Tag Archives: planet of the apes

War for the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

When Rise of the Planet of the Apes first came out in 2011, I didn’t really think anything of it. It took me a little while to finally get around to watching it and when I did, I was floored. The action, the story, and the superb special effects were movie magic at its purest. In 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released and improved on everything that was established in the first film. I thought that entry couldn’t be beaten, but here we are in 2017 with the third, and final, film in the trilogy called War for the Planet of the Apes. I am kind of sad to see this trilogy ending, but it’s remained a solid example of blockbuster film making and this latest entry may be the best of the new Planet of the Apes trilogy.

Years after the Simian Flu infected and wiped out a large portion of humanity, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) struggle to survive in the woods that provide limited isolation from vengeful human survivors. After their camp is attacked by a military faction called Alpha-Omega, Caesar decides it’s time to move camp for good, but disaster soon strikes which escalates the need to move but also ignites a vengeful spirit hidden deep within Caesar. Along with his trusted friends Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), and Rocket (Terry Notary), the ape leader sets out to find the base where Alpha-Omega is located. The group finally arrives and sees that AO, along with its vicious leader Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson), has taken the other apes captive and are forcing them to build a wall to protect Alpha-Omega from arriving military forces. As Caesar comes face to face with an enemy like this that he has yet to encounter, he must look at his actions and the needs of his clan to determine how to proceed and get everyone to safety once and for all.

The first thing I have to talk about with this movie is the special effects. I honestly believe that these new Planet of the Apes movies are the shining example of how to use motion capture and computer generated effects to tell a story and make a movie feel more complete. Remember the old Planet of the Apes films and the costumes that were used for the apes. Looking back on them they look kind of odd, and this coming from someone who adores the original series, even at its cheesiest. The motion capture effects for Caesar and the rest of the apes instill them with a level of reality that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise, and I can say this for every film in this trilogy. There are a few close up where the eyes of these apes look so real that it’s hard to believe they just don’t have actual apes playing these roles. While I’m on this topic, can Andy Serkis just get an Oscar already. The emotions and movements of Caesar are all Serkis and I feel like he doesn’t get the praise that he has deserved for years.

With this being the final film of the trilogy, I expected this to be the largest and most epic in terms of scale. This really isn’t the case. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has a huge finale on the Golden Gate Bridge, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has Koba and his followers attacking the humans in an all out battle, but War for the Planet of the Apes has a climax that is relatively smaller in comparison. This doesn’t make it more intense, however. When the major conflict of the film is finally addressed, which is the tension between Caesar and the Colonel, it’s a devastating scene that completely reinforces the themes that this movie is presenting and the moral strength and beliefs of the characters. There is a lot less action here, but Caesar’s war to free his apes and lead them to freedom is a continuing struggle that will leave your eyes glued to the screen for the nearly two and a half hour long runtime. There can be a lot of adjectives used to describe this movie, but boring would not be one of them.

The story to this film isn’t just a leave your brain at the door kind of narrative. In fact, I feel like I need to watch this movie again to fully see everything this movie had to offer. From beginning to end, there’s Biblical symbolism sprinkled throughout which can be both obvious and subtle. While there’s also clear hero and villains in this movie, writer/director Matt Reeves is interested in also showing the flaws of both. Caesar starts to see a lot of Koba in himself which frightens him, and the Colonel has motivations to do what he does other than just pure evil and sadism. This makes the story and the outcome feel heavier and puts it a step above the average summer blockbuster. I will say, there are a few moments of this movie where the suspension of disbelief is taken to the most extreme. One scene in particular actually pulled me out of the cinematic trance I was in and prompted me to turn to my friend, who was equally confused, and just ask why the film makers would make this choice.

War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the strongest summer blockbusters to come out in quite a while and is certainly the strongest film in this new Planet of the Apes trilogy. It explores themes of leadership and morality in such deep ways while also telling a science fiction/fantasy story of highly intelligent apes fighting for survival. With a story like that successfully tackling themes that deep, you know this film has to be something special. It also works as an intense action/adventure film that has plenty of exciting moments to keep the viewer on the edge of their seats. One more time for the people in the back, GIVE ANDY SERKIS AN OSCAR. In all seriousness though, War for the Planet of the Apes is an excellent film, and this entire trilogy shouldn’t be missed out on.

Final Grade: A

Advertisements

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

Not too long ago, I reviewed the entire Planet of the Apes franchise starting with the 1968 original and covered all of the sequels, including Tim Burton’s remake and what I would consider the “official” reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I considered the 2011 film to be the best in the series since the original film was released over 40 years ago. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and when I say it can easily be considered one of the best sequels ever made, I mean it. Not only does it build on what was presented in the first film, it completely enhances the entire experience in every way possible.

dawn_of_apes_teaser_poster

After the events of the first film, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) are living in the redwoods outside of San Francisco and the human population have mostly died off from the ALZ-113 Virus, now known as the “Simian Flu.” Not all humans are dead, however, with a prominent group of uninfected living in San Francisco and led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The group has been doing well, although the fuel power that they are living on won’t last too much longer which forces them to travel into the woods to reactivate a dam that powered part of the city in the past. The humans, led by Malcolm, soon encounter the apes who eventually decide to help them in their mission. This peace and understanding doesn’t last long when members of both sides threaten to shatter everything that has been achieved, the guiltiest party being Caesar’s right hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell).

What I love most about these movies is that they were first made in a time when the social commentary that was being discussed worked very well and had a positive impact on the way people were thinking. That’s also part of the reason why I think Tim Burton’s movie failed as much as it did. There was no real discussion to be had. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the social commentary is back and more relevant than ever. This film is one of the most intelligent summer blockbusters I have seen in a while. It may be a story about man vs ape, but it’s also a story about how prejudice and our preconceived notions and hatreds are enough to spark violence on any scale. This may not be anything new, but in light of recent events all around the world, it’s a message that needs to be heard.

DAWN PLANET APES MOV

It may not come as a surprise to most people when I say that Andy Serkis is one of the best actors in the business. It annoys me to no end that he hasn’t even been nominated for any Academy Awards for his performances. I’ve heard arguments that he isn’t “actually in the movie” which is complete bullshit and here’s why. Every movement and emotion of Caesar’s that you see is all Andy Serkis. He is acting in this movie and deserves the proper recognition. That goes for a lot of the other actors too, mainly Toby Kebbell as Koba and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes. The human cast are all fine too, but the real emotion lies with the apes. Even Gary Oldman is completely outdone by the motion capture actors.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also the best looking movie you’re going to see all summer and possibly the entire year. The special effects in this movie are absolutely perfect. One scene in particular shows Koba in a close up and it was unbelievable how real it looked. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie isn’t all about the special effects, and the way the story is written confirms that. The dialogue and narrative are so tightly written there’s not a scene out of place. Every shot of every scene has a purpose so the movie feels just as long as it needs to be. It’s a perfect combination of using special effects in order to enhance the story telling.

I wasn’t surprised by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at least not too much. I knew that this movie was going to meet and then exceed my expectations, which it did. Everything from the performances to the effects to the intelligence of the story mixed together to make the perfect summer blockbuster. This did exactly what a sequel should do: build on its predecessor and ultimately be a better film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this piece of remarkable film making, get your ass in gear and head to the theaters immediately.

Planet of the Apes Franchise – Part 2

16 Jun

Now that the original Planet of the Apes series has been covered, we no longer find ourselves in the 1960s nor the 1970s. There were, however, a few television adaptations that branch out of the films. One is simply titled Planet of the Apes from 1974, which tells the story of two astronauts who go through a time vortex and find themselves in the same situation that Heston’s character did in the first movie. The show only lasted half a season. Amongst a slew of comic books and audio stories revolving around the universe of the films, another television show was made, Return to the Planet of the Apes, an animated series that only ran 13 episodes.

Flash forward to 2001. The Planet of the Apes saga was still considered as a cult science fiction touchstone. Of course, when there is something this popular, Hollywood demands a remake. That is just what happened. With Tim Burton in the director’s chair the remake of Planet of the Apes was released.

Planet_of_the_Apes_(2001)_poster

 

Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is an Air Force piolet on the space station Oberon, but spends most of his time training a chimpanzee named Pericles how to operate a space pod should the use for him come up. During a bizarre electrical storm, Pericles goes missing while in a pod trying to investigate for the Oberon. Leo secretly gets in a pod and ejects it, but soon gets warped through time and space, crash landing on the planet Ashlar in 5021. On this planet, humans are subservient to a race of apes. Leo is captured, but soon escapes with fellow human Daena (Estella Warren) and two apes, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) and General Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). As this band of humans and apes try to find the coordinates of a possible rescue mission for Leo, General Thade (Tim Roth), a power hungry and malicious ape, is leading an army to come and find the them to not only put a stop to their rebellion, but their entire lives.

Right off the bat, this film feels very different from the original Planet of the Apes. First of all, we see Wahlberg’s character working on the space station before he travels through time and space. Another major difference is that the planet he lands on isn’t a futuristic Earth, but an entirely different planet. And the end…well, let’s not really talk about that too much. Let’s just say it’s one of the most preposterous, downright confusing endings I have ever seen. It doesn’t leave you thinking about yourselves or society, it just leaves you thinking about how an ending could be so stupid.

Apes New 3

 

Visually, this movie is a big improvement from the original. The ape costumes look absolutely fantastic. In fact, they were my favorite part of the movie. I couldn’t see Tim Roth anywhere in his Thade make up. In that same respect, the acting is very good as well. Tim Roth leads the way with Helena Bonham Carter close behind. They both give excellent performances. The same can’t be said for the human characters. Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren couldn’t be more dull and Kris Kristofferson’s role is wasted. The sets look okay, but this, like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is a very dark movie, and I had a hard time making things out in the ape city.

Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes isn’t really disappointing, but it could have been a hell of a lot better. I have no doubt that you would find this at the bottom of my Tim Burton list. The story is fine, save for the atrocious ending that makes absolutely zero sense. The make up and effects are really great and, for the most part, the acting is fine. A lot of the themes are watered down making this less of a philosophical journey than an eye popping blockbuster.

Still, we aren’t done with this franchise. In 2011, a movie came out that kicked some life into this franchise and successfully rebooted the story. Not only is it a good film, nor a great one. It’s an excellent film. I’m talking about Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise_of_the_Planet_of_the_Apes_Poster

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist testing a new serum on apes in order to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, with the motivation of curing his father, Charles (John Lithgow). After a problem with an ape that was highly experimented on, Will brings home her baby and names his Caesar. Caesar shows phenomenal mental growth and is kept around the house and brought up by Will and his father. By the time Caesar is an adult (now with a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis) he is showing signs of understanding and personal confusion. After a violent outburst he is brought to a primate shelter where he experiences abuse and witnesses the other apes getting abused. This forces Caesar to rise up and take command of the apes and lead them to their freedom, but humanity is not so eager to see this happen.

This movie is a strange hybrid of campy and masterful. The story is obviously pretty over the top. A highly intelligent ape leading a revolution against the humans? Yeah sure. I’ve already mentioned this movie in this review but Rise of the Planet of the Apes is very similar, story wise, to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This time, the story is more intense and so is the actual revolution. The last half hour of this movie is absolutely unbelievable, but the entire film itself is thought provoking and much needed return to thematic form for this series.

rise_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_movie-wide

 

What really made this movie for me is Andy Serkis’ performance. The people who vote on awards or cast the ballots need to begin recognizing motion capture performances as genuine acting. Serkis’ facial expressions, body movement, and voice work really bring Caesar to life in a way that no other Planet of the Apes movie ever could. Even though Caesar mostly just uses his face and body to communicate, he becomes the most loved character in the movie. That’s saying something. The human characters are definitely more interesting this time around, although they still can’t compare to the apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is just what this franchise needed. Not only did it reboot the series, it successfully did so in a rare way. In 2014, the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be released, and hopefully it can maintain the same greatness as this film. The acting, the effects, and the themes are back and better than ever making this one the best the entire franchise has to offer.

It was really great finally getting to see this series in its entirety. Not all of the entries were very good, but they have held a cult status ever since their release. They are an excellent example of dystopian science fiction, and take place in a universe that is intriguing and cautionary. Even though there are still people who haven’t seen the movies, they are still well aware of the Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes Franchise – Part 1

11 Jun

 

The Planet of the Apes franchise is truly a wonder to behold. Starting as a novel written by the French author Pierre Boulle, it was adapted five years later as a film in 1968 starring Charlton Heston. Within the next five years, four more sequels would be made to build upon the philosophy and the mythology that was started in the first film. The franchise doesn’t end here, however. In 2001, Tim Burton remade the original film and most recently in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes showed a brilliant return to the series and acted as a reboot that changes the original format in a very interesting way.

This will be part 1 of a two part review. In part 1, I will go through the original series from 1968 to 1973. Part 2 will highlight Tim Burton’s remake, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and what the future may hold for this franchise.

PlanetoftheapesPoster Beneath-the-Planet-of-Apes

Escape_from_the_planet_of_the_apesConquest_of_the_planet_of_the_apesBattle_for_the_planet_of_the_apes

For the sake of covering all of the movies in the original series in one blog post, I’m only going to give a very skeletal outline for every movie.

In 1968, Planet of the Apes told the story of a group of astronauts led by Taylor (Charlton Heston) who crash land on a mysterious planet that seems uninhabited at first. As they astronauts travel further and further, they come across humans who seem very primitive and unable to speak. More importantly, they find that the humans are subservient to a race of talking, civilized apes who use the humans as slaves and for experiments. They are shocked to find Taylor who defends himself and humanity with his ability to speak and understand the apes. In 1970, the sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes continued the story. Taylor now knows that the planet is a post apocalyptic earth and that humans completely ruined the world for themselves. A new astronaut, Brent (James Fransiscus), is sent to find Taylor and lands on the planet.  What Brent finds is the Ape City but also an underground civilization of mutant telepathic humans who know that the time for battle against the apes is close at hand.

In 1971, Escape from the Planet of the Apes told the story of Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy Mcdowall), who in the same manner of time travel as Taylor in the first film, finds themselves in the 1970s. They are at first welcomed, but soon paranoia begins to grow around their existence and what they say the future holds. 1972 brought about Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This film is the story of how the apes realized that their subservient nature to the humans didn’t have to happen. Cornelius’ and Zira’s son, Caesar (also played by Roddy Mcdowall), teaches the other apes through his higher intelligence and ability to speak to revolt against their masters and begin thinking for themselves. Finally, the series ends in 1973 with Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Caesar is in charge of both humans and apes, but when a hidden group of humans radiated by nuclear fallout threaten the apes, gorilla general Aldo (Claude Akins) plans a revolution of his own. This makes the defense of the new ape city more complicated than it needs to be.

06-Franklin-J_-Schaffner-Planet-of-the-apes-1968

 

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

 

images

 

 

Trying to cover the entire series in two paragraphs isn’t really giving the movies too much justice. Despite being called a “B-movie franchise” by many people, it still offers plenty of things to think about. The first film is an excellent piece of science fiction film making, which means it offers a grand warning. Taylor condemns all of mankind when he stumbles on the remains of the Statue of Liberty, and even makes mention of our violent nature in the beginning monologue. This, in and of itself, should serve as a clue of what’s to come. Science and religion are both contrasted in this movie, and even though it seems that science is favored throughout most of the movie, the end reveals that it carries the same weight of human error and evil that religion carries. In doing this, the film is stating that science and religion aren’t to blame. We are.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes deal a lot with paranoia. In reality, Beneath should have been the one and only sequel, although Escape is very entertaining. Anyway, back to the paranoia. A main plot element in these two films is the destruction of earth by a huge doomsday missile. Why is this such an important plot point? Think of the time that these were made: 1970 and 1971. The Cold War is in full swing, and with that is enough suspicion and fear to practically crumble an empire. In my opinion, these are the last films in this series that truly succeed in what they are trying to say, despite the budget being cut in half after the first film.

conquest-of-planet-of-apes

799_4

Conquest and Battle are when things start to get iffy. The thematic elements are still there, this time with slavery, acceptance, and the chance of corporate dictatorship and governmental problems, a la 1984. These are all well and good, and Roddy Mcdowall does very well as an actor, as he has in all of the films he’s been in in this series. The problem lies in how cheap everything appears to have become. Conquest is really dark looking, and there were times where I was struggling to see what was actually going on. Battle looks a lot better, but by this point, I was more than ready for the series to be over. There was some weird editing and continuity problems in this movie that were glaring, but definitely something I could forgive. The real problem is that this series went on for way too long. Five movies? We really didn’t need that many. Two would have sufficed, although the third is entertaining enough.

I don’t have too much to say about the last two other than they seemed thrown together and haphazard. I could talk about the first three until tomorrow morning, but I feel like this has gone on for long enough. All five movies are on the right track with their dystopian warnings, and I feel like that, the cool make up, and Roddy McDowall are the reasons to watch this series. You have to really be in to sci-fi to really appreciate these movies, but if you love dystopian literature, cool make up, and over the top performances, then this is a cool and ground breaking series. For the history of the movies alone in relation to film history as a broad topic, these movies should be checked out.

This concludes Part 1. As I said before, Part 2 will cover Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes, the newest film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and what to expect in the future for these movies.