One of my most cherished movie-watching moments was being witnessed to Caeser’s first word. When Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes made its way to theaters in the summer of 2011, most audiences (including me) had little to no expectations from it. Tim Burton’s ghastly reboot of the campy ’70s franchise (Ape-Raham Lincoln, NEVER FORGET) had left a nasty memory in the minds of many an audience member.
When Rise… took a wholly new approach by examining the origins of how ape-kind could physically and intellectually match and eventually overthrow mankind, I was fully on board. When Caeser’s defiant “NO” boomed its way out of the cinemas’ Dolby-powered sound system, every man, woman, and child sat up and took notice. This was different. This was not a run-of-the-mill effects-driven summer blockbuster anymore. The franchise had morphed itself into producing the thinking man’s summer movie.
Since that exchange with Tom Felton (Drako Malfloy, himself), Caeser’s journey as a character has been nothing short of Shakespearean. In the one and a quarter film that followed, that rightfully-lauded primal scream, he has led a clan of smart simians, has fostered a family, has had dissension with his right hand ape Koba, has been shot at, has lost his human family (James Franco, Frieda Pinto and John Lithgow) to the virus that created him, has lost and regained the trust of his son, has saved his colony of apes from certain destruction more than once, has broken his honour code by killing a fellow ape, and done so much more.
Many blockbusters would consider the checklist complete if they adequately explored even one of those many character moments. However, the films of this rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise are unlike most blockbusters. These are wholly character-driven stories that refuse to follow the standard norms. In War For The Planet Of The Apes, what begins as a revenge drama as Caeser goes out to even some scores with (the excellent) Woody Harrelson’s Colonel after the latter executes the former’s wife and firstborn son, metamorphoses into Caeser and his cohorts having to fight for their very survival.
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