Planet of the Apes

1968, APJAC Productions

This seminal 60s production introduced an absurd yet enduring concept of man versus smart apes. Steel-jawed Charlton Heston accidentally travels forward in time to a post-apocalyptic Earth populated by evolved apes who'd replaced the now-extinct humans. Some intriguing Rod Serling-esque plot twists (he was co-screenwriter) keep the premise from wearing out, ending with one of the most oft-parodied scenes in cinema, that of a furious, sand-pounding Heston bellowing at the remains of the Statue of Liberty. Jerry Goldsmith's avant-garde score is notably effective.

The film's surprise popularity gave rise to an extensive, long-lived franchise that includes Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), as well as two television series, Planet of the Apes (1974) and Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975). All of this was followed by two reboots.

Incidentally, I didn't review the sequels because, for one thing, I never got caught up in the whole 70s apes fad, and for another, the films and shows were embarrassingly bad.

     

 

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Planet of the Apes

2001, The Zanuck Company

Tim Burton well and truly shot himself in the foot with his staggeringly misguided reboot. Evidently his idea of being clever was to take the main plot twists of the original and invert them; the result was a stupid, pointless mess, at best laughable, at worst painful. Example: an ape snarls, "Get your hands off me, you damned dirty human!" OMG. Sucks to be Burton.

       

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

2011, Chernin Entertainment et al

Screenwriter Rick Jaffa had a brainstorm: reboot the Apes franchise using a slightly different premise, one that brings humans and smart apes together in the present. The result was Rise, competently brought to the screen by Rupert Wyatt, with the help of the brilliant, non-human-character actor Andy Serkis, aided by some incredible CGI artistry. Against all odds, it worked, and even worked better than expected, becoming a certified hit.

       

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

2014, Chernin Entertainment et al

Widely praised for his performance as the proto-smart-ape Caesar, Andy Serkis was one of the main driving forces for a sequel, commanding a healthy seven-digit salary for his efforts. Rick Jaffa contributed to the new story, which leverages the plague unintentionally released in the first installment to create a new type of post-apocalyptic Earth, where tiny bands of humans are pitted against growing colonies of swiftly-evolving apes. Dawn proved to be even more popular than its predecessor, earning broad critical acclaim.

       

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War for the Planet of the Apes

2017, Chernin Entertainment et al

Andy Serkis brilliantly reprises his role as Caesar in a film that maintains the new franchise's winning streak. This time, the CGI artists push all boundaries to produce truly awe-inspiring effects, all in service of a solid, intelligent and genuinely moving story. Never having been sold on the original franchise, the reboot has converted me into an enthusiastic supporter by virtue of the filmmaking quality alone.

       

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