10 years after Tim Burton’s much hated remake of ‘Planet of the Apes‘ comes another remake, this time a prequel to the series. Ever wondered how apes became super smart and took over the world? Well wonder no more! And this time, the 8th wonder of the world is the incredible motion capture technology used to bring these apes to life.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
James Franco films are quite hit and miss, much like his performances. But here, he’s pretty great. But then again, this isn’t a James Franco film. This is a Caesar film, with Andy Serkis playing the title ape through motion capture. Made super intelligent by a very poor cure for alzheimer’s, this film follows Caesar’s journey from simple house pet to leader of an ape uprising. The CGI effects are phenomenal, and they only get better as this series goes on. Serkis’s (and indeed the rest oft he cast’s) facial expressions are picked up and translated perfectly and the apes look as real as can be. And the performances are great as well so that just makes it all the better.
The story is pretty good too and the relationship between James Franco, his suffering father John Lithgow and Caesar is very emotional and feels very real. It probably helps that the motion capture is so real and Serkis’s performance matches that (also monkeys are cute), but you can see every emotion between them and their friendship is what drives the film. But then there’s Caesar’s uprising, being torn from James Franco and thrown into captivity with other apes, he begins his plan to escape. The interaction between the apes is also great. They mostly use sign language, but there are a lot of knowing looks so even though they don’t talk, you can fully understand what they are communicating to one another. And that’s pretty impressive. As is the whole film. It’s really enjoyable and the story is great, providing some good set up for the future.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Things really start heating up now! Set 10 years after the previous film, most of the humans in the world have died due to the spread of the ‘simian flu’ caused by the failed alzheimer’s cure. Apes live in their forest village, a group of surviving humans live in the ruins of San Francisco. But when the humans travel to the forest to restore their power and the two groups cross paths, trouble starts brewing. There are good and bad guys on both sides. Some humans don’t trust the apes and are scared of them. Koba, Caesar’s best buddy, hates humans for the experiments they performed on him. And so the seeds of war are planted, with Koba going behind Caesar’s back to try and destroy the humans and the humans forced to protect themselves in order to retain their planet. It’s a really great story of brotherhood, family and opposing sides of a battle. It’s the perfect and logical next step in this franchise’s story after the initial uprising occurred.
Three years on, the technology is even better and somehow the apes look even better than before. They look astonishingly real and seeing them on screen with humans doesn’t look odd at all. Well, only in the sense that they are super intelligent apes riding horses. The cast is all great too. Jason Clarke as an ape sympathiser is really good and seeing him try to make peace with the apes in order to protect his family and his home works really well. Gary Oldman as the leader of the humans doesn’t get too much to do, but he’s always great as a man who doesn’t trust apes one bit. But once again, it isn’t the humans playing humans who are the stars of the film, it’s the humans playing apes via motion capture that are the standouts. Andy Serkis is again incredible. He really is the king of motion capture, just in the way his face expresses emotion and the way he moves and the noises he makes. He’s basically an ape! And Toby Kebbell as Koba is equally good, managing to capture that anger the ape holds against humans perfectly in every look. The action is also awesome. There’s apes riding horses wielding two machine guns(!) and lots of long takes of action, including an epic one on in which an ape attacks a tank as it spins and causes explosions. Everything is just really really great and it all works so so well.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5