ACTION; 1hr 45min
STARRING: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto
Primate fear: Pinto and Franco
It’s a brave man who monkeys with a monkey’s mind but trailblazer Will Rodman (Franco) does it, anyway, with a revolutionary serum that heightens brain function. After his tests yield explosive results, Will secretly raises baby lab ape Caesar, who is blessed-slash-cursed with serum-inherited braininess (a motion-captured, CGI-enhanced Serkis is Caesar as an adult). He also injects his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, Charles (John Lithgow), with the potion. Now that Charles is himself again, Will has a simpatico girlfriend (Pinto as Caroline) and Caesar is playing chess and signing like he was born to it — which, in a way, he was. Yet Caesar is also a primal creature, too wilful and powerful to contain for long. And Charles’s Alzheimer’s is returning.
Soulful, limber Caesar is poignant and real, and the message his misadventures deliver — that the natural order is best left that way — is made brutishly clear. Director Rupert Wyatt’s brand-new spin around the revolting primates’ block is awkward and disjointed at times, but the anticipatory menace that suffuses it is an unnerving through-line that pulls it together. And when the apes seize their anarchistic moment, its skin-crawling ferocity is overwhelming.