I feel like this franchise is hugely underrated. Starting in 2011, as a reboot to the older franchises, the films follow Caesar, a saved ape from Gensys experimentation. We watch as he grows from a troubled young ape learning the truth of the cruelty of mankind, to a struggling leader trying to prevent all out war and finally, to a vengeful father trying to put an end to this pointless war once and for all in a stellar conclusion to his trilogy, probably succeeding in creating the best ending to a trilogy I have ever seen.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
A great beginning to the franchise. We see Caesar grow up into the intelligent ape we know him to be in later movies, as well as his foundation for his loving and merciful nature, inherited from his surrogate father, Will Rodman. Caesar is forced to leave his home and begins to learn his rightful place among the apes. Here, viewers are treated to an origin story like no other. It isnt drawn out as others tend to be. From the moment Caesar hooks his hand around Will’s little finger, we fall in love with this creature. As someone who has wanted a pet monkey since I was a toddler, needless to say witnessing an adorable, lovable ape commune with James Franco through sign language in arguable normal conversations, my desire was not robbed from me. The cinematography for Rise is probably the weaker of the three films, although it does a grand job of making Caesar look formidable, powerful and everything we expect a leader to be. Having said that, Rise created one of my favourite, if not all time favourite, scenes in movie history. That is, you can probably guess, when Caesar speaks for the first time.
His resounding “NO!” The reaction shots of human and ape alike. The echoing silence that follows, before the camera rests on Caesar again. Wearing an expression of fury and domination, with the action picking up in a perfectly paced whack to the human’s face and the music kicks off again. I could watch this scene a million times and, guaranteed, I would get goosebumps every time. To me, Rise is all about Caesar learning who he is, ultimately in becoming a leader. It shows that humans are capable of destroying themselves.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The after effects of the simian flu, starting with Will’s experiments. The world has been destroyed, with pockets of human civilisation remaining as well as the intelligent apes living in the woods. The opening ten to fifteen minutes of Dawn reveals the stark contrast between man and nature. The newsreels show how the humans tore each other apart in this crisis, where the apes rallied together and built a modest empire for themselves. While not overtly obvious, these films depict telling signifiers for the cruelty, and selfishness of mankind. Caesar acts as a reminder of what the goodness of people can do. Whereas his tortured counterpart, Koba represents the cruelty of mankind that can destroy everything out of hate. Here, Caesar and Koba represent all of mankind, overtly contrasting with Malcolm, the brave human who appeals to Caesar’s good nature, and Dreyfus who sees danger in everything, symbolic of those of us who are blind to mankind’s destructive nature. Carver also echoes this, in a conversation between him an Ellie as he arrogantly dismisses any human involvment in the cause of human destruction, blaming it all on the apes. He does not listen when SHE correctly points out the fact that apes ‘didnt really have a choice in the matter.’
Another favourite scene comes from this movie when Caesar and Malcolm’s alliance has seen fruition.
The lights work and the possibility of an ape and human alliance extending into a harmonious future. Then, Koba appears, hidden from all view except for Caesar. The silent exchange between them is rattling. Particularly as Koba slowly raises the gun, and Caesar, silently frozen in this fatal betrayal, is swayed by a moment of certainty that Koba daren’t pull the trigger. His mistake is bone-shaking as the single gun shot fires and echoes all acros the woods, as if the nature itself around him is impacted by this single gun shot. Caesar slowly falls. Chaos descends. Maurice turns to the innocent humans, losing by prejudice, and warns them: “run.”
War for the Planet of the Apes
War concludes Caesar’s trilogy in a way no trilogy has ever done before. It is probably the strongest of the three films. Exceptional in developing each ape character and in depicting the reality of humans and nature: humans mess up and nature must fight to survive. An all too real issue today. Recently seeing this film spurred on my desire to right this praising review of the franchise. As Caesar must battle against the human colonel who has killed his wife and son, Caesar abandons his colony to allow then to reach safety so he can be free to seek revenge. Although while this does not go according to plan, Caesar will eventually fight his instinctual urges to kill the Colonel and will selflessly lead his apes to safety – to the cost of his own life. My only criticism of this entire franchise is the choice to.kill Caesar off in the end. Not hitting it right with me, and without real purpose it is my only criticism. Although it was a lovely, heartfelt conclusion to the real, unfaltering relationship between Caesar and Maurice. One difference this film included, which the others lacked, is that of comic relief. This came in the character “Bad Ape” and is now one of my favourite characters in any film! His childlike innocence but genuine kindness added a breath of fresh air to the film, adding for a relief to Caesar’s newfound anger and hatred.
A favourite scene in this film comes to a close all time favourite to the scene from Rise, mostly due to its similar emotional effect. This is when Caesar has been captured by the humans and made work along with the apes who have lost some respect for Caesar, believing he abandoned them. The apes are being treated as slaves, starving and overworked. And when one ape falters, he is taken up and whipped. Caesar, at risk to his own life, steps forward. “Leave him!” He yells in a voice cracking with fury and passion. The apes around him rise up, reminded that their leader is still there willing and able to fight for them. It teaches a lesson that humans could learn from: apes together strong.
I’ll finish off my review by giving one last bit of praise – not to the film itself, but to Andy Serkis, the man behind Caesar. Not that he makes it too obvious, considering the impossible change CGI made through motion capture and Serkis’ unparalleled ability to contort his face and body to become that of a chimpanzee of Caesar”s stature. Serkis has fast become one of my favourite actors. Because he does not just act. He becomes the characters he portrays. He moves like them. He does more than convince us that he is an ape onscreen, he makes us genuine believe it is another creature in a mindboggling performance. Andy Serkis – the Mo-Cap King. A man worthy of the regal title. He deserves all the recognition he can get from these films and beyond and I cant wait to see what journey he takes us on next!