the Apes television series. All this we learn in the special feature section of this DVD. But if you watch The Rise of the Planet of the Apes first and you haven't seen the back catalogue, then instead of a prequel that will ultimately lead to a powerful story of a stranded astronaut in which apes are evolved rulers and humans are caged animals, what you will get is a rather tame movie about animal experimentation gone wrong.

James Franco (Spiderman films, 127 Hours) plays Will Rodman, a scientist in a bio-tech firm conducting experiments on chimpanzees to search for the cure for Alzheimer's. He's no mad scientist and the PETA folks will be moderately happy to find Rodman's humane treatment of his subjects. When funding is stopped for his project — essentially a drug that repairs damaged brain cells and in the process makes the brain owner much smarter — he takes his star chimp Caesar (which Planet of the Apes franchise fans will remember being the name of the 'alien' ape who as commander runs a tyrannic regime where humans are kept as slaves) and continues his experiments at home.

With a bond of fondness growing between Rodman and a supersmart Caesar — and a love interest between Rodman and primatologist Caroline Aranha (a hammy Frieda Pinto) — things go awry when Caesar is sent to an ape orphanage that turns out to be a Dickensian labour camp. Led by Caesar, played with genuinely great performance-capture special effects by Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films), the apes stage a coup, flee their coop and... We don't know yet. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is misleading for PotA fans and a bit pointless for general viewers. But both parties are reminded of one important thing: apes are not monkeys.