Thursday, July 13, 2017

Planet of the Apes Triple Feature

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see a triple feature of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes.  It was a long afternoon and evening but I definitely enjoyed myself (and bonded with the people around me).  It is one of the best trilogies I've ever seen, one, rather unusually, in which the films get better and better.  All three of them feature compelling and thought-provoking stories, powerful performances, and dazzling special effects.  In Rise, my sympathies are entirely with the apes.  Just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should, especially regarding the ethics of animal testing.  In Dawn, the stakes are considerably higher and the heroes and villains aren't quite as black and white for me.  There are good humans and bad humans just as there are good apes and bad apes.  I was very intrigued by the difficulties involved in diplomacy, how easy it is for an extremist to undermine the work of many.  In War, after fighting for two years, Caesar (Andy Serkis) offers the humans peace if the apes can be left alone in the woods.  However, a mysterious Colonel (Woody Harrelson) arrives and kills Caesar's wife and son prompting him to vow revenge.   As the rest of the apes try to escape, Caesar goes on a journey with a few apes to locate the Colonel at his compound in the North and then learns that his apes have been taken prisoner.  The way that the prisoners are treated is extremely difficult to watch (much like the Jews in concentration camps) but the prison-break scenes provide a bit of levity.  While there is an epic show-down between the apes and humans, the titular war, in my opinion, is within Caesar himself as he battles his hatred.  Of the three, I think this film is the most complex in its storytelling because of the themes of vengeance and redemption.  Andy Serkis is, once again, brilliant in a motion-capture performance that is incredibly powerful.  I have always enjoyed Maurice (Karin Konoval) as a character but I loved his role as Caesar's conscience in this film.  Woody Harrelson is menacing as a military leader gone rogue and I enjoyed the addition of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) for a bit of comic relief to offset the bleakness.  Finally, I was so impressed by the CGI which I thought was incredibly realistic, almost to the point that you forget that you are not watching apes but actors in motion-capture suits.  This is a very fitting end to the trilogy and I loved it.  Actually, I loved watching all three of these films together, so much so, that I spent about forty-five minutes discussing them in the parking lot with my fellow audience members!

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