But a juiced-up ape can become something more than fun for us—he can shock us with his power, even inspire terror.There’s a premonition early in the film: when a leashed German shepherd barks at Caesar, he roars back at the dog, and then, climbing into Will’s car, surly and sad, he signs with his hands that he feels like a pet—it’s a complaint, a question, and a challenge. The violent Caesar gets sent to an ape compound, where he’s forced through steel mazes, prodded, and stun-gunned.The imprisonment is unbearable: he experiences the humiliation that a mere dumb animal would never feel.Gorillas, orangutans, and other chimps live with him in the compound, and Caesar quickly becomes a leader of apes.Caesar swings through the house, leaping up and down stairs and throwing himself in and out of the attic, but he sits quietly at the dinner table, too. He’s a darling little ape, but there’s a joke buried in our wonderment: we all anthropomorphize our pets, finding spirit, even conscience, in beautiful collies, in cool, blue-eyed Siamese cats, in potbellied pigs.Out of affection, we see what we want to see of ourselves. He plays and chatters like a chimp, but, like a child, he needs protection and reassurance, and then—a fellow-primate to the rescue—he rushes to the defense of Charles, his ailing “grandfather,” when he’s attacked by a neighbor. The screenwriters, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and the director, Rupert Wyatt, create many small gestures, glances, and pauses that anchor the improbable turns of the story.It begins as a benevolent version of the Frankenstein story.Will (James Franco, trying harder than usual), a young genetic engineer working for a San Francisco biotech company, creates a serum that reverses brain damage.
I’m speaking of the expertly crafted “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” by far the best spectacle movie of the season, and one of the few films to use digital technology for nuanced dramatic effect.
In the prequel, she'll play a primatologist opposite Franco's scientist -- who will reportedly morph into an ape while researching Alzheimer's disease.