I’ve always been somewhere in the middle when it came to the Planet of the Apes series. I’ve always liked them, but I’ve never been able to really embrace thew series as one of my favorites. Which is weird for me, because this type of stuff is usually right up my alley. A high concept, socially conscience science fiction movie. How could I not love this series? I don’t know what it is. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I pretty much knew all of the major beats of the series before I ever actually watched them. Well, at least cognitively watched them. I have vague memories of being really young watching them on TBS(I think) late at night, but they never left a huge impression on me. Other series that I saw at that age stuck with me in much bigger ways. Things like, The Terminator, or Alien left huge impressions on me, and I’ve been a fan of those series ever since, but that probably has to do with the fact that those films, superficially, are much more visceral and less cerebral than Planet of the Apes.
I bought the entire series on blu-ray a few years back. It was on sale, and I figured revisiting the series with an older persons perspective would be a good idea. They have a pretty fervent fan base, smaller than others, but it’s substantial enough to at least make me curious. What I discovered was a series of films that, while flawed in certain ways, were extremely well thought out and told a very socially prescient(Especially in today’s’ “class” climate), nuanced story throughout it’s original five films. Sure, they don’t all work, the first sequel is pretty goofy, and while it does get better in the last 20 minutes, it never successfully transcends the concepts superficial trappings in any way that makes sense. My favorite of the series is a tie between the third and fourth entries(Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes), because they pretty much make up one larger story, as they lead directly into one another. They also directly serve as inspiration for the recent prequel/reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
When it was first announced that they were going to make another Apes movie, I was fairly indifferent about it. Nothing about any of the news that trickled out about the movie during the production really interested me. I skipped it altogether at the theater, but did eventually catch up with it when it came out on video. I was curious to see if it would retain any of the subtext and social commentary from the original films. And you know what? It totally did. I was very pleasantly surprised by Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It could have been a real schlocky mess, but somehow they pulled off something that wasn’t just entertaining, but also managed to be kind of thoughtful. The biggest triumph of the film is a technical thing, actually. Well, partially a technical thing. The work that was done in bringing the character, Caesar, to life is pretty astounding, both in performance and technical wizardry. So, yeah, I’m definitely interested to see what they’ll do in a sequel.
I really dig this teaser for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It’s so restrained! That last shot, the slow pull back from Caesar’s face! Pretty good stuff, in my opinion! It definitely does a good job at vaguely setting up the world that the story will take place, and, honestly, is taking the story in a direction that is intriguing.
I kind of like that the story seems to be taking place several years later, and involves a major junction point in the larger story. The thing that I’m most curious about is how they are going to handle Caesar in this sequel. In the last flick he was, more or less, made out to be a noble hero of sorts that had to make some hard choices about how to move forward with his “people.” He became a revolutionary. Now, it would seem, he’s become a little bit more sinister. Is he trying to wipe out humanity, and how will these events lead into the original Planet of the Apes scenario of humans being mute slaves. I can’t imagine that they will completely villainize him, and maybe he somehow just gets caught in the middle, because I would assume at this point in the story he’s no longer “the smartest ape,” if you will.
The teaser sticks with the human angle, telling us about the struggle that humanity has faced thus far, but it also implies that they have some sort of connection with the brainy simians. Maybe there is a larger threat at play, and it will force humans and apes to work together. Like I said, Caesar probably isn’t the only one capable of organizing anymore, so, if there is an external threat, I imagine it would be some splinter group of the ape community. Honestly, I kind of hope that Caesar ends up being the villain; whether through circumstance or intention, I think that would definitely be interesting, and make for some interesting dynamics. Kind of like a “will he/won’t he” type of deal, concerning his treatment of humans.
The cast is pretty decent, too. I mean, fucking Gary Oldman is in it! Damn, I really love Gary Oldman. I like that he’s game for these types of flicks, because the guy is one of the best character actors out there, and he could stick to “prestige” flicks if he really wanted to. The other actor that I noticed was the guy from Zero Dark Thirty, Jason Clarke. I don’t really care for that movie, mostly because of it’s weird politics, but he was really good in it, and I’m glad to see him get some more “lead” roles. Although, in these flicks the humans are always going to kind of play…. Second Banana to the apes(Oh yeah, that just happened!).
The director of the previous film jumped ship sometime during pre-production, and was replaced by director, Matt Reeves. Now, he’s never made anything that’s particularly bad, but he’s never made anything particularly good, either. The few films he has directed(Cloverfield, Let Me In(Remake of the Swedish film, Let the Right One In)), have been kind of forgettable. I will say, though, he has potential, and if at the end of the day all he can do is competently direct the movie, as long as the story holds up, it won’t be that big of a deal. While it would be great if an “auteur” director would be involved, it’s not completely necessary.
I had no idea this trailer was set to premier yesterday, and I almost didn’t even bother watching it. I’m really glad I did. 2014 seems like it’s turning out to be a pretty decent year for movies. I didn’t expect to be excited for this one, but here I am, daydreaming about the possibilities!