The last of this summer's `origin' stories may be one of the best, as Andy Serkis embodies a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee in this seventh film, a cautionary tale based on the sci-fi simian mythology created by Pierre Boulle in his novel "Planet of the Apes" (1963).

Research scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is determined to find a cure for Alzheimer's not only because he's a hotshot at San Francisco's GenSys laboratory but also because his father (John Lithgow) suffers from the disease. Will's new drug ALZ 112 looks incredibly promising but when the experimental chimp goes berserk, attacking her handlers, he's told to abandon that project. Then Will discovers that the chimp was just protecting her newborn, so he scoops up her infant and takes it home. Years pass as the DNA-altered chimp, Caesar (Andy Serkis), demonstrates remarkable intelligence and communication skills, both to Will and his veterinarian girlfriend (Freida Pinto), who let Caesar romp in the tall trees of Muir Woods. But Will's even stronger, brainpower-increasing serum, ALZ 113, eventually has an adverse effect on Caesar, who resents being treated as a quasi-pet and must be remanded to a primate facility corruptly run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his weasel son (Tom Felton a.k.a Harry Potter's Draco Malfoy). Brutal mistreatment leads to rebellion, as DNA-enhanced Caesar shrewdly unites his fellow prisoners and leads a primate uprising, battling atop the Golden Gate Bridge.

Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have written an intelligent, emotionally-gripping script, directed with a fresh sense of excitement by Rupert Wyatt. Yet what's most amazing is Andy Serkis' nuanced, multi-layered, motion-captured performance, courtesy of the WETA-FX team that made the "Avatar" digital recreations. Previously, Serkis embodied the Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the gorilla in "King Kong." Next year, Andy Serkis could be the most unorthodox -- yet deserving -- Best Supporting Actor Oscar contender.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is an action-packed yet compassionate 8, highly recommended as escapist entertainment.

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