If you really pause and think, it's kind of astonishing that this has happened. While the 1968 film is a classic, Tim Burton almost killed the series in 2001 with his Mark Wahlberg-starred reboot. The film grossed $362 million at the worldwide box office, but most people viewed the franchise as dead in the water. When Fox announced plans to reboot the Planet of the Apes series, most fans balked at the idea. There was very little excitement for Rise of the Planet of the Apes going into the 2011 summer movie season, and I remember that the trailer didn't really do much for anybody either. Fox was still trying to figure out their blockbuster game plan, and with an August release and an inexperienced director in Rupert Wyatt, anticipation was pretty low for the reboot. Surprisingly, Rise surpassed everybody's expecations, becoming one of the best blockbusters of the summer and the start of a dynamic new franchise. Three years later, Matt Reeves delivered Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which expanded the scope of the post-apocalyptic timeline. Critics and fans embraced Reeves' vision with open arms, and the film grossed well over $700 million worldwide in addition to receiving a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score. I wasn't as big on the film as everybody else, but the serious, almost Shakespearean direction of the Apes franchise was incredibly refreshing. I was ready for the war, and three years later, Reeves is back to fulfill the promise of Dawn. Check out the first trailer for War of the Planet of the Apes.
As someone who enjoyed the world-building and character arcs of Dawn without fully embracing the storytelling, this looks incredible. Dawn was stuck in a weird place, caught between establishing the new apocalyptic universe in the aftermath of the plague and preparing us for a full-blown conflict between the apes and the humans. War for the Planet of the Apes is the battle that we were all expecting after Rise, and it sure does look epic. Matt Reeves is a truly gifted visual filmmaker, and the way that he has taken this franchise and made it his own is nothing short of staggering. There are no hints of camp or tongue-in-cheek self-referentiality in the new Apes universe- everything is deadly serious, and it pays off in the end. Caesar's story is so fully engrossing, and I can't wait to see where it goes in what looks to be a very intense chapter. Reeves has smartly focused on the apes over the humans, and by examining these characters, it gives us some added perspective on the development of the inevitable conclusion. The action looks terrific, the cinematography is impressive, and I love the idea of Woody Harrelson as the film's primary antagonist. War for the Planet of the Apes is certainly one of my most anticipated blockbusters of 2017, and I adore the way that this franchise keeps changing and innovating as it moves forward. Fox and the talented team behind these movies have taken their time, crafting each story and every character with the precision and attention needed to create great films. The bottom line- we need more franchises like this in Hollywood.
War for the Planet of the Apes opens on July 14, 2017.