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Scientists in modern-day San Francisco are conducting genetic research on apes. The evolved primates, including Caesar, develop advanced intelligence and revolt against being used as lab rats, unleashing a war for supremacy over Earth. This is a prequel to the entire franchise to explain how the story began. Fans of the series will notice the small references to the originals scattered throughout the film. Even though beautiful visuals are great, they don't make a high quality movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes seems to focus a bit more on the plot than on the action itself. The back story on Caesar, his upbringing, and how the rebellion started take hold of a rather large portion of the running time. The human characters are fairly stereotypical and simply aren't as interesting as the apes. The character of Caesar expresses his emotion through his appearance and actions. Even though he had the least amount of dialogue, he proves to be the star of the show. The pacing is steady and reserves the engaging action sequences for the final part of the movie. The plot points are very predictable and even more so for those who have seen the originals. The scenes heavy with human dialogue are lacking quite a bit. The strongest portions of the script are the scenes involving the apes.
With such a popular franchise, the big stars are sure to be all over this one. The headlining role of Will Rodman is played by James Franco. His character is paper thin and underdeveloped for a main role. Franco feels a bit odd in this character, but does fine with the material he was given. The beautiful Freida Pinto performs as Caroline Aranha, the love interest. Her character is the typical woman in this type of flick. Pinto, similar to Franco, never gets her chance to shine with the dialogue she received. John Lithgow is Rodman's father, Charles Rodman. While his character doesn't get much time on screen, he performs as well as he always does. Tom Felton is Dodge Landon, who mistreats the apes while they're caged. There's quite a bit of talent involved with this film, but they're cheated out of the opportunity to display their flair with the script holding them back.
Even though the characters and dialogue in the screenplay aren't the strongest, the visuals are great. The apes have gone a long way from men in costumes and makeup. Once the action kicks in, it doesn't stop until the credits roll. These sequences are just as impressive as one could have expected. Watching the apes battle it out with humans on the Golden Gate Bridge is an undeniably engrossing section of the film. The mix of CGI and live-action are spliced together well. This is what summer blockbusters are made of.
From speaking with many moviegoers, viewers have expectations on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some fans of the original franchise are thinking that this will be absolute trash while others believe it could be great. Well, it's right in the middle. There isn't a lot to jump up and down about, but it's far from the worst of the summer. It's an entertaining summer blockbuster, nothing more and nothing less. The human roles could have been made a bit more interesting since the apes don't make up the entire running time. This is a decent prequel that I had a good time watching, but isn't one of my favorites of the summer action films. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is worth seeing, but don't hold your expectations too high.