Woody Harrelson

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After the 2011 reboot, War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment and the now-blossoming franchise is showcasing some of the finest effects in modern cinema today with Andy Serkis portraying Caesar throughout.

With Matt Reeves returning from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I was a tiny bit apprehensive, as the two-rebooted Planet of the Apes films, Matt Reeves’ was the weaker. Lo and behold, I am a sucker for a good action flick though.

Reeves’ does briefly catch up the viewer with a few choice sentences, reciting Rise, Dawn and War, whilst the mentioned battle-hardened veterans weave through the forest. Having war in the title of the film, I was anticipating some all-out action sequences, and this is what happens immediately. The soldiers that adorn the ‘monkey killer’ helmet quickly light up an outpost, but not before the apes show up and take out the army.

As Caesar has taken on the leader role on this, his status is still key as he walks amongst the apes and they all part almost as though he is a God. And this is where the advanced technology really comes into it’s own as Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar is brilliant.

And therein lies one of the greatest things about War for the Planet of the Apes is that the apes take the bulk of the emotion on show within this film. And it is tied in with some beautiful shots, as Lake and Blue Eyes reunite after a long time as the waterfall cascades down behind them.

Personally I think this device was really effective by Reeves’ as it shows the evolution of the apes over the humans. The first encounter between the apes and the humans, Caesar extends a compassionate olive branch in the hope of long-lasting peace, whereas Woody Harrelson’s Colonel is a very two-dimensional as a character. I don’t think that’s necessarily Woody Harrelson’s fault, more a device used by Matt Reeves.

It is now common that blockbusters are starting to use comic effect for one or two of their characters in their films and War for the Planet of the Apes fell victim to this trope. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work. That was clear emotion elicited by the new ‘bad ape’, but his comic trope kept pulling me out of the picture.

Aside from that, there was very little that caused grief with this film. I was a massive fan of the compassion and humanity that the Apes showed and that being directly contrasted by the humans inability to elicit any emotion. Their ability to communicate and come together for the sake of their race was key, whilst the humans carried on bringing about destruction of their own race.

Although for saying the title of the film is War for the Planet of the Apes. There isn’t a great deal of war sequences within. There is that glorious opening sequences, and the climatic battle, but other than that it seems as though the war is held within Caesar. Especially as he is tipped over the edge in the battle for apekind against humankind, when the Colonel embarks on some pretty shady business with Caesar’s family.

Considering Matt Reeves’ first attempt at the Apes franchise was less-than-memorable, War for the Planet of the Apes is considerably better. Probably better than the first rebooted film, but this will be significantly helped by the portrayal of the apes thanks to the advancements in technology, but also Andy Serkis’ performance. His ability to channel the humanity and compassion from the start and then seeing the hatred completely take over is astounding.

In a summer of blockbuster films, War for the Planets of the Apes is probably in amongst the top for the enjoyment taken out of the action sequences, but also for having that narrative structure to allow for the film to be carried over it’s two hour plus runtime. Maybe with some fine editing and the removal of the comic relief the film maybe could’ve been the best film out of the summer for me, but alas, this has not happened. For now, it’ll be interesting to see whats next in stall for the Apes franchise.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

One year after the Four Horseman jumped off a roof in New York, Now You See Me 2 have the famed ‘Horseman’ with a new bag of tricks. ( Apart from the exception of Isla Fisher’s Henley) With the change of direction with Jon M. Chu and Lizzy Caplan taking over the role of the woman in the Four Horsemen, can the film live up to the hype the excellent Now You See Me.

After the big reveal of FBI Agent Dylan being a double-agent, he is leading the Four Horseman into their next big trick. However, John M. Cho expands on Dylan’s backstory and his relationship with magic. Even so far as to start Now You See Me 2 with Lionel Shrike attempting to break out of a safe whilst it plummets to the bottom of a river.

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Amongst this intriguing backstory, The Four Horseman, including new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan), are manhunted by the FBI and captured by a villainous entity showing themselves at the Horseman’s first show in a year. Now You See Me 2 embarks on a journey around the globe, as the Four Horseman try to elude the authorities and the captor in the US, then Macau and with the finale finishing in London during New Years Eve.

Much like Now You See Me, the main bulk of the film features a heist. The Four Horseman are told to steal a computer chip capable of controlling the stock markets and altering information for the aforementioned villainous entity who is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). The best way to describe him is he is a self-entitled, pompous spoilt rotten rich kid, but his character is played fantastically by Daniel Radcliffe.

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Radcliffe was probably the standout performer in this film due to how well he encapsulated the role. His energetic pace on screen was really enjoyable to watch and his command of the screen as he draws up his masterpiece was pure enjoyment. This is matched by Lizzy Caplan, but on the good side of the fence. She provided the comic relief side of things perfectly and looked like she had real chemistry with the rest of the Horseman on screen.

One of the biggest selling points of Now You See Me was how the heists and the ‘magic’ was played out, Jon M. Chu managed to capture this essence and bring it forth to the second instalment. The playing card/computer chip scene was fantastic watching the Horseman working in tandem in an excellently tense scene.

Walter continually refers to science as ‘real magic’ and with Morgan Freeman reprising his role of the magic debunker Thaddeus, there is an abundance of talk about seeing is believe and what the truth really is when it comes to magic. The way this all plays out, even spilling into the finale, is fantastic and works excellently for the story. However, ‘The Eye’ remains ever elusive and now with Now You See Me 3 on the horizon, it seems as though we’ll have to wait for another instalment for answers about ‘The Eye’.

Due to how the first one played out, I felt a little bit apprehensive going into the final act, as I had an inkling at what was going to happen. This is probably due to how the Four Horseman played their final magic bonanza in Now You See Me, however, this isn’t necessarily all that bad, due to the enjoyment of the build and the anticipation. Especially Jack’s (Dave Franco) and Atlas’ (Jesse Eisenberg) builds up to the finale.

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The music was queued up perfectly for Atlas’ build up and this is in keepingthroughout the film. The soundtrack worked perfectly, included a blast of Lil’ Kim as the Horseman drove through Macau and Pharrell’s Freedom as we they build toward the finale. It all slotted together in a neat little package.

Although Now You See Me was a touch under two hours, it felt fresh and not too foreboding when watching, unfortunately this cannot said for the sequel. (which they should’ve stuck with calling it Now You See Me: The Second Act) It carries the weight of the first film on its shoulders and unfortunately falters in parts. The story drags through some scenes, but the fast-paced enjoyment from other scenes more than makes up for it.

It’s an enjoyable film and although it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations (it probably wasn’t going to anyway – let’s be honest) it does make a bold statement. Bringing new members on board and featuring fresh faces as the villains make it an excellent all round watch. Coupled with the soundtrack the film is near complete, unfortunately some of the effects make it lose it’s magic.