Flick or Skip: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Opens 5 August 2011)

I'm going to be honest with you: I haven't seen many of these Planet of the Apes film. I've seen the original and the remake; that's it. I don't know what is drawing me to this film. It's not some need to complete the series, nor is it some loyalty to the brand. Based on the latest trailer alone (as they're almost all identical with minute differences), we'll decide whether or not it's worth seeing this prequel that once didn't say of the Apes in the title.

20 seconds in and I hit my biggest caveat with the trailer: would a scientist actually talk like James Franco talks in this film? I'm not trying to be a stickler for realism in a film about giant apes taking over the world. What throws me off is "We call this The Cure to Alzheimer's." Would a research scientist call his breakthrough literally what it is? Isn't there normally a more scientific name before the specify what it's supposed to do? It's just a detail that seems lazy to me.

However, I mostly like the rest of the trailer. The idea of the first test subject being raised like a human child is interesting. I like the use of childhood development markers--spelling, drawing, speaking--being used to gauge the rapid growth in intelligence from the treatment. Franco, Pinto, and Lithgow seem to be doing good solid acting in the little we see of them. Lithgow in particular seems to be rising above the generic "old person with dementia/Alzheimer's" cliches and finds a more well-rounded character in the role.

Something is drawing this caliber of performer to a prequel of an almost 50 year old series. I think there's a lot more to the film than the apes rising. There seems to be some questions raised about scientific/medical ethics as well as animal-based testing. It would be interesting to see just how far the production went in those directions.

But obviously the draw is the apes. They look good. The movement is believable, the effects are nicely realized, and--when all hell breaks loose--it doesn't look too absurd. There's going to be a level of absurdity just because of the idea of supercharged apes taking over the planet. That's to be expected. It just seems that there might be a bit more nuance in the approach if the film digs further into those themes and questions from above.

I might regret this, but I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a film that might be worth seeing. It looks well-made and the story idea is interesting. The action looks clean and believable, which is enough for some people in a summer film.