Quick Hit: Hits the right notes emotionally while still giving an amazing technical spectacle
The original Planet of the Apes movie series was five films that ran from 1968 to 1974. The original film ended up gaining an honorary Oscar for Outstanding Make-up achievement. After a television series, tons of toy tie-ins, and multiple restarts to a new franchise, Tim Burton gave us a reboot in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg. The movie was seen as a flop, despite (what I consider) very solid casting, and again it was back to the drawing board for the Apes movies.
However, in 2011, another reboot was seen that starred James Franco and none other than Andy Serkis as the main character, Caesar. Caesar is a chimpanzee who is the second generation of an ape that was injected with an experimental serum to regrow brain cells in those fighting Alzheimer’s. While that sounds extremely science fiction, it’s handled in a way that is pretty well-done. None of the lab scenes seem that out of place, and the only characters that seem a bit cartoonish aren’t lab geeks, like you would normally see in a film like this – see Jurassic Park and pretty much any other movie featuring a lab.
Along with this, the movie handles the emotions and the evolution (I guess quite literally) of Caesar naturally. In the beginning he is a child, and is just learning and trying to find his own place in the world. As he grows into an adult chimpanzee, it’s evident that he is just as confused as all of us in regards to what he is supposed to do. He feels torn between two worlds – the human one he has always known, and the new ape world that an unfortunate incident leads to.
I honestly think the movie picks up a solid amount of steam once the apes find their way to the screen. Despite most of the creatures on screen being CGI, there is a large amount of facial work that is done, especially once the apes gain a greater intelligence. This is something I will repeat again and again throughout this trilogy, but Andy Serkis deserves an honorary Oscar. There is never any doubt of the actor beneath the ape here. Caesar is an extraordinary creation, and all that took place in his animation and creation, from Serkis to the technical team, should be proud of themselves.
Some negatives that are essentially nitpicks – Tom Felton is a bit of a cartoon, and of course he gets to say the “Dirty Ape” line. John Lithgow is severely underused. I would say put him in everything, but he sure didn’t help Pitch Perfect 3 very much. Along with that, James Franco, while he does fine in the role, really doesn’t have very much overall to do. But that’s excusable for me, because this is Caesar’s movie, and really one of the best character arcs that I’ve seen in a trilogy.
I’m going to give this first of the most recent Apes trilogy an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"