Back in 1968, a film challenged audiences and created a juggernaut that would spawn multiple sequels and a TV series. It was then, most would say, horrifically re-imagined in 2001 by Tim Burton which did to the saga what Batman & Robin did the caped crusader.
However, Nolan's Batman Begins showed what could be achieved with a long dead film franchise, so Brit director Wyatt has attempted to do the same with those "damn, dirty apes."
And he has succeeded. Very much so. Infact, his Rise... feels like it could have been from, or influenced by Nolan himself. A lot of this success stems from the clever use of emotional investment and manipulation. This emphasis placed on story and heart-tugging emotion as much as fantastic effects and brain-defying visuals starts at the beginning with an adorable baby Caesar and keeps hold throughout. So much so, that you find yourself on the apes side willing them on to succeed in their escape rather than the humans trying to restore order.
As you would expect, this is a film primarily about the apes and their rise, so the human cast does have to work extra hard to compete with Serkis' truly superb Caesar and his fellow simians. Franco's scientist who "creates" the highly intelligent chimp by trying to cure his fathers alzeimer's (Lihtgow in a welcome return) does struggle with the emotion of possibly losing both his father and the experimental primate so it's up to the likes of Felton, showing that his Malfoy wasn't all that bad in comparison, to illicit an emotional response from the human cast.
For the fans of the original stories, there are nods nicely woven into the background to help connect it to them - a missing mission to Mars crew for example - but others will see the simian similarities to the little-known Broderick-starer classic, Project X, especially the caged setting and the animals within. Each animal is given a personality and this comes to the fore when Caesar becomes the revolutionary leader and takes his place at the head of the ape-orientated army. There's even an orangutan that can sign and tries to help by telling Caesar to try and keep his intelligence hidden from both man and ape if he wants to live. And all the while, he retains the compassion and love that he was shown whilst growing up, admonishing the other escapee's who wish to kill their human counter-parts rather than disarm them.
A genuinely delightful surprise, rising far above the expectations that most remakes or re-imaginings have stapled along with them, it has a set piece in its final act involving The Golden Gate Bridge that shows X-Men: The Last Stand exactly how it should have been done.
UK release date: 12.08.11