“War for the Planet of the Apes”: The Ending to Something Extraordinary

wftpota-screenrant.jpg

Caesar (Andy Serkis) returns, and he is not happy, in War for the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Screen Rant)

“War has already begun. Ape started war. And human will not forgive,” says Caesar at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is a send-up to the next film in the beloved franchise.

It has been almost 50 years since Planet of the Apes revolutionized the science-fiction genre with its groundbreaking sets and costume design, thoughtful ideas on faith and evolution, and its shocking twist ending. The franchise has come a long way with the reboots. In Rise, a scientist created a possible Alzheimer’s cure tested on apes including Caesar. While Caesar and his apes are given enhanced intelligence which leads to a battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, the humans are given a virus. In Dawn, the so-called Simian Flu wipes most of humanity. The remaining survivors go into an all-out conflict with Caesar and his fellow apes, while Koba betrays him and begins his trek to kill every human soul. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) returns director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback to focus more on the apes, and give a much darker, grittier, and devastatingly powerful conclusion to one of the best trilogies ever made.

A military group called Alpha-Omega, led by vicious Col. McCullough (Woody Harrelson), begins to emerge. In a breathtaking opening sequence, they attack the apes’ sanctuary in the heart of Muir Woods. Caesar (Andy Serkis), who wanted to offer peace between his fellow apes and the humans for so long, is driven mad after seeing many lives lost. He has plans of relocating his homeland in the middle of the desert, so no humans can be in sight of the apes. Before he could do that, however, he must begin his quest for revenge. Along with Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Maurice (Karin Konoval), and Rocket (Terry Notary), they encounter a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller) and a chimpanzee named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who directs them to the facility on the border, operated by McCullough. Once they arrive there, Caesar sees his apes captured and used for slave labor to build a wall to protect his army (I won’t make any Trump jokes, I promise). This immediately becomes the battle of wits.

It’s no surprise that the original Planet of the Apes gained controversy for its allegory of American slavery and the racial tensions of the Civil Rights Movement. To be fair, we still live in a world where racial tensions are the norm. A different race will be discriminated anywhere at any time.  In the case of the Planet of the Apes movies, the irony is that the humans are the least dominant species. War, the ninth film in the franchise, is relevant to the Trmup era (again, no jokes). Reeves directs this social sci-fi movie to his full advantage with the themes of supremacy and prejudice. It asks the question: What does the future hold if the apes are the most dominant species, in terms of evolution?

In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert,[1] Andy Serkis explained that he had no idea he would return to motion capture after doing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. “This is the end of type casting as we know it,” he said. “Anyone can play anything.”

I can’t agree with him more. Motion capture is certainly the future of film acting. And hopefully for the better. Serkis has fully embraced the instinct of Caesar. Take note on how grayer and wiser he’s getting in each of these movies. In War, we finally get to see the darker side of this brilliant character. We see him evolve from a pet to a leader through compassion. Now—he is getting revenge on losing something so dear to him. With numerous references to the Bible and films of the past, he can be looked at as a Clint Eastwood-type protagonist (one of the film’s biggest inspirations is The Outlaw Josey Wales). He also resembles the biblical Moses.

When we finally get our first glimpse of Col. McCullough, we see a spine-tingling image of him wearing black war paint on his face (one of the references to Apocalypse Now). Later on, we learn more about his motivation and his ties with the Simian virus. With Caesar in his office, he explains how he made the ultimate sacrifice to kill those infected with the virus, which makes humans have the inability to talk. . “The irony is we created you,” says the Colonel. “And nature has been punishing us ever since…no matter what you say, eventually you’d replace us. That’s the law of nature.” From watching the original movies, this makes perfect sense about the humans living on this particular Earth now!

wftpota-bts-imdb.jpg

Comparing behind-the-scenes to the final product. (Source: IMDb)

Zahn, a newcomer to the franchise, provides the film’s comic relief. His Bad Ape is one of the franchise’s most fascinating supporting characters. Originally from the Sierra Zoo, he becomes exposed to the virus and has been hiding out in the snowy mountaintop for years. He becomes their guide leading them to the facility on the border. This results in a funny scene where they make their way through a tunnel.

The beginning and the end of War features two big action set pieces that are as nerve-wracking as they are breathtaking. With the gritty nature going on, what carries the movie through is the simple moments of poignancy. Miller’s Nova represents the innocence during the dark times. Her moments with Maurice are so sweet I want to choke up as much as the rest of the movie. Her moment of grace, however, is during one powerful scene where she sneaks into the facility. She sees Caesar tired and hungry from working on the wall. What does she do? She gives him food and water before escaping from the army. We see one of the apes holding two fists together side-by-side; indicating that “apes together are strong.” The other apes later repeat the act. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score, it’s impossible not to get teary-eyed.

(As much as I loved Patrick Doyle’s score in Rise, his doesn’t quite capture the gritty nature and simple poignancy of Giacchino’s score in this movie and in Dawn.)

War for the Planet of the Apes may be the end of the trilogy, but the franchise is most certainly not over, according to Matt Reeves. “The idea would never be to remake the ’68 film,” said Reeves in a 2014 interview with JoBlo.[2] “But it would be sort of a re-telling of those events from a new perspective. And the events themselves would probably be a bit different since they will have grown out of these films.” I’m definitely looking forward to seeing exactly where the franchise will go.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64mWOoj68qo

[2] http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/exclusive-matt-reeves-talks-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-169

Advertisements

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”: Let’s Bring the Franchise to a Whole New Level!

dpota-forbes.jpg

Hail, Caesar! (Source: Forbes)

In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rupert Wyatt brilliantly brings the popular franchise back to life. A San Francisco scientist created a drug that would cure Alzheimer’s disease. After deeming it a success to chimps, his co-workers decide to make a powerful version of the drug. This causes a worldwide epidemic after the apes had a rebellion on the Golden Gate Bridge to escape to Muir Woods National Monument. This leads up to the next film.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) introduces somebody else to the director’s chair, and known for making some of the most ambitious films of this century. Enter Matt Reeves, the director of the sci-fi found-footage film Cloverfield and the vampire drama Let Me In (remake of 2008’s Let the Right One In). I’m glad he stepped in to direct more Planet of the Apes films. What he does with Dawn is as ambitious as it is pretty damn captivating.

Ten years after a simian flu outbreak, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes have called the Muir Woods their home. They create their own laws (“Ape Not Kill Ape” being one of the key laws) and teach the young. The movie opens up with them hunting for elk (accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s haunting score, the choir feels reminiscent to Ligetti’s “Atmospheres”, used in the star gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Seeing his son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) almost killed, Caesar tells him to “Think before you act.”

dpota-redbrick

The apes prepare for a battle in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Red Brick)

Meanwhile, a group of survivors, including Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his wife Ellie (Keri Russell), and son Alex (Kodi-Smit McPhee), are living in a now-devastated San Francisco. They need to get the power running through the city; however, the dam that connects the power throughout the city is on the other side of ape territory. While Caesar wants to keep peace between apes and humans, Koba (Toby Kebbell) has a strong hatred for humans. He goes out of his way to kill every last of them for revenge.

dpota-koba-cinemablend

Koba (Toby Kebbell) kills in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Cinema Blend)

Dawn has plenty of connections to Battle. To be fair, this throws every single Planet of the Apes sequel out of the water. Reeves uses the connections from the original films to his full advantage. The movie has a marvelous theme involving supremacy with allegorical connections to Cain and Abel and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Caesar and Koba are two distinct yet different characters. Caesar’s leadership is through compassion. He might miss having a human companion, but he has to focus on protecting the apes in their sanctuary even his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) sick after giving birth. A lot of apes join his side, including orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval). In contrast, Koba is sick of the abuse being brought upon by the humans. In one scene involving dark humor, he encounters two people—Terry (Lombardo Boyar) and McVeigh (Kevin Renkin)—who sit back and having a drink after target practice. Koba entertains them until he picks up a gun and starts shooting them. The reason why Koba is one of the franchise’s most memorable villains is because he is so unpredictable at what might happen to him. It amazes me how smarter the apes are with each movie.

dpota-bts-wsj

Behind-the-scenes of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with Jason Clarke and others. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Motion capture has certainly come a long way after The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Weta Digital is back to make the CGI apes as seamless as ever. I’m surprised Andy Serkis has not received a special Academy Award for bringing these characters to life. His performance as Caesar is one of the most powerful I have seen in many years. Furthermore, he’s one of the only characters performed through motion-capture that moved me to tears. His affection for humans is just the same for his affection for his ape friends. While Malcolm (wonderfully played by Clarke, fresh from starring as one of the NAVY seals assigned to kill Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty) may not be like Will, but he has a similar motivation as Caesar in every way. He has suffered so much during the ten years, and wants to have peace in the world as opposed to violence. After losing his youngest daughter to the outbreak, the only people he has to care about is Ellie and Alex. Once Malcolm finds shelter at Caesar’s childhood home, he and his family must help him get back to health. In one powerful scene, Caesar goes through the attic and sees a video camera. He watches a video of him as an infant learning sign language from Will. Malcolm asks who that was in the video. Caesar says, “A good man…like you.”

dpota-imfdb

Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) looking badass holding that machine gun in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Internet Movie Firearms Database)

Dawn is perhaps the most complex film in the series, filled with compelling characters. Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus, for instance, is particularly complicated. It’s obvious that he has a law enforcement background. He lost everything, from his family to his job as a police officer. He’s not happy with Caesar and the apes living on this planet. He’s struggling just as much as everyone else. From the villain in The Fifth Element, Sirius Black, Commissioner Gordon, and now he’s going to play Winston Churchill in the upcoming Darkest Hour, it proves how great of an actor Oldman is.

This movie is most certainly not without its action. Nothing looks more awesome than seeing a group of apes riding on horseback (the shot of the tank is also just as gorgeous as the miraculous sets of post-apocalyptic San Francisco and the apes’ sanctuary). When they finally go at it against the humans, it makes the audience root for both sides. Meanwhile, Caesar has reached his breaking point with Koba, they fight in one of the most thrilling fights set on top of a tower.

It is impossible to top such a classic like the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes, but Matt Reeves has made a wonderful piece of science-fiction with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It has just enough thrills, emotion, dark comedy, and visual wonder to make it my personal favorite film in the series. Bring on, War for the Planet of the Apes!

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”: Something of a Miracle!

rpota-salon

Hail, Caesar (Andy Serkis)! TPihe future king of the apes! (Source: Salon.com)

In 1968, Franklin J. Schaffner and Arthur P. Jacobs introduced a planet unlike any other. A planet where chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans (oh my!) have the ability to talk, read and write, and hold a certain occupation. The only humans who live on this planet are mute and used for sport. Based on the books by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes became a definitive science-fiction classic. Three lousy sequels and one good one (Escape from the Planet of the Apes) would soon follow. As well as a 2001 remake, directed by the master of bizarre, Tim Burton.

Ten years later, director Rupert Wyatt sits in the director’s chair to reboot the beloved franchise. Instead of taking place two thousand years into the future, it’s set in the present-day. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) has a similar premise to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but what Wyatt does with Rise is nothing short of a miracle.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working for Gen-Sys in San Francisco. For about six years, he has developed ALZ-112, a drug that can repair bad brain cells. In other words, it may be the key solution to cure Alzheimer’s disease. He, along with other scientists, test the drug on chimpanzees, which give them an intelligence unlike anything they have ever seen. One day, he brings home a baby chimp named Caesar (Andy Serkis), whose mother has been linked with the drug.

rpota-ign

Will always has Caesar’s back in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: IGN)

This is where morality comes into play for Will. He might be risking his job, but he might be doing something good for once. He uses most of his research on Caesar. Over the past two years, Will begins to realize he can learn words, play board games, and complete jigsaw puzzles at an astounding rate. “He’s been displaying incredible signs of intelligence. I designed the 112 to repair. But Caesar has gone way beyond that,” he says. He goes on to say his IQ double since the year before.

After the incredible discovery, Will uses the drug on his father Charles (the legendary John Lithgow), a former music teacher who happens to have Alzheimer’s. With his condition getting worse, the drug seems to work (he wakes up to see his father playing away on the piano), but not permanently.

rpota-motioncapture-comingsoon.net

Motion capture makes a vast difference. Doesn’t it? (Source: ComingSoon.net)

If you compare this movie to the originals, it doesn’t come as a surprise the tone of the original films are dry and the ape costumes tend to get a little silly. The 20th century had limited technology, so the only option is using make-up and costumes. We now live in a world where everything is possible. Weta Digital, based in New Zealand, are known for bringing brilliant Lord of the Rings, District 9, The Hobbit to pure life with their brilliant motion capture. Rise is the first movie where the company uses motion-capture not only in the studio, but also on-location. The apes here look a lot more like apes than anything. Dozens of actors are performed through this modern technology (for the better). Known for portraying Gollum and King Kong, Andy Serkis brings forth another great character in Caesar. The expressions and the body language are 100% authentic to an actual ape. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic for Caesar whenever he is in the middle of any difficult situation.

Speaking of emotion, the movie has a lot to get teary-eyed over. In one scene, Charles’s condition returns as he’s about to steal a neighbor’s (David Hewlett) Mustang. Looking out of the attic window, Caesar gets pissed off seeing the neighbor giving Charles a hard time. Then, Caesar attacks the neighbor and bites his finger off. While he might have gone a little too far, he’s just protecting one of the only humans he trusts. Despite convincing him to get a girlfriend in a primatologist named Caroline (Freida Pinto), Will takes Caesar to an infirmary, under the supervision of Dodge Landon (Tom Felton, doing his best attempt at an American accent) There, Caesar meets some colorful characters including a circus orangutan named Maurice (Karin Konoval).

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-collider

Caesar protecting Charles (John Lithgow) in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Collider)

Rise proves the apes are getting smarter with each movie. Caesar is named after Julius Caesar, the ruthless leader of Ancient Rome. He understands the abuse that the apes have gone through over the years (at one point, Dodge screams, “It’s a madhouse!” One of the many references to the original film). He uses a stick as a metaphor for sticking together as one. “Apes together…weak,” referring to the one stick. Then, he breaks it in half, and holds the two halves together, he says (in sign language), “Apes together strong.”

“Apes stupid,” Maurice deadpans, referring to the apes’ behavior in the sanctuary.

Caesar simply can’t take the abuse anymore. He fights Dodge in the sanctuary. While grabbing onto Dodge, he tells him to “Take your stinkin’ paw off me, you damn dirty ape.” Before defeating him, Caesar yells, “No!” Then, Caesar and his fellow apes escape and cause a rebellion, resulting a miraculous sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge.

(When I saw this movie in theaters, I remember laughing at the Planet of the Apes reference. At the moment when Caesar spoke for the first time, the theater went completely silent. Every time I watch it, the scene never fails to send chills down my spine.)

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-caesar-sf-collider

Caesar and his primates (no pun intended) take San Francisco by storm in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Collider)

While it is bizarre to see a comedic actor perform a serious role, Franco is no stranger to that. After earning an Oscar as Aron Rolston in the magnificent 127 Hours, he leads an exceptional cast with his performance as Will. The reason why he’s one of the most convincing human characters in the franchise is because he takes his work very seriously, while his boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) decides to improve on the ALZ-112 with a more effective drug, which leads to problems. He trusts Caesar as much as Caesar does to him. This is way before Franco went entirely nuts, and posting a naked mirror selfie on his Instagram.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of those rare reboots which slightly improves over the original. It serves as an excellent build-up to the next film in the series, which happens to be my favorite.

The Lord of the Rings: A Long Journey Worth Taking

Peter Jackson on the set of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy

Peter Jackson (1961-) was a nine-year-old kid living in Wellington, New Zealand when he saw the original King Kong (1933) for the first time, which he considers his all-time favorite movie. When Kong slipped off the Empire State Building, he cried his head off. From that point on, he was inspired to become a filmmaker. Jackson started making home movies with a super-8mm film camera including his version of King Kong (which he gave up on until 2004). Years later, he became successful making movies that are absolutely disgusting and hilarious that moviegoers can feel their stomachs churning. Some movies include Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989), and Dead Alive a.k.a. Braindead (1992).

The Eye of Sauron

The Eye of Sauron

He went to another territory with 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, the dramatization of the 1950s New Zealand matricide case starring Kate Winslet, and 1996’s The Frighteners, starring Michael J. Fox as a man developing abilities to communicate with the dead. Then, Jackson’s ambitions are put to the test when he started production on the film adaptation of his favorite books (as a teenager), J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Filmed between 1999 and 2000, Peter Jackson and his team have created an epic fantasy that is among my favorites of all-time.

The trilogy begins with The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). In a beautiful prologue, narrated by Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), consisting of the forging of the rings. In the land of Mordor, the dark lord Sauron forged a special ring as a way to conquer Middle-Earth (“One ring to rule them all”). The Elves and Men fight for the ring, and they believed they defeated Sauron. However, his soul is still alive in the ring. Over several centuries, the ring has been passed from Isildur, who refuses to destroy it, then to the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis), then to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Much to Gollum’s grief, Bilbo goes back to the Shire with the ring.

Sixty years have passed, on his “one-hundred and eleventieth” birthday, Bilbo leaves the ring – that could make a person disappear whenever they put it on – to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). The wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) warns him that Sauron’s forces will come after him if he goes on the quest to destroy the ring. Frodo accepts and goes with his friends Samwise “Sam” Gamgee (Sean Astin), Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan), and Peregrin “Pippin” Took (Billy Boyd). Once they all arrive in Rivendell, populated by

The Argonath in "The Fellowship of the Ring"

The Argonath in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

elves, a council, led by Elrond (Hugo Weaving), takes place on who will take the ring to Mordor. Gandalf, Frodo and his friends join the ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir, the prince of Gondor (Sean Bean), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). This is where they became the Fellowship of the Ring. Along the way, they encounter various creatures such as the Nazgûl, Orcs, and the Balrog, in which Gandalf fights on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum (“You shall not pass!!), and falls – what the Fellowship believes – to his death.

In The Two Towers (2002), the Fellowship go their separate ways while Sauron’s powers grow stronger. Frodo and Sam decide to go to Mordor, and encounter Gollum, who has been looking for the ring, and becomes their guide. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin have been captured by the Orcs in Parth Galen and then make companions with Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), a tree creature known as an Ent, who later plans to attack Isengard. In Rohan, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli try to look for them until they reunite with Gandalf, resurrected as Gandalf the White after defeating the Balrog in the film’s most exciting prologue. amake companions with King Theoden (Bernard Hill), as they plan the battle at Helm’s Deep. The trilogy concludes with The Return of the King (2003), where Sauron sets his eye on the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith. The clan make their way there as they take part of the biggest battle of Middle-Earth.

Peter Jackson shot these movies in his native New Zealand. There is no other place to capture the imaginative locations of  Middle-Earth other than New Zealand. Jackson shows his love by frequently shooting faraway shots in which the characters

The Shire

The Shire

are walking, riding their horses, or taking a rowboat to their location. As the camera moves around, he shows the utter beauty of his homeland as the astounding music by Howard Shore plays in the background. With some of the most breathtaking sets ever shown, we would wish Middle-Earth actually existed. It feels like the audience is getting a warm welcome when the trilogy begins in the Shire. It has such a lively environment that it’s hard not to think of the comforts of home. Same goes to Rivendell (where the elves live).

Every time I watch these movies, it feels like I’m on this adventure the whole time. It’s amazing how much these characters evolve on the quest, like Frodo, who has possession of the ring. In one scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship is in the mines of Moria. “I wish the ring had never come for me,” says Frodo to Gandalf about the quest. “I wish none of this had happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them [the Fellowship] to decide,” says Gandalf. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us…Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. That is an encouraging thought.” Gandalf encourages Frodo to make the decision to keep his fate as the ring-bearer. He couldn’t finish the quest without Sam (“I made a promise, Mr. Frodo…’Don’t you leave him, Samwise

"I can't carry it for you. But I can carry you!"

“I can’t carry it for you. But I can carry you!”

Gamgee’ I don’t mean to”). As they are going on the quest by themselves, Frodo starts to change as he comes closer to Mount Doom. He has the feeling of going back home, because the quest is more of an impossible task. In one powerful scene in The Return of the King, Frodo and Sam are on the side of Mount Doom about to destroy the ring. Frodo’s strength is deteriorating, and he’s about to give up. Sam wants him to defeat Sauron once and for all (“I can’t carry it [the Ring] for you, but I can carry you!). That’s why I think Sam is the ideal hero of the quest.

Gandalf is a wizard who could do anything he want. He’s never late, he’s never early, he intends to show up anytime he

wants. He has the ability to telecommunicate with his companions. When he refuses to join Saruman the White (Christopher Lee, playing someone that everyone loves to hate), the wizard who joins forces with Sauron at the tower of Isengard to create armies of Orcs (notably the Uruk-hai), he is trapped on top of his tower. Then, he sets out his butterfly (symbolic for a messenger) to call for the Eagles, and meet up with his companions. Gandalf is like a Christ-figure. After defeating the Balrog into the abyss in the exciting opening in The Two Towers, he becomes resurrected as Gandalf the White.

Elves have a choice whether to be immortal or sail into the West. Arwen (Liv Tyler), the daughter of Elrond, chooses to live a mortal life so she can be with Aragorn. She gives him an Evenstar necklace as a promise to return to her. As she is joining with her elves to sail into the West, she sees glimpses of the future on what would happen after Aragorn dies and what would happen if they have a son together. Despite how deeply emotional these movies are, there are also some light-hearted and funny moments as well. Merry and Pippin are two hobbits who love to cause trouble in the Shire, like when they go through Gandalf’s fireworks at Bilbo’s birthday party. They provide one of the funniest scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring where Pippin asks Aragorn to stop for breakfast (“We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?”).

The One Ring is rife with significance. For instance, Gollum is one of the most complex characters in the trilogy. As Smeagol, he has had possession of the Ring for five centuries after choking his cousin Deagol in a chilling prologue in The Return of the King (“My precious”). He starts having a split personality between Smeagol and Gollum. His physical appearance is what makes him possess the Ring for a long time. It holds a certain power that makes every race fail. Once the Ring is taken from Bilbo, his power weakens as Bilbo becomes younger. Later on in the trilogy, when Frodo has the Ring, Bilbo grows older. The Ring emphasizes how one’s weakness should gain more power.

Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith

Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith

Peter Jackson uses a mix of computer-generated images and practical effects. With new technology, he uses the motion capture technique for Gollum, Andy Serkis, an unknown actor at the time, came into the studio in a suit to capture the mannerisms of Gollum. Treebeard was used as a CGI and an animatronic model. For close-up shots of Merry and Pippin riding on Treebeard, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd will be set on the model in front of a green screen. They are used in some of the trilogy’s best battle sequences ever: The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers and The Battle of Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King.

After the trilogy won 17 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Peter Jackson went on to make his noteworthy remake of King Kong (2005), the adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones (2009), which is considered by many to be his weakest film, and he collaborated with director Steven Spielberg to produce Hergé‘s The Adventures of Tintin (2011). He thought he would never return to Middle-Earth by directing the underrated The Hobbit trilogy.

2014 Summer Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) enters the land occupied by Caesar and his apes in Matt Reeves' "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) enters the land occupied by Caesar and his apes in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

I haven’t seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, but I am familiar with the series. The only one I’ve seen was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I was pleased with what I saw. It featured an underrated performance by James Franco (before he became a complete joke) as Will, a scientist testing his Alzheimer’s cure on his father and then on a chimp named Caesar. I couldn’t have asked for a better climax resulting in an incredible build-up for the sequel. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I’ve seen last night), director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) takes the story to a whole new level.

The movie opens in 2016, where our hero Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his group of apes unleashed a virus leaving billions around the world dead. The reason for this is that they could make peace for themselves. After taking San Francisco by storm a decade earlier, Caesar and his apes have settled in Muir Woods. He becomes the leader of the apes; learning that apes are equal, and they should not kill other apes (nod to George Orwell’s Animal Farm). He has a family; his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) becomes ill after giving birth. His son Blue Eyes is walking in the forest when he spots a human.

The human, Carver (Kirk Acevado) is one of the few hundred survivors of the virus outbreak. He’s a member of a group, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), struggling to make peace. With no power in the city, the group decide to enter Muir Woods to generate a dam that might restore the power. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the head of the survivors, doesn’t appreciate the apes living on Earth. He decides to go to war with the apes to prove who’s the dominant species.

Caesar has as much respect for the survivors as for the apes like he did with Will in Rise. Even though he acts like a human-being, he is really sympathetic to humans. In one emotional scene, Malcolm and his family find shelter in Caesar’s childhood home when the war between man and apes is taking place. Caesar stays up in the attic for the night as he finds a fully charged camcorder. He presses ‘play’ and he watches a video of himself (as an infant) being taught by Will. After the video, Malcolm asks him “Who was that in the video?” “A good man,” Caesar responds, “Like you.” However, his lieutenant Koba (one of the best villains in recent memory), prefers to kill every human-being on Earth. This is understandable that he leads the other apes to war against the humans for Caesar. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits it out of the park with emotion.

Reeves brilliantly captures the ruined city of San Francisco and the apes’ settlement with an allegorical, emotionally powerful and action-packed story as intelligent as the apes themselves. It looks like the humans are actually corresponding to the computer-generated primates without pretending they aren’t even there. The motion capture is as phenomenal as ever; it makes us forget we’re watching an actor capturing the ape’s body language rather than a realistic CGI creation. I think it’s time that Andy Serkis receives a special achievement Oscar for bringing this wonderful technology to life. From Gollum to King Kong to Caesar, he’s definitely brought motion capture to the next level. If it isn’t for him, it would probably get old very fast. This is how a sequel is made!

4/4