It would be impossible to forget the impact of the Planet of the Apes saga on popular culture, and this franchise reboot prequel from writer-director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) certainly doesn’t want audiences to walk in with a completely blank slate. But it is obvious that he’s got his own ideas about the new direction, ideas that borrow more from the last decade’s worth of action thrillers rather than slavish devotion to all of those damned dirty apes and the feel-good socio-political posturing that came before.
This origin efficiently purees bits of 28 Days Later and I Am Legend (scientific inquiry gone wrong, horribly so), Spartacus (old-school uprisings) and visual cues from X-Men: The Last Stand, especially in a battle sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge, but the heart and soul of the rise of this new Planet comes from the work of Andy Serkis, of Golum (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and King Kong fame, who tames the digital effects of motion capture and creates in Caesar the first of a new breed of highly intelligent chimpanzees, the most human and three-dimensional character onscreen without the benefit of reams of dialogue or even a pure and unfiltered glimpse at his mug.
There was a time when we marveled at the elasticity of Jim Carrey’s face and its seemingly limitless possibilities, but it is Serkis who puts the expressive flexibility of the face to work and makes us believe in things that are not real and feel the tangible tug of emotion. All hail, Serkis! Grade: B+