This review has been written on a special demand by my friend Dibya Darshan Barik.
What the series is all about: –
The series consists of three films, all related to each other in such a way that they make up one complete story. However, there’s a time leap between each film so the series is more discreet in nature despite its overall singular plotline. The principal character here is (of course) an ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis), who is born in a lab in a San Francisco biotech company named Gen–Sys. The series follows his journey from the lab to being the leader of the apes and further.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011): –
Director – Rupert Wyatt
I guess it’s not just me, but at the time of its release, no one had many expectations from this movie. The reasons of the same are historical and justified as well, though in my case it was more of a choice i.e. I thought movies like these are generally ridiculous. The astonishment that I experienced (and so must have everyone else) after watching this flick is beyond the scope of words. It wasn’t a regular popcorn flick as I suspected it to be, rather was a lot more matured and moving in nature. The movie has presented the chemistry as well as the revulsion between humans and apes in a beautiful fashion. Be it the amicable relation Caesar shares with Will and his family or the cruelty that he receives from the zookeepers, every independent portrayal of the pleasant and unpleasant montages is guaranteed to touch the hearts of the viewers. On top of all of these lies the soul of the film (it can in fact be said about the entire series), Andy Serkis, who carries the film on his shoulders with his magnetic performance. The film also comprises of some beautiful moments which can be singled out as among the best of the franchise. My favourite of all such moments is when Caesar protests against the inhumane treatment of his keeper. That’s in fact my favourite moment in the whole series.
What bothered me about Rise is probably the lacklustre performance of James Franco. No doubt he is a terrific actor but here he clearly looked out of form, nettling the viewers with his bland expressions and improper reactions (one example of the same can be his reaction to Caesar’s refusal to go back, in the climax). Apart from that, there a few other minor things like the underdevelopment of Frieda Pinto’s Caroline, the shallow chemistry between most other humans including the two human leads and the unsatisfactory escape of Caesar and co. from the zoo along with the following assault.
Nonetheless, the dominating factors in the film apart from its performances (particularly of all the ape characters, John Lithgow and David Oyelowo), direction and powerful storyline are its fantastic technical execution in terms of visual effects, cinematography, editing, sound edits and mixing (again generalisable for the franchise as a whole), making Rise a heart-rendering yet an entertaining flick to watch.
FILM RATING: 4/5
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014): –
Director – Matt Reeves
I’m declaring it from the very beginning that Dawn is the best film in this series. The reason of the same is both cinematic as well as emotional in nature. No, I didn’t cry when I saw the film but I was definitely left overwhelmed by its premise and performances. If acting is considered, then this flick has the best performances in the whole series. While the other two films are dominated by Serkis, Dawn showcases equally sublime acts from other cast members as well. Toby Kebbel as Koba and Jason Clarke as Malcolm stand almost equal to Serkis in terms of the impacts of their performances on the viewers as well as the premise of the film. Kebbel rather outshines everyone with his villainous or more exactly anti-hero performance. The character development is not just great but inspiring (to other screenwriters) as well. Needless to say, the direction and technical aspects of Dawn are first-rate and become even superior during the assault sequence where the apes led by Koba attack the human settlement. The most beautiful thing about the Dawn is more than its cinematic excellence, it lies in its emotional connect and portrayal of human-ape relations which even better its predecessor. Here, the viewer gets an in-depth insight of Caesar’s human side which is also responsible for him being softer on mankind. Caesar’s revisit to his home (in ruins) and recapitulating his happier past with Will and his family is arguably the most poignant scene in the entire franchise.
The only thing that I didn’t approve of in Dawn is the negative outlook given to Koba. One cannot deny that Koba’s apprehensions regarding humans were completely justified given his own sordid experiences in Gen-Sys in Rise. I would have loved to see Koba as a more positive character who would be as good to his people as Caesar was. Well never mind, because the reinvigorating emotional connection and awe-inducing philosophical connotations of Dawn make the viewer look away from all its minor flaws. It’s not just good or great, it’s a masterpiece and in many ways a copybook example of how to make magnificent films from simple storylines.
FILM RATING: 4.5/5
War For The Planet Of The Apes (2014): –
Director – Matt Reeves
With the huge successes of the previous two instalments, it was obvious that the makers of this flick were under enormous pressure to live up to the expectations that they had induced in the minds of the viewers. That probably lead to the build-up of the complex storyline of War by Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback. Notwithstanding its intricacies, the screenplay of this flick is the most applaudable one in the franchise. It’s not straight and predictable like Rise and Dawn and imparts a completely different experience as opposed to them. I really appreciate how Woody Harrelson’s antagonistic character has been built-up here. The viewer moves from totally hating him to understanding the science and reasoning behind his dirty actions and that in my view is a terrific form of developing characters. The performances are pretty good particularly of Serkis and Harrelson ( the latter albeit being dramatic), the direction and technical works are spot on. Its action montages confer a different kind of taste, again deviating from that of the previous two flicks, but are no less sublime. Here, the focus has been primarily on intra-ape relationships which have been portrayed stupendously in terms of amicableness and conflicts of the (ape) characters.
The troubling aspect of War is its slow pace which makes it somewhat tedious to watch. Its progress becomes even slower as Caesar gets caught up as the focus shifts from carrying on the narrative to improving character interactions. Although that’s technically a good thing to do, but here the film lacked in terms of its emotional strength, which was ironically the strongest aspect of the previous films. I also loathe the negligible human-ape chemistry in it but given the storyline and the aim of the writers (to focus on ape-ape relations), I can water-down my negative feelings in this field at least. I wholeheartedly admit that War is a sublime piece of work in case of films and arts, but I liked it the least in the entire franchise, though not significantly.
FILM RATING: 4/5
Final Verdict: –
Planet Of The Apes Reboot series is one of my favourite movie franchises and for no wrong reason. It’s great in most aspects of filmmaking especially the technical ones because the apes look too real to admit the motion-capture reality behind their making. I give the maximum credit for the series’ excellence to Andy Serkis who is arguably its soul. I once joked to a friend that I interpret the three films as: Rise being the dawn of the series, Dawn being its rise and War being the fall of everything. Though to be honest, it was just a joke and I have no revulsions for the series finale. I may have different views regarding each film but I admit that each one is a magnificent work of art in its own terms and that’s what makes the franchise a whole lot better.