Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Ingenious Film Partners and Chernin Entertainment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Directors: Rupert Wyatt

Synopsis: Whilst carrying out some tests to research a cure for Alzheimer’s, a determined scientist discovers a young ape who after experimentation, develops remarkable advanced intelligence.

Review: As a species, humanity has had the dominion of Planet Earth has for the past two millennia. Of course, the idea that one day something else could come along and take that away from humanity is a theme that has been explored a considerable amount in cinema. There’s the classic alien invasion films, but the idea of super smart apes taking over the planet is one that has been around since the 1960s and the original Planet of the Apes film featuring Charlton Heston, which spawned four sequels. Then came Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg in 2001, to which a sequel never materialised and after another decade, the franchise was rebooted once more.

In this new take on the franchise, Will (Franco) is a scientist aiming to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. His research leads to the developing of a drug that is given on some Apes, which leads to one particular ape developing unprecedented abilities and super advanced intelligence that Will decides to adopt and name Caesar. As we watch Caesar grow up, and his intelligence becomes apparent, he begins to start questioning himself. All the while, the development of the drug begins to create tensions for the humans and as you might imagine a conflict between the humans and the apes starts to brew.

The wonder of modern technology meant that the apes were brought to life via motion capture work, and it’s just remarkable how advanced the technology has become. The technology is so impressive that it could almost make you forget that there is an actor who’s bringing the character to life. Though there are a handful of actors who bring the apes to life, the main man is the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis himself. His work here is flawless, giving Caesar a very distinct personality, and a character you absolutely can empathise with.  Given that it is in fact Caesar who is the main character in the film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver give him the most back story out of everyone by far, which does mean the back story of others does suffer a little bit.

As Caesar’s main father figure, Franco is excellent in his role as one of the few humans that Caesar trusts, along with Will’s ailing father Charles (Lithgow) and love interest Caroline (Pinto). There’s not a great deal of development on them, but they’re characters you care about.  There’s one human who doesn’t quite view Caesar the way Will does, and that is Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon. Channelling his inner Draco Malfoy, he’s a man who relishes mistreating apes and putting them in their place, and when he meets Caesar, he’s certainly got his hands full, as it’s all well and good telling the audience that Caesar is a smart ape, but actions sometimes speak louder than words, and this is definitely the case with Caesar.

Under Wyatt’s direction the film is visually crisp with action scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. With scenes that take place on California’s Golden Gate Bridge standing out as a particular highlight. The film’s pacing isn’t perfect, there are a few lapses in the plot where the film does drag. However there are one or two moments “holy shit” moments that more than make up for this. If a franchise has been dormant for a decade, any reboot’s key purpose is to reinvigorate interest in the franchise in a substantial way, and in that sense, it certainly was mission accomplished.

What a reboot should be, centred by a magnificent performance from Serkis with some stunning CGI and a very intriguing story, one that paved the way for future greatness.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Image is property of Chernin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman,  Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell
Kodi Smit-McPhee

Directors: Matt Reeves

Synopsis:  Ten years after the events of the first film as humanity has been devastated by the virus. The colony of Apes, led by Caesar are prospering . However when  a last batch of surviving humans resurface, tension resurfaces and it is poised to erupt into a war  to establish control over the planet.

Review: Sequels, seemingly an ever present in the world of Hollywood and film making.  Sometimes, they come along and disappoint, failing to top its predecessor, or nothing more than a cash grab. Yet when a sequel takes the first film and tops it, in many ways, it is something to be admired. 2014 showed itself to be the year of remarkable sequels.  With the Matt Reeves directed Dawn, a sequel to 2011’s Rise, we continue that great sequel trend with a beautifully directed and riveting story that will ensure that the Planet of The Apes franchise is not going anywhere any time soon.

With humanity obliterated in the wake of the Simian virus that was unleashed at the end of Rise, Caesar, once again brilliantly motion captured by Andy Serkis, and his crew of apes have their spot where they live. With a whole community established, it is enthralling to watch the apes interact with each other. They have their own language and their population is thriving. There are no humans about (or so they think) and all is right in the ape world. They live, and they prosper. This is, until a group of humans come along looking for something to help their population return to normality. Instantaneously,  conflict threatens to break out once more between the two factions amid uneasy truces. Distrust is brewing in the ranks of both camps and it threatens to completely boil over into all out war as there are those on both sides who simply do not trust the other. In some cases, these reasons are clear and in others, they are not.

Through the marvel of motion capture realised by WETA Digital, it is Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar who completely steals the show once again. His performance is incredible to watch, it is almost as if it is not brilliant computer generated imagery and is actually a real life ape communicating with the humans. He is the glue that binds the ape community together and he is the star of the show. The motion capture technology looks astoundingly for all of the ape community, with different actors playing different apes, the different personalities of all of the apes shine through. Yet Caesar’s not the only ape who takes the limelight, the more hostile angry Koba, portrayed by Toby Kebbell is an ape on a mission, to eradicate humanity. He is vicious and angry, and is determined to gain the revenge on the humans.  The computer generated imagery is flawless and it is a strong contender to scoop some awards for its breathtaking visuals in this year’s awards season. With great apes also come some interesting human characters, namely Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) also come into conflict about what to do with the Apes. One wants peace, the other wants war, and it threatens to boil over at any given moment.

The action in this film is taken up a notch from the first movie, with some enthralling battle scenes. 2014 offered some sweet action scenes but some of the battles in this sequel are some of the stand out moments of cinema in 2014. As the title poster illustrates, apes on horses is a sample of this brilliance. Under Matt Reeves’ masterful direction, Dawn provides a compelling and somewhat moving story about a fight to survive, mixed with compassion and a desire for both species to co-exist, whilst some factions of both communities strive for supremacy over the other. With a third film in the works, once again directed by Reeves and scheduled to be released in 2017, more Apes goodness will be on the way.

With incredible visuals, interesting human characters and even more interesting apes, combined with a really well told and interesting story, this is arguably the best entry of the revitalised Apes franchise, and with Reeves returning for a third outing, the stage is set for something special. 

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