"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" reboots the Planet of the Apes saga.
The first movie was released in1968 with Charlton Heston traveling through a worm hole in space to find an Earth ruled by apes. What followed was a series of movies giving us the history of how things came to be.
Tim Burton retold the first story in 2001 with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. His retelling had a more contemporary ending.
This version tells us how the apes were able to rise to power and shows us how they began to be the dominant species on Earth.
"Rise" begins with researcher Will Rodman (James Franco), who is working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease.
The drug he is developing allows the brain to repair itself, and his company is testing the drug on chimpanzees. A setback demands exterminating all the test chimps.
As they do the final accounting, a baby chimp is found. Rodman calls him Caesar. He's been affected by the drug because of his mother's exposure to it.
Caesar shows a remarkable cognitive ability, one well beyond all apes and many humans of similar age.
Keeping an ape in a house is hard, and keeping an ape of Caesar's ability is harder. When Caesar commits an act of violence and is sent to an ape facility, the story shifts into another gear.
There we see how the apes rise, and how Caesar is able to gain dominance over the apes. They are treated badly by the facility's director (Brian Cox) and his son (Tom Felton), so Caesar plans their escape.
I really didn't have much desire to see this movie. My motivation was my youngest son; he had seen all the other movies on television and liked the universe of the Planet of the Apes.
But "Rise" is a good summer movie. There is lots of action, you are drawn into the story through the character of Caesar, and it makes for a nice movie outing.
Kudos to actor Andy Serkis, who portrays Caesar via a technology called "motion capture." (You may have seen Serkis' work as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" movies.)
He does a marvelous job playing an ape, and this is an award-worthy performance.
As much as I loved the original with Charlton Heston, I find this version very intriguing. There will be a sequel, probably many more.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" doesn't follow the history laid out in the originals, but that is not necessarily a bad thing here. It gives us a point of reference, moving us into a new story and making us want more.
MikeParnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence.
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (suggested by a novel by Pierre Boulle)
Cast: James Franco: Will Rodman; John Lithgow: Charles Rodman; Freida Pinto: Caroline Aranha; Brian Cox: John Landon; Tom Felton: Dodge Landon.