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Movie Reviews: Rise/ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2011/2014)

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War for the Planet of the Apes will be released in the UK next Friday and I plan on reviewing it. I’m excited to see it because this reboot of the franchise has been excellent. Obviously the original Charlton Heston movie from 1968 will always be the best of the bunch, but these are worthy enough to be mentioned in the same bracket as that one, less said about the 2001 remake the better.

History has shown that the third movie in the trilogy is always the weakest. Rarely is it any good. The War for the Planet of the Apes looks promising, early reviews have heaped tons of praise

 

I’m going to review both Rise & Dawn, before ending it with a review of War on either Tuesday or Wednesday (got Spiderman: Homecoming coming up, so keep an eye out for that).

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011, ten years on from that horrible Tim Burton remakes. God, that was a terrible movie. Thankfully they dropped any plans for a sequel.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes found a way of bringing the Ape series back from the dead. It reinvents but it also retains the heart of the original series when it was at its best.

 

James Franco plays a scientist who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s called ALZ-112. He tests the formula on a chimpanzee named Caesar, who becomes more and more intelligent over the course of the movie. He raises Caesar in private but ends up having to place him in a Primate Shelter after he attacked a neighbour who confronted James’ Dementia-ridden father. Caesar is mistreated inside of the Primate Shelter. He then leads the other apes to revolt and it all leads up to an epic showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

I like how this is a prequel, as oppose to a remake of the same movie. I also like how they explain how the apes rose to power and to become the dominant species. POTA and Beneath the POTA explain that it was the result of a nuclear war, but that’s as far as they go with that explanation. It’s clear that Rise was inspired by Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In that one, humans are keeping apes as household pets after a virus wiped out cats and dogs. There’s also a Monkey named Caesar in that movie.

 

The standout scene is the big fight on the Golden Gate Bridge. Holy shit! When I first watched that in the cinema, it blew my mind. The action is spectacular, and it helps because you care about what’s going on. That part where Caesar appears on horseback leading the other apes into battle was badass.

 

I felt the friendship between James Franco’s character and Caesar was genuine. You could feel James’ pain seeing Caesar doing the things that he’s doing. It’s as if he’s guilty because he’s the one who created the ALZ-112 and he’s the one who tested the formula on Caesar.

 

The special effects were awesome. They would be even better in Dawn, and I’ll talk more in depth about them once I get to that review. The facial expressions on the apes are excellent, especially on Caesar, who is portrayed by the master of motion capture – Andy Serkis.

Another actor who deserves praise is John Lithgow. He’s Franco’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father and a former music teacher who improves after Will gives him the ALZ-112 and forms a strong bond with Caesar. The ALZ-112 does cure him, however, it wears off after a while and the Alzheimer’s returns stronger. A scene that sticks out takes place at the Breakfast table where he’s trying to cut his egg yolk but he’s using the wrong side of the knife and Caesar has to correct him. It’s a touching scene, but it also gives the viewer an insight into what’s to come in the series.

 

Overall, I was very invested in this movie. It left me hungry for more. Then Dawn of the Planet of the Apes came along and it blew my mind all over again.

 

Rating: ***** (Top of the Pops)

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 

If I thought Rise was any good, nothing prepared me for what was in store for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

 

Dawn takes place ten years after the events of Rise and the world has gone to pot. The ALZ-113 virus, of Simian Flu, has brought the human race to its knees. The worldwide human population has been reduced drastically, with only a few genetically immune to the virus. Martial law, civil unrest and the collapse of the World’s economy follow. Survivors are now forced to live in decaying cities. With the human race facing extinction, the Apes, who now have genetically enhanced intelligence caused by the same virus, have started to build a civilisation of their own and live by the mottos ‘Apes together strong’ and ‘Ape don’t kill Ape’.

The Apes and the Humans stick to their own territories and don’t mix as they regard each other as the enemy. A group of humans are trying to gain access to a generator, which will provide more power to their territory. However, the generator is located in the heart of the apes’ territory. Caesar, who was raised by humans, is the only chance to bring peace between the two races, but he’s confronted by an ape named Koba, a scarred ape who was raised in a test lab and has an intense hatred towards the humans.

 

There’s so much to talk about here but I’ll keep it brief. I like the dystopian feel about the place. The entire city of San Francisco has been left to ruin and the remain humans are trying to make ends meet in order to stay alive.

The motion capture for the apes has stepped up a lot since the last one. I like how expressive they are. You can always tell what they’re thinking without a single word being uttered, in fact, there are times where it’s only apes on screen. The main method of communication amongst the apes is sign-language. They progress to broken English as the film progresses.

 

Caesar is looked upon by the apes as their leader. After all, he was the one who started the revolution against the humans. He’s now a father to Blue Eyes, a common chimpanzee who idolises his father. He’s sympathetic towards the humans and is willing to help them out. This is mainly because he was raised by humans. This isn’t shared by everyone, though. Koba wants a war with the humans. Unlike Caesar’s peaceful upbringing, Koba was a test subject in a laboratory. He still has the scars to prove it, and he processes a strong dislike for the humans and wants revenge. He leads the revolt against the humans after he shoots Caesar and frames it on Malcolm and his crew. This leads to an all-out shootout against the humans on their turf. A scene that sticks out where Koba is riding on horseback with two machine guns, killing everyone in sight. Man, words just don’t do it justice.

 

On the human side, I particularly like Jason Clarke’s character, Malcolm. He’s the main link between the humans and apes.

 

This really is a movie that has a bit of everything thrown in. Drama, action, comedy, and romance. It caters for everyone. It also brings back something that’s been in very short supply since the creation of a DVD extra – a sense of wonder. All of that is down to Andy Serkis (Caesar). Remember when you saw Andy portray Gollum in LOTR? It’s his role as Caesar that’s even more impressive. The motion-capture technique he helped to pioneer for Peter Jackson has evolved into something that truly is special. For 2 hours, it actually feels as if you’re watching a walking, talking and feeling ape! No amount of behind-the-scenes footage could burst the bubble of this feat of iconic movie magic. The character of Caesar is what truly grabbed my attention. He’s wise, caring and troubled. He’s as if William Shakespeare created a monkey character! You can see and feel the pain on his face at the end when he realises what’s to come in War for the Planet of the Apes. That end scene between Caesar and Malcolm when they come to terms that peace has been thrown out of the window, man, what a kick in the pants. Gets me every time when Malcolm tells Caesar that he thought they had a chance.

 

A new lease of life has been given to an iconic series. Both this and ROTPOTA prove that going to the cinema can be a rewarding experience.

 

Rating: ***** (Top of the Pops)

 

Tune in next week for my review of War for the Planet of the Apes.

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