The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018): The Dark Humor and Despair of the “Old West”

      I am a huge Coen Brothers fan. “Fargo,” “Blood Simple” and “The Big Lewbowski” are some of my favorite films of all time and I love the desolation and farcical nature that is brought to so many of their dramas. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is certainly up there with those films, but doesn’t quite reach their level of perfection. Lately they’ve been doing more collaborations but this is wholly a Coen Brothers film as they wrote, produced and directed this film.

    “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a Western anthology that follows the tales of the gunslinger, the thief, the conman, the prospector, the cowboy and the bounty hunter. Each story is haunted with tales of death and destruction as all are faced with choices told in a storybook fashion. The name of the anthology also is the name of the first story within the anthology itself.

I’m judging each story individually before an overall take on the whole, since though they are each connected in theme, it is still an anthology film.

SPOILERS ahead

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is one of the happiest of the tales, as even though death and destruction happen, Buster Scruggs always has a song on his lips and his sheer joy rubs off on the events throughout the story. The story follows Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) the Gunslinger as he goes about from town to town, taking out people who challenge him. It finally all comes to a head when the Man in Black finds him and it is the duel he finally loses, that brings his story to an end. This one was great as a musical and I love Tim Blake Nelson’s energy as Buster Scruggs. He is fun and funny and even though is willing to kill always treats people as a good person first and always has a song on his lips. This is what makes his death tragic, but he does get to go to Heaven and gets angel wings, so his story isn’t entirely tragic…especially compared to the stories that come up later.

Score: 9.4 / 10. The cinematography is beautiful, the music is great and if we’d had more time with characters it could have been a perfect Musical Western.

Near Algodones

This story is comparable to “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” in how absurd it is, though it differs in that it doesn’t have the joy of that story. This is a story of desperation and lack of luck where every situation leads to a worse one. The story follows a young cowboy (James Franco) who is attempting to rob an isolated bank. He fails and is about to be hung by local law enforcement, when some Native Americans attack and leave him to die. Another band of thieves takes him and and they are caught and brought to town to be hung. This is the young cowboy’s second hanging and the one where he finally dies. This was the story that made me wish we’d gotten the Native story in these tales. They are all from the perspective of the privileged old west, which does have intriguing stories, but the Natives are only ever antagonists or in the case of this story, indifferent. Some of that tribe’s story could have been explored in this but instead Franco’s character just takes the long way around to finally getting hung.

Score: 7.5 / 10

Meal Ticket

This story was by far the most haunting and probably my most favorite. There are two characters, the Impresario (Liam Neeson) and his actor Harrison (Harry Melling). Harrison doesn’t have arms or legs and performs speeches and Shakespeare as the Impresario travels through towns to make money. We don’t know how they came about together but we soon see how little the Impresario doesn’t care about Harrison at all leading into a tragic ending, where the Impresario buys a chicken who can do basic math and it is implied he drops Harrison into the river. This is after Harrison has stopped bringing in the money he once did. Liam Neeson plays the Impresario and is wonderfully creepy. He reminds me of a much worse version of Fagin from Dickens’ “Oliver” and seeing just how much he disregards Harrison is powerful as well as Harrison’s fear as Harrison only acts through his eyes and the acting he puts into the shows. This story is all about exploration and despair and how powerless the only good person (Harrison) is in a world that sees him as a burden or something to be exploited. It is a tragedy and easily the best story of the bunch.

Score: 10 / 10.

All Gold Canyon

“All Gold Canyon” is a film focused on the beauty of nature and the ravings of an old prospector (Tom Waits) searching for gold in the wilderness. I really enjoyed this story as so much of it is Man v Nature as the prospector goes through the process of finding gold flakes and eventually hitting the gold but finding himself attacked by a young man who was watching him as he is no longer facing the wilderness but facing the selfishness of humanity. He ends up killing the man after he outsmarts him and buries him in the small hole he created in his search for the gold. It is a really great story with the only problem being how distracting the CGI deer is. There was no reason not to use a real deer given how beautiful the landscape is and the owl looked real at least. If there hadn’t been the deer and bad CGI this story would have been perfect for what it was. I was rooting for the muttering prospector who talks to himself, I wanted him to find the gold and I was happy when he did and survived.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

The Gal Who Got Rattled

“The Gal Who Got Rattled” is the weakest of the stories and brings everything else down. There are far too many characters, none of them are really likable or interesting and it has nothing profound to say and lacks a coherent point. The story follows Alice (Zoe Kazan) who is traveling west with her brother to marry. Her brother dies along the way and we learn she’s been conned and now doesn’t have any money. One of the cowboys falls in love with her and that goes nowhere, and later she is with her brother’s dog when they are attacked by Natives and she ends up killing herself when the leader of the caravan says she should do it cause it is a better fate than getting captured. This one has the same problems as “Near Algodones” in how the Native Americans only exist as a threat and also in that we never get to really know any of the characters. They are doing things but I couldn’t really tell you who they are. This story is cinematically beautiful, but when that is the only thing I’m saying as a pro, you kind of failed.

Final Score: 6 / 10

The Mortal Remains

“The Mortal Remains,” is also one of the best stories of the bunch. This is a story that has an element of magical surrealism to it as for a good portion of the film I thought all the characters might be dead. The story follows 5 characters in a carriage on their way to Fort Morgan in a stagecoach. The conversation unfolds as we learn about our characters and their relationships. From an old religious lady who is coming to see her husband, the Frenchman who says that her professor husband was probably cheating on her, a trapper who has no internal editor and is looked down on by the lady for how unclean he physically is and the Irishman and Englishman who we learn at the end are Bounty Hunters. There is an heir of foreboding through the entire conversation and outside it is dark and covered and mist, this made me think of the afterlife and if they were all being transported their. The fact that the carriage doesn’t stop until they reach Fort Morgan played into this. We see this theme in the hotel they stop at has a stairway of light leading up that the bounty hunters carry the dead body up and in the carriage driver whose face we never see and is always moving. My favorite characters were the bounty hunters as the others with them were a bit bland. We learn their backstory but they are more interesting in how they reacted to their situation and the bounty hunters. Their fear and not knowing what to do made them more compelling than the backstories they shared, which made the story work.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great. Would have been better with more interesting characters outside of the bounty hunters.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is well worth your time if you are a Coen Brothers or western fan. This film captures so much of what works and doesn’t work about westerns and I loved the absurdity, detachment and sorrow that the Coens bring to their films. This is a beautiful anthology and I would have watched more stories if it had been longer. When it is great it is perfect and when it is flawed it is still enjoyable. Not many anthology films can claim that, as average is easy. This was an amazing film and definitely one of my favorites, though it might not make my Top 5 at the end of the year. This year is a year of steep competition and the things that bring the anthology down are enough to keep it from landing higher up on the list of greats this year. Still, this is a film I highly recommend. Check it out.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 The bad stories bring it down, though the great stories make this score still very high.

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“Planet of the Apes” Franchise Retrospect – Worst to Best of the Franchise

Planet of the Apes Franchise

The Planet of the Apes Franchise has some great moments and is a solid franchise overall. Looking back gave me an appreciation for the original series and I got to see one of the worst films ever in Tim Burton’s remake. In this list I will recount them from worst to best with the reasons why they are in that place. I will also have the links of the original reviews of the said films. So without further ado, let’s go!

Planet of the Apes

9th – Planet of the Apes (2001)   –   2  / 10

I have no idea what Tim Burton was thinking when he decided to take on this project, since I have never seen a movie miss the point of the subject matter this much (this film is worse than the “Transformers” Franchise). The main character is flat and generic, the villain is hammy and evil without any point and the human and apes have no discernible civilization. Things happen because story is over character and the story makes no sense. From Capt. Leo’s chimp arriving on the Ape Earth to Leo traveling through the portal to a future where there is an Ape Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial. This was a confusing mess that was insulting to the audience. Thankfully it never gets this bad again.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/planet-of-the-apes-2001-how-to-miss-the-point-of-the-source-material-and-waste-good-talent/

beneath-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-poster-1020221553

8th – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)  –  6 / 10

“Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” is the most unfocused out of all the Ape Films. There are tons of protagonists but most don’t really get any time. Also the main protagonist Brent is from the Mark Wahlberg school of generic and is a forgettable protagonist who has nothing really to define him. In this when we get introduced to the Mutants who are worshiping a nuke. They are also flat and the most interesting people who we see get any exploration are Dr. Zaius and General Ursus who believe they are protecting ape kind from destruction. Cornelius and Zira only have a cameo sadly. The film in the end is above average for these reasons. Also, everyone dies except for Cornelius, Zira and Milo who go back in time…I wish we could have seen them repairing Brent’s ship and their escape. It would have made the ending more bittersweet.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/beneath-the-planet-of-the-apes-1970-not-enough-time-with-the-apes/

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

7th – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) –  7 / 10

“Conquest” has a lot of good ideas that aren’t fully realized. My biggest problem is after Armando dies, we never see Caesar integrate himself into ape society. If he had it would have made sense for them to follow him. Instead he stares at them and they decide to follow him. This one also has a villain (Governor Brett) about as complex as the leader of the Mutants in “Beneath,” so evil for the sake of evil. This was a shame since the President and Dr. Otto from “Escape,” were brilliant as antagonists. Caesar’s reason for going bad make less sense too since MacDonald is there as a good character, yet at the end Caesar is talking about the destruction of mankind as a whole. It is as if Armando was forgotten, which is a shame. Still an entertaining film, though “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” does it better.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/conquest-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-1972-a-good-idea-poorly-executed/

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

6th – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – 8.3 / 10

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” suffers from making it’s lead up (Before the Dawn – the 3 short films) set expectations too high, and throwing away one of the most interesting characters in the 3rd Act (Koba the Bonobo) who was experimented on by humans in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” for an easy out and to give Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) reason to try and kill the apes. Besides the third act this is a great film, it is just the 3rd act captures all the cliches. Koba and Caesar fight on a tower after Caesar’s attempted assassination and Koba is just plain evil when we saw none of that before. Great moments but ruined by how Koba and Dreyfus were handled in the end and the fact that Malcolm was way too over-trusting. It at least is honest that war is inevitable given the events that go down and that apes started the war (one reason Malcolm shouldn’t have been so trusting).

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-2014-how-the-trauma-of-the-past-can-devour-the-future/

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

5th – Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) – 8.5 / 10

“Battle” is rated higher than “Dawn,” because “Battle” knows that it’s premise is a bit hilarious. We see this in Governor Kolp who listen to Mendez, one of the mutants for peace but still revels in the fight because he is slightly mad from the radiation. We also have a tender moment of Caesar watching the footage of his parents Zira and Cornelius in the archives of the dead city. This and General Aldo’s guilt over killing Caesar’s son make this better than “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the movie that took inspiration from it’s premise. We see the consequences of war, but also the hope for peace when Lawgiver is teaching children and apes side by side and how the future is unknown…giving us hope the cycle might be broken, or that there is good even as humanity goes towards destruction (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes,”). We also see MacDonald advocate for human freedom and the ability to choose their own destiny, which Caesar respects after the defeat of Aldo who was going to slaughter all the humans.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/battle-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-1973-completing-the-original-planet-of-the-apes-cycle-and-a-story-of-hope/

Before the Dawn

4th – Before the Dawn: 3 Short Films Between “Rise” and “Dawn” –  9 / 10

“Before the Dawn,” is better than “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the human characters are more complicated and it shows the reality of the world of “Dawn” and the fear they feel towards each other and the apes so brilliantly. I almost wish “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” had been done in this style…than we wouldn’t have had naive Malcolm and Jump the Shark Koba. We see a wife torn from her husband dying alone in quarantine in “Quarantine,” we see the desperate life of the survivors in “All Fall Down,” and how people cling to the memories of the past and in “Story of the Gun,” we see humanity’s descent into savagery and the rise of the apes. Is beneath the original “Planet of the Apes” because it is only shorts and not a full length feature.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/before-the-dawn-3-short-films-leading-up-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-reviews/

Planet of the Apes 1968

3rd – Planet of the Apes (1968) – 9 / 10

The original “Planet of the Apes,” is a classic for a reason. Charlton Heston is great as the nihilist George Taylor who in fact does care, and Cornelius and Zira as the ones building a bridge between humanity and apes through Taylor is some of the best stuff. Dr. Zaius is also the best of the antagonists as he seeks to protect the future by hiding the truth and the past from the apes. This film is one of my favorites and there is a reason it started the franchise, even though it is a very self contained movie that didn’t need sequels. From memorable lines of “Damn you all to hell!” and others it is a cinematic classic worthy of the praise it receives. Ape society reflects the worst and best of ours today, which is what this franchise does at it’s best.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/planet-of-the-apes-1968-we-are-the-apes/

escape-from-the-planet-of-the-apes

2nd – Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) – 9.5 / 10

“Escape from the Planet of the Apes,” is one of the greatest films in the franchise and one of my all time favorite films. It explores the perspective of the outsider from the view of Zira and Cornelius (the best parts of “Beneath” and the original “Planet of the Apes,” and we see how they are used by Dr. Otto who fears they will bring about the future of the “Planet of the Apes” through their child. We see human characters who were as they were (scientists fight for them and help them escape the feds), and we see the dilemma of leadership in the President who realizes their power in regards to his own so respects them until Dr. Otto turns him against them. Dr. Otto is a great human Dr. Zaius type character and Armando is fantastic as the one who protects Zira and Cornelius for a time and helps them save their son Milo when he is being hunted down. It is a beautiful film and the most powerful of the original series.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/escape-from-the-planet-of-the-apes-1971-the-hope-of-ape-and-humankind/

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

1st – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – 9.75 / 10

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” manages to capture the process of the outsider becoming part of the group (Caesar’s time in captivity) why animal experimentation happens (finding cures for Alzheimer’s etc.) and that groups and people are complicated. It is a beautiful story of the rise of Caesar and captures the Ape Revolution much better than “Conquest,” does. This film is the best of the franchise with the most complex human and ape characters whose motivations make sense. From Will trying to save his father, to Caesar feeling abandoned and choosing his people and establishing himself as leader with the help of the Orangutan Maurice. It is the best of the franchise and my favorite of all these films. It elevates the subject matter and Serkis is by far the best Caesar of the franchise.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-2011-a-great-retelling-of-the-origins-and-rise-of-caesar/

I would recommend all the Franchise to any person who loves a creative premise and is ready to see some pretty great acting. The Original Series Cycle is solid as a whole and the only really bad film in the franchise is the Tim Burton “Planet of the Apes.” It is a fascinating whole and was an amazing adventure to do. We’ll eventually return to this when the new film that is in the works happens. Till then, hopefully we can learn the lessons from the franchise and find our better selves.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014): How the Trauma of the Past Can Devour the Future

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” was so close to being the perfect film in the franchise…and after proceeded to destroy that in the last third of the movie with how it handled two of it’s characters. I’ll go into the details of this in the assessment.

First the premise, the premise is that 10 years of passed since the Simian Flu has wiped out most of the human population. The opening actually has the news reports and shows the spread of the virus and decimation of populations. We pick up  with the apes from the last film who have built a civilization in the Redwoods and think humanity is gone, until some survivors appear trying to reach the dam for energy for their city when one of them panics and shoots one of the apes. From here the story unfolds as Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Malcolm (Jason Clark) try to build trust…while Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) (both victims of trauma in different ways) have none. From here the story unfolds.

Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Inspiration from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” this movie takes inspiration from Conquest with certain roles traded out. We have Malcolm in the place of McDonald as the human trying to build trust, there is Dreyfus as the Governor Kolp, Koba as General Aldo and in both Caesar has a son and faces the threat from within (Koba) and without (Dreyfus). We see the apes outside of Caesar learning to trust as well with Maurice in the role of Virgil. The story also ends in a battle that sets up the future of “The Planet of the Apes.”

The Special Effects – Are top of the game again. We see details in the facial scans of people playing the apes and the battles sequences are beautiful…though at times a bit too video game like.

Caesar – Andy Serkis is back and his character has grown. We see Caesar the leader who is a bit of a Xenophobe towards humans until Malcolm puts himself at risk in order to show that humans can be trusted…and why the humans need the dam for energy. You see moments where the trust is broken when of his men hides a gun when Caesar’s condition was no weapons…and how it comes back when Caesar realizes apes are the same as humans…that there are good and bad of both. He has great moments with his son Blue Eyes and his wife (and when Malcolm’s wife saves his wife from illness). As well as when he is back in his old home hiding and finds a video of Will (James Franco) and him as a child. It is a tender moment and powerful when he owns up to the fact that in the end it was the apes who started the war and that humanity will not trust them because of it.

Maurice – Maurice, the orangutan from the last movie returns and is teaching the young how to read and the the laws (Ape shall not kill ape). We see him connect with Alexander, Malcolm’s son and Malcolm teaches him how to read. He is also Caesar’s core ally and speaks the most actively against violence, even to the point of defending Alexander.

Blue Eyes – Blue eyes is great. We see him as a follower of Koba initially, until Koba’s heal turn where everyone is a threat who isn’t a loyalist…after that Blue Eyes realizes his father was right all along and helps restore him to power once he learns he is alive.

The Apes – The ape civilization is the highlight of this film. We see complex interactions between them and how they honor each other or show the other has dominance by reaching out their hand with head bowed. They also have a hierarchy based on those closest to Caesar (the ones mentioned from the last film).

Dreyfus – Gary Oldman owns this role. He is complicated and is willing to give Malcolm time to find a peaceful solution, though at the same time he trains his men in case of war. He reminds me a lot of Caesar before Caesar learns that apes are no different from men. We see a man who is a veteran who has experienced trauma and lost his family to the Simian Flu and is doing all he can to keep it together (he breaks down once power is back and he realizes everything he’s lost). He pulls a George Taylor at the end blowing himself up to try and destroy the apes in the building they are on…and you get why he does what he does at each point. He never attacks, only defends. He is an antagonist since at the end he doesn’t trust Malcolm…but he also had no reason to and Malcolm comes off as super naive through most of the film.

The Message – The message was actually real, and great. It clearly showed how trauma can change people and cause distrust and bring out the worst in ourselves. We saw that before Koba jumped the shark to go completely evil and we see that through the eyes of Dreyfus and the other apes. The apes are changed by the trauma of believing themselves under attack and it makes them tools of Koba or in humanity’s case…tools of Dreyfus.

Okay: Koba – Koba could have been a great villain. He had reasons to hate the humans (he was the Bonobo who was experimented on in the last film). We see his distrust here and when he finds humans in the city training with guns. But he loses all credibility when he begins killing his own and arresting those who disagree with him after his assassination attempt on Caesar (which makes sense since Caesar nearly beats him to death). Third act he is arresting those who disagree and when Caesar is back he owns up to nothing…he is just a sociopath and the whole point of trauma ruining good people get’s thrown out the door. He could have been the best baddie…but even Aldo felt guilt.

Malcolm’s family – His new partner Elli and his son Alexander are interesting, just not strong characters. His kid is a blank slate who has some good moments with Maurice but is just there to motivate Malcolm…and his wife Elli heals Caesar’s wife and goes from distrust to trust…but we never see why…beyond Caesar’s baby connecting with them all.

Humanity – After everything shown in the three videos leading up to this movie…I wish we’d gotten more of that. We don’t see how complicated things are in the city or how it works. All we know is Dreyfus and Malcolm created it…it isn’t bad, but there isn’t much there. Would have liked to see more of the post apocalyptic society.

Cons: Koba’s transformation – I get him snapping after being nearly beaten to death by Caesar (can’t trust apes now), but he doesn’t even play lip service to Caesar except at the beginning. Not only does he become an outright villain (locking up Caesar’s friends, killing Ash…Rocket’s son) it is never explained. He has no guilt after us seeing a thinking and feeling person who had been through so much trauma. I hated that. He could have turned against Caesar if they had made some of Dreyfus’s men attack in retaliation for some of them being killed by Koba after Koba takes vengeance for Ash being injured originally. The third act really falls apart.

The Third Act – Malcolm still trusts the apes after they destroy his home and imprison people in cages…he protects Caesar even though he knows they are attacking his city under Koba and he holds Dreyfus hostage for having the gall to fight back.

Malcolm – From holding his friends hostage, to never fighting the apes or thinking fighting back is an option…this guy wins the award for most naive protagonist. Talking is one thing, when they’re attacking you…you kind of have to defend yourself. He doesn’t get it until Caesar tells him at the end. “Peace over. Apes started war, humans will not forgive.” To word it one way. He could have been great if he’d felt like the apes had to offer him something. Trust goes both ways…and I don’t just mean letting him get power for the humans in the city in order for them to live.

The Final Fight – This felt excessive and unneeded. People saw that Caesar was alive, by surviving the attempt on his life and revealing Koba to be the one behind it should have got the others behind him. Instead they have a long fight in the Gen-Sys tower that leads to it eventually collapsing after Dreyfus blows it up. What a waste, less is more guys.

This movie was not the strongest or the best of the “Planet of the Apes” Franchise. It was good, but not great. I would recommend it anyone who likes the series though and it looking for an interesting film to see this summer.

Final score for this film is 8.3 / 10. Had so much potential that was wasted in the final act.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): A Great Retelling of the Origins and Rise of Caesar

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

      “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is the perfect reboot. It honors the original material while still taking an original approach to characters, origins and style. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt and rather than taking a Nuclear War approach or Time Travel in regards to how the apes became intelligent…he takes the route of an artificial virus that grants intelligence and regeneration of the brain. Without saying more here is the premise. 

    The Premise of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is Caesar becomes the orphan at a biotech company named Gen-Sys after his mother (Bright Eyes) is killed when she tries to defend him from the testing she went through that made her more intelligent. After the Chimps are ordered to be euthanized but Caesar is saved by the Chimp handler who gives him to the bio-tech scientist Will (played by James Franco) who takes him and raises him. From here the story unfolds.

Pros: Inspiration from the subject material – The movie clearly takes inspiration from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” with Will in the place of Armando…the one good human compared to all the abusive ones who Caesar comes in contact with. The slave camp is replaced by the Ape Sanctuary (tied to Gen-Sys who is doing testing on Apes) and Caesar’s break in this comes when he feels that Will and his wife Caroline are forced to leave by the owner of the Sanctuary. From here he chooses his people and rises to win them freedom and a home. The Simian Flu is in play as well with it’s beginnings here…but rather than targeting dogs and cats…it targets people. There is also news about the launch of the Space Flight that is the ship that crashes beginning the original “Planet of the Apes.” 

The Writing – The writing is fantastic. The idea of strengthening the human mind through drugs and healing it…in order to prevent or heal Alzheimers is what we are trying to do now. In that way the writing is relevant to today as well as showing the cost of Alzheimers on the person going through it and their family (via Charles Rodman played by John Lithgow). 

The Special Effects – The Apes look like Apes with Andy Serkis once again owning his role, this time as the main character Caesar. We see how he is like an ape but how different he is too (his standing tall) and his voice sounds like how a talking Chimp would probably sound like. 

Caesar – Roddy McDowell was a great Caesar, but Serkis is better. The reasons behind this is the change between “Battle” and “Conquest” isn’t handled as well and neither is his getting the Apes to join him in a slave revolt. He just looks at them. Caesar learns from Maurice how to earn the respect of the Apes and what he needs to make them intelligent (the virus). Serkis’s Caesar’s arc makes much more sense…and his reason for not hurting people makes sense too given that he was raised by humans and we see that being raised by humans. In “Battle” he is already fully grown. 

Will Rodman – Great work to James Franco. His character is complex – Ethics versus Job…and you can see how he grows to care for Caesar and is in the end the one who needs to let go because Caesar has chosen to lead his people. He is fantastic in this movie. 

Charles Rodman – John Lithgow gives us a reason to motivate Will to find the cure to Alzhiemers and he does it masterfully. We see his powerlessness and the moments of hope when the virus is helping his brain become sharper…to when it is all lost. 

Maurice – The Orangutan adviser is the one who teaches Caesar how to integrate and become a leader and is also the one shows Caesar that the apes as they are currently don’t have the wisdom to get out of anarchy, leading Caesar to get the virus and use it make the apes as intelligent as him. 

Dodge Landon – Tom Felton plays a wonderfully cruel character. He is the character who says, “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape.” Showing how the words are used to oppress and how the apes are seen by most people. His death when he tries to kill Caesar is rewarding because of how despicable he is. Playing Malfoy taught him well. 

Buck – The Gorilla who Caesar frees first and goes through the cycle of healing from his abuse. He is a great character who has a sad death. It is a fantastic death too though, he fracking punches a Helicopter out of the air! 

Gen-Sys – We see a complex corporation! The Chimp handler stands up for the chimps even though he caves and Will even quits at some point. We see that it isn’t simply a bad company even though profit is it’s main drive…and not people…which leads to the spread of the Simian Flu, so there is that. 

The Apes – We get to see the social dynamic between them as Caesar integrates and becomes their leader. There is complexity with Rocket as the Alpha before Caesar takes him out and makes him a leader underneath him. It is great since Rocket uses brute force but Caesar uses it with a mixture of knowledge and tact. He doesn’t want fear, he wants respect…unlike rocket who just wants fear.

Liberation – We see Caesar organize and teach them, build connections and free the other apes from Gen-Sys. It is great rising action leading to the climax of the battle as all apes in San Francisco become free. 

The final fight – We see strategy as the Apes and Police fight on the Golden Gate bridge…from a bus being used to protect from gunfire, to a gorilla punching a helicopter out of the air…and apes using the upper and lower part of the bridge to reach their opponents. It is a great fight, far better than the one in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”  

The Message – The message is one of cautiousness, that before new technologies are used they should be tested and that all life that we know to be intelligent should be respected. It was a good message. 

Okay: The antagonists John Landon (Brian Cox) and Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) – John owns the Ape Sanctuary and doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything more than greed, same goes for Steven. They do this well but the roles aren’t memorable and could have been played by anyone. They don’t elevate the role the way Dodge was. Steven goes between being seen as super cautious and super reckless…he is what the script needs him to be basically. 

Caroline (Frieda Pinto) – She’s generic love interest who I wish had been given more to do. She is their for Caesar and after their for Will and that is the most of her role is. Still, much more depth than Areanna and Nova. 

Cons – Not enough time with the Apes – We’ll probably get this in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the upcoming sequel…but I wanted to see more of the relationship between the different types of Ape. We never really got that outside of Caesar’s relationships. That is the only con I can think of besides fleshing out the characters I listed as okay. 

    After re-watching this film after not seeing it for some time…it is one of my favorite films. It is better than the Original Planet of the Apes Series as far as execution of the story is concerned and even has a better Caesar…which is saying something since Roddy McDowell was quite amazing. I would highly recommend this film. 

My final Score for this film is 9.75 / 10. 

     Only reason it doesn’t have a full score is because of the issues of the okay characters and the con of not giving us more of the complexity among the apes. I must admit that I am quite excited to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” after watching this and can’t wait to review it in a few days.