Humanity's future has been particularly bleak in Pierre Boulle's world of Planet of the Apes. His vision wasn't just about the future of mankind, but a future that would occur on a planet much like ours, discovered in the vast reaches of outer space. For years, the series would remain strong as garnered critical acclaim and a moderately large fanbase for its visionary approach. It became a sci-fi experience that many would come to love before the franchise would begin to fade out in 1975 after the animated series released.
The movie series would remain dormant until writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver reapproached the franchise with the question: What if apes revolted from a genetics lab where they are being made smarter and more independent? Armed with this idea, the series would relish in box office success, having reinvigorated a series almost 40 years after its original premier, and earning critical acclaim for the character Caesar (played by the very talented Andy Serkis).
The latest installment, War for the Planet of the Apes, sees Andy Serkis reprise his role as the ape leader, and with his performance comes critical acclaim.
Movie Pilot's very own Alisha Grauso stated that we are extremely privileged to live in the world as the same time as Andy Serkis, and even followed it up with:
Make no mistake—this is #AndySerkis' movie through and through. The movie rests entirely on his shoulders—or, more accurately, on Caesar's mesmerizing, expressive face, a face that gradually becomes more bloody and battered over the course of the film, a physical representation of the breakdown of his soul.
Mark Hughes of Forbes said that he felt Andy Serkis deserves to be recognized for his role as the ape leader Caesar in his review:
The motivations for the main characters become more complex and harrowing than either of the prior films in the series -- particularly for Caesar, portrayed by Andy Serkis in a genius performance that I simply have to trust will be recognized at the Oscars regardless of any misguided attitudes about performance-capture.
Jon Niccum of the Kansas City Star states that the realism is unbelievable, even for a movie of this type:
“War for the Planet of the Apes” certainly earns its name. But as this third film in the rebooted sci-fi series unfolds, a nagging issue remains. No matter how skillfully made these movies are, they hinge on seeing animals getting mistreated, gunned down and blown up. Admittedly, these aren’t really animals. The apes are primarily computer generated, played by human actors wearing motion-capture suits. But the technology that makes these films so convincing also makes them so hard to enjoy.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times appraised the movies motion-capture as well:
But still, the motion-captured, digitally sculpted apes are so natural, so expressive, so beautifully integrated into their environment, that you almost forget to be astonished by the nuances of thought and emotion that flicker across their faces, often seen in close-up. Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar is one of the marvels of modern screen acting, and it’s complemented by those of Karin Konoval, reprising her role as the wise orangutan Maurice, and Steve Zahn, as a sad-clown sidekick named Bad Ape.
David Herald of The Atlantic found the story a bit troubling for a visually appealing movie. While the CGI effects definitely were given appraise, it's explained to be hard at 140 minutes:
That Reeves is presenting a big-budget summer blockbuster centered on CGI simians who largely communicate in sign language is still one of the most flabbergasting triumphs of the current blockbuster age; even more impressive is how naturally Caesar and his compatriots come across. As with Dawn, I never found myself yearning for the story to cut to flesh-and-blood actors. In fact, anytime it did, I found my mind wandering.
Even Andy Shulman of Metro Weekly struggled with the movie, calling it absurd and boring:
It’s a massive, expensive nothing of a movie, an example of what happens when imagination is stripped from the equation and replaced with a collection of badly-executed homages to war movies of yore. The film pretends to bring closure to the apes versus humans conflict, but it’s clearly a setup for an eventual reboot of the 1968 film.
Woody Harrelson Isn't Exactly Getting Mentioned In Reviews
While there is a lot of praise for Andy Serkis's performance, Woody Harrelson has been mostly out of the light for this one. However, Empire gives Harrelson a worthwhile nod in James Dyers's review, hinting that Harrelson could be taking us into the Charlton Heston era of the series:
Harrelson, meanwhile, brings A-grade crazy to the nameless Colonel, whether ranting — Kurtz-like — about the human condition, or gazing down at his troops like a freshly shorn Immortan Joe. Starting out as a messianic crackpot, he’s lent both depth and pathos by an ingenious plot pivot that hints at how this series may one day brush snouts with the Hestonverse.
Even Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times resonated with James Dyre, claiming that Harrelson's role reflects with Heston's:
Harshly implacable in the role, Harrelson delivers the key line, “There are times when it is necessary to abandon our humanity to save humanity,” echoing the famous “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it” from the Vietnam War.
It's refreshing to know that Andy Serkis, the cast, and even writers have worked hard to keep this movie distant from the others in the series. While it seems that the Planet of the Apes franchise is struggling to remain distant from the Charlton Heston era, it expertly emphasizes the idea that war is Hell, and that extinction is a very real threat for humanity.
Luckily for us, it seems that Caesar will once again have us humans rooting for the apes in the story that could very well end the franchise on a high note. If this isn't the end, let's just hope that we see more of Andy Serkis delivering the emotional depth we need from the fearless leader Caesar.
War for the Planet of the Apes is set to launch in theaters across the United States this weekend. What are you most excited to see?