Movie Review: PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

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Planet Of The Apes ¥ Art Machine job#4112  POSTER C comp VVV.rev1 ¥ 05/30/0120th Century Fox
2001
PG-13

“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!”

Having been a long-time fan of Tim Burton, there’s been some debate as to what point the quality of his movies began to dip in quality. Some say it began with Mars Attacks! Some say it was with Sleepy Hollow. I am of the opinion that it was his remake of the science fiction classic Planet Of The Apes when the prospect of a new Tim Burton movie began to lose its luster.

Released in the summer of 2001, this particular remake of the 1968 Charlton Heston classic actually started development back as far as 1988 and at one point had Arnold Schwarzenegger starring. Of course, it went through the usual development hell issues, being passed around various directors and producers, and several script rewrites, the movie was put into active production and Tim Burton was hired to direct. By the time it was finally released, hype for the movie was pretty high. I went to the movie the weekend it was released, along with my usual crew of Nex, Cass and Boz. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes was–and still is–a mixed bag.

In the year 2029, interstellar reconnaissance missions are relegated to chimpanzee pilots from the space station Oberon in deep space. On one such mission, a chimp loses communication and vanishes from the radar. Fearless astronaut Leo Davidson launches a rescue mission and, following a malfunction, lands on a jungle-like planet not unlike the earth. To Leo’s astonishment, English-speaking apes and primitive humans inhabit the planet. Following his capture by the apes and consequent escape, Leo assembles a small band of defiant humans and empathic apes in an attempt to re-establish contact with Oberon, but his focus changes following an unexpected discovery. Armed with this new information, Leo leads a rebellion against an overpowering ape force that will result in freedom or complete annihilation.

On the one hand, Burton’s Planet Of The Apes manages to build on the original by way of the set pieces and consumes and effects. The ape makeup was just outstanding, and the actors in the getups were very good at making you believe an ape can talk and reason and stuff. And you have to admit, the story and scope of this was pretty epic. However, concerning the story, it does get snagged up in a few places: Mainly, the whole social commentary wasn’t handled as deftly as it was in the original. Also, while I’m not a purist of the original, I still don’t like the decision to make the humans be able to talk. It seems…wrong, somehow. Some character motivations are a bit questionable and head-scratching, like the tender romance that pops up between Captain Leo and Ari. And don’t get me started with that twist ending, there.

Overall, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes isn’t that bad, really. It’s a movie that’s a bit long in the tooth, will dazel you and then frustrate you. It’s worth at least a rental, there.

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Movie Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

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war for the planet of the apes20th Century Fox
2017
PG-13

“I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you’re here. To finish us off…for good.”

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

So, here we are now, with what I’m assuming is the final Planet Of The Apes prequels. It’s been a rather interesting journey, one that was surprisingly very good as an overall bunch of movies that took the concept of the classic original and managed to build up the mythos of how it all started without making it suck. I was rather anxious to see this installment, as things were going to come to a head, and anything with “War” in the title is expected to be awesome in and of itself. Oh, and something about finishing up Caesar’s story arc. Anyway, was War Of The Planet Of The Apes worth the wait? I’ll get to that, but first…

In the third of the (so far) trilogy in the Planet Of The Apes prequels, most of humanity has succumbed to the Simian Flu pandemic, and now the intelligent apes and the remaining humans live in peace and harmony with one another, bringing about a post-industrial utopia. I almost managed to type that all out with a straight face, there. Juuuuust kidding. Instead, while the apes are just trying to go on with their lives, they just can’t seem to stop being pestered by us humans, always sending in heavily armed military types to wipe out the apes with weapons and stuff. Caesar, the ape that was named after a salad and was raised by James Franco (and also the leader of the apes or something), experiences a particularly bloody battle that sees casualties on both human and apes sides, and decides to send a message back to the leader of the human military in the form of four of his soldiers, not dead and in one piece, back with the message of “would you lighten up, man?” However, this particular colonel (who is just named “The Colonel” here) happens to take his leadership inspiration from Colonel Kurtz, as in he’s rather bat-guano insane and will not stop at anything to wipe out the apes and preserve the human race, and goes in that night to assassinate Caesar in his sleep. Only, he didn’t really get Caesar, but he did kill his wife and son. This, of course, kicks off Caesar’s epic journey to find and confront The Colonel, giving all the other apes a chance to escape to beyond the mountains for a more peaceful settlement in the desert lands. Along the way, Caesar and the three other apes that wouldn’t take no for an answer with tagging along make some rather disconcerting discoveries, one of which involves the gradual devolving of the humans to a more primitive state. By the time they catch up to the army of The Colonel, it looks very dark and grim for the apes, and Caesar has to confront, not only his human enemy, but also his own heart of darkness. See what I did there?

I’m just going to come out and say it: War For The Planet Of The Apes is the best movie out of the three prequels that were produced. This movie is dark, it’s complected, and has so much going for it beyond just a bunch of apes thinks they’re people and start their own society. That reference up there to The Heart of Darkness wasn’t just a throwaway thing (although, there is a blatant Apocalypse Now reference in the movie itself that had me groan a bit, but it’s near the end so it’s okay). The story manages to bring a depth to all of the characters, both ape and human, so that neither side is a mere caricature of Good or Evil, but you can actually understand the struggles on both sides, so there’s no clear-cut villain or hero. Woody Harrelson was fantastic as The Colonel, keeping from going completely over-the-top and managing to make the character chilling as well as commanding. The battle scenes were very much intense and gritty–make no mistake, this is a war movie, like Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, and by the time the movie ends there’s a sense of melancholy mixed in with the hope for the new dawn that breaks.

If it sounds like I’m gushing over a simple little sci-fi flick about talking apes…well, I’m sorry you missed the point of the series. The original Planet Of The Apes was great subversive sci-fi, and these prequels went along way to keep the spirit of the originals. If you’re avoiding War For The Planet Of The Apes because all you’ve seen was that Tim Burton 2001 remake, then you’re missing out completely. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

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Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-Caesar-poster20th Century Fox
2014
PG-13

“I always think…ape better than human. I see now…how much like them we are.”

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

The sequel to the 2011 reboot prequel (I think I gave my brain whiplash typing that) to the Planet Of The Apes franchise takes place ten years after the so-called Simian Flu has all but decimated the human race. The riots, looting and sheer survival violence that followed notwithstanding. Meanwhile, Caesar and hsi merry band of super-intelligent apes have grown into a mighty tribe in the woods outside of San Francisco, with both groups of apes and humans pretty much keeping to themselves. Until one fateful day a group of humans stumble upon some apes in the woods, and wackiness doth ensue. Let’s just say, shooting first and asking questions later never works well. Anyway, after having their collective butts handed to them, the humans limp back to their city encampment. Seems they were hiking in the woods to reach and possibly fix a hydro-electric dam to restore power to the city, and weren’t counting on running into the apes. The apes, on the other hand, still are quite wary of any humans encroaching on their territory; hoping to squelch any future hostility, Caesar rides to the human encampment to warn them not to try returning to the ape-controlled woods. But then the humans figure they could work together with the apes to repair the dam and restore the power in the human camp, which works fine for a bit…unil another ape going by the name of Koba decides he’s had enough of this collaboration with the damned dirty humans (see what I did there?), and attempts an assassination of Caesar to frame the humans and begin a war. Things don’t go well thereafter.

I have to admit, I do like where this reboot prequel series is going with the overall storyline of the classic Planet Of The Apes series. The story is very Shakespearian in scope, lending some depth to the characters, human and otherwise. The movie manages to avoid going the cut-and-dried route with the characterizations, especially when it came to the humans-vs-apes philosophies and politics. And lest I go off on a discussion on the moral implications of the story, let me move on to the other parts of the movie I enjoyed. Namely, the effects were once again well made, making good with the CGI aspects, the actors worked very well together, and overall the entire movie moved with a fluidness that kept me engaged throughout the run time.

This time out, I waited until the movie was released on DVD before I gave it a watch, instead of catching it on the theatrical run. The Planet Of The Apes movies are ones that, if I were to watch them in the theater, then I’d like some of my friends to watch with me, and unfortunately I couldn’t talk any of my usual compatriots to come with. Regardless, I found Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes to be another decent entry in the revived franchise, and I’m curious as to how this will all play out. As if I didn’t already know.