Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Lesson: Explore. Find new stories to tell and embrace modern technology to push the boundaries.
In the year 2011, long after the franchise had passed its prime and Tim Burton had pissed on its grave, nobody was clamoring for a new Planet of the Apes film. Nobody. It was dead, and desperate hopes for name recognition were Fox’s only reasons for re-launching the property.
But director Rupert Wyatt did not, presumably, see things that way. He instead saw a franchise with vast amount of untapped potential, and chose to explore the broader Apes universe in a way only modern effects would allow. This would be a grounded origin story, set in our world and playing by (mostly) scientific rules, meaning the Apes would not be speaking, walking humans in make-up, but actual chimpanzees.
Sort of. It would be impossible, of course, to get actual Apes to ‘perform’ the nuanced acting required for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so Wyatt cast motion-capture guru Andy Serkis as protagonist Ceaser, and hired the brilliant artists at Weta Digital to bring him and the other chimpanzees to life. The result was a completely unexpected treat that explored the Apes world in bold new ways: A film about an ape, told from the point-of-view of an ape, without anthropomorphizing him until the very, very end.
It is a fascinating, beautifully realized story, one that succeeds on strength of creative ingenuity and craftsmanship. It proves that, in addition to exploring outside a franchise’s comfort zone, a reboot should embrace how filmmaking has involved since the property’s inception. Though the Apes series had attempted an origin story before, the plot of Rise could never be told with 1960s or 70s effects. It had to be made today, when Weta could animate utterly authentic Apes. Wyatt’s embrace of technology is paramount to telling this intriguing new story, and even sparked a large, industry-wide conversation about whether or not motion-capture performances count as ‘real’ acting (they should, of course).
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the most recent film on this list, and it marks an intriguing direction for subsequent reboots to take. Using modern technology to foster creative exploration of seemingly familiar territory may be the key to revitalizing several of Hollywood’s most bankable properties. Combined with the other lessons recounted here, there are clear and promising paths that Hollywood can take to ensure their reboots are more than empty cash grabs. For at its best, the reboot can be a truly exciting proposition.
What reboots are your favorites? What are other ‘lessons’ you think Hollywood should take to heart when re-launching franchises? Sound off in the comments!Previous