In the age of reboots, sequels and reboot sequels, the new Apes film sets a good example. Sponsored by Cineworld.
Nobody expected Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Not the one we got, anyway – a reboot was inevitable, the trend to reanimate every Hollywood movie dead or barely living in full swing by the time director Rupert Wyatt delivered the Planet of the Apes prequel in 2011. Less expected was a movie of any real quality; remakes happen because they’re virtually guaranteed audiences, so any artistic merit is, unfortunately, often just a bonus in the modern age.
This year’s slightly underwhelming Godzilla made $439 million (and counting) worldwide, for the simple fact that it was Godzilla. It didn’t matter about reviews, or negative word of mouth. The film didn’t have to be any good, because audiences already knew the product and the studio knew this was all it took for the movie to make a mint. In contrast, the far superior Edge of Tomorrow utterly underwhelmed at the box office. A now rare original property, it was intelligent, exciting and something for all ages to enjoy. It tanked.
Edge of Tomorrow has been the best blockbuster of the year so far, but its fate ensures that the production line franchising will only continue. An exception to this rule provides hope, however, in the form of the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise. Rise of the Planet of the Apes had no reason to be any good, and yet it was better than that: it was surprising, with a mix of rousing action set-pieces and thoughtful sci-fi drama that risked topping the original film. Next month’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks set to continue down that road.
Where every modern blockbuster now seems to be concerned with saving the planet amidst a myriad of increasingly bigger explosions, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is instead about power struggles. From what we know and from what we’ve already seen, Dawn will tell of an inherent distrust between humans and the newly evolved primates, as well as the uneasy alliance between ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and ape soldier Koba (Toby Kebbell). Telling of a future in which disease has almost wiped out mankind, and left the world in tatters, Dawn appears, like Rise, to be more accomplished science fiction allegory.
It’s also a notable case of a sequel done right: rather than retread the steps of the first film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes tells a new story and starts out with an entirely new cast (that is, aside from the returning Andy Serkis, master of mo-cap, and James Franco, who appears in a cameo that the actor wasn’t even aware was happening). And instead of typical blockbuster leads, we get reliable character actors as stars: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell are three more reasons why Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is already one of the most promising blockbusters this year. It’s on at Cineworld cinemas from 17th July.
Films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and hopefully Dawn, are essential right now. When great original blockbusters like Edge of Tomorrow bomb, a world in which the franchise machine keeps inexorably whirring is guaranteed. But when franchise movies that strive to be more than just money-makers are commercially successful, audiences send a message that they’re looking for better. Franchise Hollywood is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ensure some crucial creativity.
Images: 20th Century Fox