Should “James Franco fatigue” be less theory than fact following the dismal debut of Your Highness, then the trailer for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is remarkably prescient. Not only for its prediction of our primate-dominated future—which was first assayed back when Charlton Heston was still doling out leathery justice—but for focusing primarily on shots of the sinister simians, while Franco’s role is mostly marginalized and limited to a voiceover. And should you be unclear on who the real star is here, the preview lingers on an insert noting that the film comes from WETA, the effects house that brought you Avatar. Those long-promised “photorealistic” apes are what they want you to keep your eye on, not James Franco barely stifling a smirk as he prattles on about higher brain functions.
And while they lack the homey appeal of Roddy McDowall in a flapping monkey mask (and edge perilously close to the Uncanny Valley), damned if those dirty apes don’t look pretty menacing. Thanks to Dr. Franco’s miracle “cure,” they’ve suddenly begun super-intelligent—and super-pissed, by the looks of things, as they rampage through freeway traffic and one even takes a flying leap at a helicopter. The trailer smartly limits these shots to brief, unnerving glimpses, like a particularly creepy scene of an ape silently watching a human couple sleep, while the soundtrack ratchets up the tension. Ignoring whatever baggage James Franco may be carrying these days, and setting aside the silliness of the title, there’s a surprising amount of spookiness crammed into these two minutes.