Thursday, May 8, 2014


Ladies and gentlemen, the Movie of Summer 2014.

Too early to call? Don't care.

Is it also too early to have Andy Serkis named a national treasure? Yes, I know he's English - still don't care. I'm annexing him.

Apes. On horses. With machine guns.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2011, a reboot/prequel of the franchise that had nearly died after Tim Burton's legendarily bad 2001 remake. The movie was not only a success with critics, but was a big draw at the August box office, netting nearly half-a-billion dollars worldwide on a budget of less than $100 million (for those unfamiliar with the insider baseball of this industry, that rarely - if ever - happens to blockbusters). Fox, of course, went full steam ahead with the sequel.

While the human cast is almost completely different (for reasons the trailer fairly well spells out), the central figure of this franchise remains Andy Serkis as the mo-cap/CGI (odds of this being an early favorite for Best Visual Effects for the 2015 Oscars - very high) creation Caesar, an ape raised by humans but who eventually leads his species to safety and freedom, and now struggles to build a peaceful society of law and compassion as well as burgeoning intelligence.

Into which stumbles a bunch of humans, harrowed by a decade of a population-decimating simian flu and the following war, who will, as humans do in this sort of movie, screw everything right the hell up.

Rise featured a delicate balance of "Legitimate idea-driven science fiction" and "Rampant appeasement of the id" - best exemplified in a moment during the film's climax where a silver-back gorilla fights a helicopter, which manages to be every bit as effective an emotional story beat as an "awesome blockbuster" moment. And with the sequel, the stakes and scale have been amped up considerably without losing the meditative backbone of the series. And given where we know the franchise eventually goes, the tragedy that hangs over the human characters like the Sword of Damocles works like gangbusters in the trailer.

As do lines like Ceasar's bellowing of "Apes...together...strong!"

Seriously folks, NATIONAL. TREASURE.

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