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‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise gets a lift

“RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES’’ “RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES’’ (WETA/20th Century Fox)
By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / December 11, 2011
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You could argue that the social issues that once informed the “Planet of the Apes’’ franchise aren’t as incendiary now as they were in the series’ heyday back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. You could also argue the opposite. Either way, there wasn’t a whole lot to justify Tim Burton’s stunningly unimaginative redo of a decade ago. That’s a large part of what makes “Rise of the Planet of the Apes’’ (2011), such a cool surprise: It feels contemporary in a host of different ways. “Rise’’ casts James Franco as a scientist whose pioneering brain-boosting drug ends up turning sympathetic lab chimp Caesar into a simian freedom fighter storming San Francisco. Director Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist’’) incorporates a bit of multicultural casting (Freida Pinto as Franco’s veterinarian girlfriend, David Oyelowo as his calculating boss) that downplays the old racial metaphors. But we do get PETA topicality, virus scares in the “Contagion’’ mode, and trendily subtle, mythology-leveraging background references to a disastrous space mission (yes, the one led by Charlton Heston). Credit Wyatt and his writers for giving the franchise new relevance, mostly just by giving it some thought. Extras: The bulk of the bonus materials are Blu-ray exclusives, including commentaries by Wyatt and the writers and an extensive deleted-scenes gallery. A standard-def featurette justly recognizes character actor Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings’’), who once again works motion-capture wonders to bring Caesar’s performance to life. A franchise legacy segment runs far too short. (Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99)

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