By Lorna Baker
With the release of War for the Planet of the Apes in cinemas, it was time for a new battle!
After the futile reboot of the series in 2001, the Apes series finally got fresh life thrown into it in 2011. Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength, aided of course by some spectacular CGI apes. Let the battle commence!
3rd Place – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Dir. Matt Reeves
Despite the spectacular fight scenes, particularly the finale between Caesar and Koba; this film lands in third place. The progression of the characters since the first film is great to watch, but the plot is lacklustre at times.
Set 10 years after the virus outbreak that decimated the human population, Caesar and his clan are hiding out the forest trying to build a life of their own. But when humans wander into their path, it sets them on a deadly collision course.
It’s actually the human characters that let this film down somewhat, with Gary Oldman’s villainous character not leaving much of an impact. But what this film does; is set the wheels in motion for the final film and introduces this dark undercurrent to the series. Who are the savage ones now: the apes or the humans?
2nd Place – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Dir. Rupert Wyatt
This was a very tough choice, but Rise beats Dawn by a whisker. The reason why I like this film so much is that you see a clear progression of Caesar’s character from cute but mischievous baby, into world weary leader that we come to know in future films.
The original series of films never really touched upon how the world got to be populated by intelligent chimps, but this film neatly fills in those blanks. After an Alzheimer’s medication trial goes awry, chimps are left with higher intelligence and a deadly plague spreads across the human population. Since medical testing on apes continues to this day, it’s not an entirely unbelievable situation.
James Franco takes the lead in this film, teaching Caesar human ways and leading him on a path that will eventually see him using his voice, but it’s once again Andy Serkis who shines through in this. His physicality as an actor is really tested in this film, as he grows from playful youth to an ape struggling with his identity. The CGI is excellent, and really captures the emotional turmoil on Caesars’s face. An excellent reboot of an ageing series!
1st Place – War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – Dir. Matt Reeves
So, the winner of this battle is the latest film War for the Planet of the Apes. It’s in this film that Andy Serkis really gets to show off his superior acting chops, really developing his character Caesar and showing the deep emotional and moral turmoil.
Matt Reeves handles the action sequences brilliantly, and yet still manages to insert moments of real emotion. Thankfully, this time, he crafts an excellent baddie in Woody Harrelson’s Colonel, and the confrontation scene with Caesar bristles with venom and is full of tension.
This film has real heart, and deals with some complex themes on the nature of revenge and survival. Humans come out of this film very much the bad guys! Of course, it’s the special effects that once again are magnificent, blending the apes with their human adversaries’ seamlessly! The special effects team should certainly win some awards for this!
So, we have our winner! What else is next for this franchise? Well, there are rumours of further films, with director Matt Reeves stating that he has ideas for future films. Perhaps a further film/s would bridge the gap up to the original Charlton Heston series, but with War ending things somewhat neatly, it could easily be left alone. Only time will tell!