Just Why is Planet of the Apes such an Unexpected Hit?

The Planet of the Apes franchise has long been considered in two lights. People either think “it’s not worth watching”, or “it’s absolutely amazing”. With this franchise, there is absolutely no middle ground, and as a recently converted member of the latter camp I can confirm the Planet of the Apes franchise is totally worth looking into. If you’re not convinced, it might be important to note that the film franchise is set to hit around $2.5 billion, surpassing The Dark Knight Trilogy, the Indiana Jones franchise, Toy Story, Terminator, Alien and even Star Trek. But why is the franchise so unexpectedly popular?

For this, we should probably look at the franchise’s humble origins. The 1968 original, Planet of the Apes, was described as a “film to see” by the reviewers of the day, and even now the film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%, which is impressive. For a film that was initially worried audiences would laugh at the idea of apes bossing about humans, it tackled a variety of incredibly serious topics in insightful ways. This film was a hit and the franchise we knew today grew out of it; from many successive movies and video games, to the point where you can play a Planet of the Apes slot game today.

But how is this reflected in the new trilogy? Essentially, the films ask the same questions, but in a beautiful and more modern manner. Hours and hours of makeup has translated into impressive computer-generated graphics, as audiences watch Caesar grow from a small chimp to the leader of a whole civilization of apes. All throughout, the movies are focused on presenting elements of humanity in the Caesar and his faction while attempting to expose a more barbarous side in both the humans and the apes. The reboot trilogy is a discussion on compassion, survival and humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, whereas the original 1968 film is a strong statement on the actions of humanity and the effect they are having on the world.

What makes the reboot trilogy so striking, is just how human the apes are. Each character has their own roles and stories and the relationships between them are important, the story is completely driven by these characters, instead of the inverse – which is unfortunately more common than it should be. This is especially apparent in the latest and last film, War for the Planet of the Apes, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray in October.

The Latest film follows on two years from the last film, and twelve years since the outbreak of the “simian flu” which has eradicated most humans in the films, and it focuses on an escalating war between Caesar’s ape faction and the remnants of the U.S. military, which is represented by a rogue paramilitary faction known as Alpha-Omega. The film progresses from peace attempts to all-out war in a thoroughly thought out and heart wrenching fashion, and all throughout it makes you question the motives for both sides. The film ends on a strong note discussing how peace, compassion and humanity are commonly entwined, and how they often trip over each other.

So, should you go and binge the new trilogy in the next week? Definitely. The trilogy is dark in places, its characters and well fleshed out and often motivated in a myriad of sometimes tragic ways. The franchise is often dismissed as a traditional hero-rise Hollywood film about apes and humans, but that’s what makes it so unexpectedly good. The film nails humanity perfectly, and you’ll be musing about it for days afterwards.

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