Bright Eyes was a chimpanzee caught in Africa to be brought to the United States for research purposes, but not to examine more about her species, as the purpose was to experiment on her in a laboratory. The man behind this was scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) who was investigating new medication to combat Alzheimer's disease, an issue very personal to him because his father (John Lithgow) was a sufferer. In its preliminary tests, his studies were a success, with Bright Eyes displaying incredible intelligence - but then things went wrong.
Going by the premise that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, this was an attempt to restart the Planet of the Apes franchise with 21st Century technology, but what was interesting was that they did not, as Tim Burton did, go back to the original movie, as they instead went to the fourth one in the series to create one of those ever-popular origin tales of the day. The results may have played out much as you expected, even if you had not seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but as those fans who knew it was the most underrated of the originals could have told you, there was a solid story to be related here.
Essentially the story of a revolution and its charismatic leader, Rise dodged any accusation that may have come up that this was a rather silly story by presenting it with trappings that were very serious, starting with the ethics of vivisection and continuing with the emotional cost of senility. For the former, the film offered an awful warning about how experimenting on animals could result in grave consequences (not least for our furry friends), but this was also rather ambiguous when if it was not for Will's experiments the apes would not have achieved intelligence and the outcome would have been altogether different, so someone was seen to benefit, even if it wasn't the target intended. As we see, the human race counts the cost of the experiment.
In Conquest, apes are afflicted by a virus brought from outer space by a crashed probe which kills off the cats and dogs, and advances the primates into ever-growing levels of evolution, until the point where slave Caesar stands up speaks that famous word "No!", thus changing the course of the future. Naturally, this is one huge spoiler for the first Planet of the Apes movie, and there were many references amusingly included throughout this remake from the Charlton Heston movies playing on TV and the odd memorable line recycled. Indeed, there were many indications that this was shot through with a darkly comical tone, tempered by the sincerity of its central premise of rising up against oppression.
This would not have been half as good if the central character was unconvincing - no, not Franco's boffin, the lead ape Caesar. He was played with a mixture of marvellously expressive animation and the expert mime of Andy Serkis, who brought the animal to life with motion capture; although you can tell that you're not watching an actual chimpanzee, such was the skill applied here that you were utterly caught up in the plot. As if recognising that we knew what was going to happen (the ending was pretty much in the trailer), director Rupert Wyatt and his screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver made that much of the pleasure, as we know but the human characters do not, a massive upheaval is about to hit them. Therefore as events are brought to a head and sympathetic Will and the not so sympathetic victimisers have their moment of "uh-oh!" as the action explodes across San Francisco, Rise revealed itself to be both thought provoking and tremendously exciting: worthy of its classic original and the best in the series since that beginning. Music by Patrick Doyle.