Movie review: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Movie reviews

Hello, 

The third and final installment in the rebooted Apes franchise – War For The Planet Of The Apes – is upon us, so let’s review it.

IMDb summary: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

War For The Planet Of The Apes broke the trend that most blockbusters follow nowadays and was written by only 2 people instead of a bunch of them. Mark Bomback (who wrote The Wolverine, Insurgent, and the previous entry in the trilogy Dawn) and the director Matt Reeves were the only two screenwriters responsible for the script and, to my mind, that was one of the factors that lead to War’s screenplay being a major success that only had a few minor flaws.

To begin with, I loved the neat recap that played with the titles of the films (Rise, Dawn, War). I also very much enjoyed the direction that this story took with the humans devolving and losing the traits that make them human. The scene in which Woody Harelson’s character exposed that concept was a bit exposition heavy but the idea itself was so interesting that I didn’t care that much. In general, the issues of humanity were even more prevalent than in the previous films and were handled really well. Moreover, I adored the final twists in the plot, where the final battle was more about the human vs human conflict with the apes caught in the middle. Additionally, the idea to have mother nature as the winning agent was a genius one and also helped the action-y third act to tie into Harrelson’s character’s story-idea that apes are more adapted for survival.

Other themes, like Caesar’s struggles of leadership (to stay with the group or be the lone wolf/ape), his drive for revenge and/or survival, and his feelings of guilt and responsibility, were great additions to the narrative that elevated the film. Speaking about Caesar, his death at the end of the movie was quite emotional – he was one of the most memorable sci-fi characters ever that we had a privilege of seeing grow and develop in three, near damn perfect, films.

The new characters in War were excellent additions. The bad ape character was an obvious ploy for comedic relief but he was actually funny (wonder how much of that was improvised and how much was written). The child human character was also really good – she was like a beacon of real humanity and goodness in a war film. Lastly, the few gripes with the picture’s writing I had were mostly illogical gaps in the narrative. For one, the soldier characters were kinda awful at their job, not noticing the little girl or that the apes were gone. Secondly, I wish that the ape characters would have been made to utilize their ape skills more. When Caesar and the band went looking for the colonel, why not make them smell the territory rather than just barge in? Thirdly, this is not really a logical flaw, but I wish that the flower moment with the ape and the girl and that ape’s death scene would have been further apart. It would have given us more time to really get to know the character and would have made the untimely demise even more emotional.

Directing

Matt Reeves took over Rupert Wyatt (he directed Rise) on the second film Dawn and also helmed the final installment War. I loved the continued direction that he first chose for the second film – to treat the movie as a thriller or even a drama but to also have spectacular action moments. War was intense and slow but crafted with such care. The only time the film slowed down too much was the sequences with the apes in the camp before they started planning the escape. Nevertheless, that part had to be in the picture because Caesar had to go through a period of muddled motivations and had to re-find his purpose.

The visuals were amazing: the surroundings of nature were just impeccable and a character in their own right, while the CGI of the apes was absolutely unbelievable as well and even better than it was before (and it was already great). The long takes were awe-inspiring and emotionally driven, like the shot of apes kneeling before Caesar in his introduction or the sweeping shots of the battle. Another emotional moment was the scene of the ‘Apes Together Strong’ sign. Ir really reminded me of The Hunger Games ‘Three Finger Salute’.

Generally, I loved what Reeves did with the final installment in this trilogy and I’m now way more trusting in the fact that he can absolutely nail The Batman solo movie. He recently replaced Ben Affleck as the director of that project and his is also rewriting the script.

Acting

Andy Serkis (LOTR, Star Wars 7, Avengers 2) was back in his element as Caesar and just did his job to perfection. He portrayed so much emotion through all the CGI: some actors can’t even do that with their real faces. He is a mastermind of motion capture and his work must be rewarded or at least recognized. Academy, prove to us that you are not as old fashioned as we think.

Although other actors had to compete with Serkis, they did do a good job with their motion capture performances too. The comedian Steve Zahn was brilliant as the Bad Ape, while the returning talent Karin Konoval and Terry Notary were also really good. I really wish that their motion capture work would lead to more on-screen acting gigs for them. The humans, this time around, were played by Woody Harrelson (Triple 9, Now You See Me 2) – he was great in the villainous role and the young TV actress Amiah Miller – she was a delight to watch as well.

In short, War For The Planet Of The Apes might be the best thriller of this summer and one of the best blockbusters too. It’s smartly written, well-acted, and directed with care on top of being an incredible showcase of what can be achieved with CGI in this day and age.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: War For The Planet Of The Apes trailer

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Movie review: Logan

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last (supposedly) Hugh Jackman-lead X-Men movie – Logan – has hit theaters, so, let’s review it! The review is spoiler-free, for the most part. I have written down 8 points, full of spoilers, at the very end and included an additional warning.

IMDb summary: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

The X-Men franchise has had its fair share of hits and misses. While the original movie and its sequel X2 were mostly well-accepted, everyone would rather forget X3. Looking at the newer prequel franchise, once again, the first two pictures were really good, especially, Days of Future Past, while the third one – X-Men: Apocalypse – was just kinda meh. The most successful X-Men film to date is the spinoff Deadpool, which came out just last year. Now, Logan is following the formula set by Deadpool – the R-rating + the faithfulness to the source material – and is hoping for a win. The previous two Wolverine movies didn’t impress anyone, and that’s putting it mildly. Maybe, third time’s a charm? Both this being the 3rd sub-trilogy within the X-Men series and the 3rd movie of it.

Writing

Logan was written by Scott Frank, the director James Mangold, and a TV writer Michael Green. Frank has written 2013’s The Wolverine and 2002’s Minority Report, while Green is the writer behind Green Lantern (that sounds worrying, however, Green is also listed as the screenwriter for a lot of big upcoming films, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049and Murder on the Orient Express, so maybe his writing for Green Lantern was just an unfortunate accident that will never, hopefully, be repeated again?

Even though I had some worries about the writing for this film, I should not have, cause the narrative of Logan was just spectacular – cohesive yet varied and complex. I’m gonna go over all the different story points in the spoiler part, so here I’m just gonna mention some of the general stuff. To begin with, Logan had clever dialogue which provided the viewers with snippets of the overarching story, rather than explaining it through narration. Even the one explanatory scene was done in an interesting and modern way – through a video on a phone.

I also loved all the character moments that were written into the script: Caliban actually had some important stuff to do instead of just being an accessory, like in X-Men:Apocalypse; Professor X, even though he was old, has not lost his nurturing nature; X-23 was animalistic but intelligent (loved the moment when she sucked the bullets out of her hand): she did not say a word until the end of the second hour of the movie, and when she finally spoke, she did that in both Spanish and English, making her an even more of an authentic character; and, lastly, Logan himself has a variety of stunning moments that drove home the idea that he is not the Wolverine that we were used to seeing: this time around, he needed glasses and his claws did not pop out as easily as they used to. The moment from the trailer, where he holds up the comics was also great – it was so fun seeing a comic book character whining about the comics.

Thematically, Logan continued the tradition of all the X-Men films and looked at the staple topics of family and belonging, but not in any other movie have these two topics felt more relevant and emotional.

Directing

James Mangold is best known for directing The Wolverine and the awards’ nominated western remake 3:10 to Yuma (Logan was a kind of western too – set in a similar location but modernized). Mangold did an absolutely spectacular job directing the movie. The opening sequence was just wonderful – it set the tone for the film and explained the characters psychological and physical state with a single, quite short, action sequence. I also have to praise the director for using the various visual storytelling techniques – showing instead of telling. The overall action of Logan was also magnificent. If you thought that Deadpool was violent, then I can tell you that you haven’t seen nothing yet. Logan was 100 times bloodier and way more brutal – it was sometimes hard to watch. And yet, even though the picture’s themes and visuals were dark and brutal, the color pallet was not, meaning that one could actually see the action, instead of guessing what’s happening in the shadows.

Acting

Hugh Jackman was just absolutely wonderful. I’m so happy that he got a chance to finally play the type of Wolverine that he always wanted to play. I really am gonna miss him in this role. Jackman’s next project is a musical The Greatest Showman, which he is going to produce and star in. Patrick Stewart’s last outing as Professor Xavier was also excellent. I wasn’t expecting this many casual humor moments to come from him. His next gig is voicing the poop emoji in The Emoji Movie. Yup, this is the world we live in.

Richard E. Grant was amazing as Zander Rice. I loved his character’s look as well as behavior. Boyd Holbrook was good as Donald Pierce too. His character wasn’t the most interesting but I guess the movie had to have the ‘big bad’ – a mad scientist running things from above. Stephen Merchant replaced Tómas Lemarquis in the role of Caliban and did a much better job. Some of its due to better writing, but I also felt that Merchant delivered a more nuanced performance. Lastly, I have to mention how amazing was Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23. I really hope that this young lady has a bright future ahead of her, be it as the new lead of this franchise or working on other projects.

In short, Logan is a magnificent movie that pushes the boundaries of the comic book genre. It is well acted, has an emotional and interesting story, and spectacular action to top it off.

Rate: 4.7/5

Trailer: Logan trailer

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SPOILER PART

  1. I loved how Logan subverted the action genre tropes. For example, during their first escape, their car actually got stuck in the fence and couldn’t go through it, which usually happens in films. Also, when the bad guy was beginning to give his monolog, I loved that Logan just shot him and cut his speech short. Not only was this a great subversion of a classical action movie cliche, but this action left some gaps in the story, which the villain hadn’t had time to explain
  2. Namely, the biggest gap is the question of what has happened to the mutants that they basically went extinct? The character of Pierce seemed to be the one who was responsible, but Professor X also remembered something related to that incident. Was Xavier somehow responsible too or was he just feeling guilty for not being able to save them?
  3. Speaking about Professor X, while a lot of us predicted his death, it was still an emotional moment. I did shed a tear during his funeral when Logan was at a loss for words and X-23 just took his hand. I loved the scenes of Xavier’s seizures, though, they had such an interesting special effect.
  4. The X-23’s backstory was interesting and pretty faithful to the comics. We also got a bunch of others genetically conceived mutant kids, which I wish we knew more about, cause I wanted to care more for them during the final act. We did get a taste of their powers and I wonder whether they will be the ones to continue this franchise.
  5. Touching upon the third act, it was probably my least favorite part of the movie. I felt that the beginning of it dragged a bit and slowed down the movie too much. It also made the final product feel too long.
  6. The inclusion of the X-24 – an almost perfect killing machine and a double of Wolverine – was an interesting choice. At times, it felt like an afterthought, but I cannot fully argue against its inclusion, cause Hugh Jackman vs Hugh Jackman fights were astonishing.
  7. I have already mentioned how Wolverine was complaining about the comics, but I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the said comics weren’t just there to be an Easter Egg but acted as a driving force for the plot. This idea just blew my mind completely.
  8. And to finish off this spoiler-y part, we, of course, have to talk about the ending and the final send-off of the character. I absolutely loved Logan’s final arc and the mutual saving part of his relationship with X-23. Not only did he actually save her from the Transigen company but she also saved him from suicide. I thought that his death was worth the character’s life and his last moment with Laura, when she utters ‘Daddy’, was a complete tearjerker. The turning of the cross into an X was just a heartbreaking icing on a cake made of tears. I wasn’t completely surprised that they decided to allow this character to die. Hugh Jackman does not really want to do these movies anymore and what a better way to end one’s career as a specific character than to give him the ultimate send-off. It just adds to the legacy of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Movie review: X-MEN Days of Future Past + a look back to the whole franchise

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

These past few months I have been loving everything Marvel. I watched all the Cinematic Universe movies, all season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a few days time and even started watching some old movies inspired by comics (Blade, Daredevil , Elektra). In addition, I also tried reading a few comic books and I have to admit – I did not think I would enjoy them that much.

Because I was done with the Avengers team I decided to move on to the X-men. Although, I have heard a lot of negative comments from comic book readers that these movies did not do justice to the real, colorful X-men from the original material, I wanted to see them for myself.

I started with 2000 X-MEN. That was a super solid film that didn’t slow down at all. It was a promising start to a movie franchise. However, I hated Rogue’s character. For God’s sake, she is a mutant and she couldn’t even defend herself, she was like a huge baby, always crying and whining. Also, I watched this movie 14 years after it came out and I got to say – Hugh Jackman didn’t change a bit. Favorite heroes: Storm and Cyclops. Favorite villain: Mystique. 4.5/5

2003 meant the arrival of one thing – X2: X-MEN united. I really enjoyed the overall movie, but it was a bit to complex and overcrowded with storylines. I mean, we had like 9 plotlines if not more: Iceman’s family problems, Stryker’s plans, Government’s plan, Kurt Wagner’s story (I loved that character – so funny), Wolverine’s past, Pyro’s problem, Rogue and Iceman’s love problem, Jean’s, Wolverine’s and Cyclops’ love triangle and that Cerebro stuff once again. We could have reduced that list by half and it would have made for an amazing movie. One last thing – I loved the fact that Mystique and Magneto may seem like good people/mutants, but truly, they are evil to the bone. Favorite character: Iceman. 4/5

In 2006 came the X-MEN the Last Stand. This movie was a huge disappointment, not because it left a lot of mistakes in an overall storyline (I will talk about it more in a second), but because the story of the movie was not interesting enough. Of course, I enjoyed Jean’s transformation, because she wasn’t an interesting character before. But how can you ‘cure’ Magneto and Mystique (Mutation is not a disease) and kill off Cyclops and Professor X in the same movie?  Only thing I enjoyed was Iceman&Kitty. I like that couple much more than I like Iceman&Rogue. 2/5

3 years went by and the first spinoff came out – X-MEN Origins: Wolverine. I don’t have anything much to say about this movie, it was okay. Good acting, weak story. Favorite character: Gambit played by Taylor Kitsch.3/5

And know let’s talk about the movie that messed everything up: X-MEN First class(2011). I would have really enjoyed that story if it weren’t for those mistakes. Nothing added up. It might have worked as a separate movie, but not so much as a prequel to the whole franchise. (You can find a list of mistakes here: http://io9.com/5966264/8-ways-x-men-movie-continuity-is-irretrievably-fucked ) The only thing that I adored about FC was the fact that we got to see the young Xavier. He was pretty wild young adult. I never would have guessed that he would grow into such wise elder. 4/5

In 2013 X-men origins: Wolverine got a sequel – The Wolverine. I liked where the story was set: we finally moved from North America to somewhere else, in this case – to Japan.  What is more, I feel really sorry for Wolverine and his fear of flying. However, I would like to see other X-man in a spot line instead of Wolverine. Separate Mystique’s, Storm’s or Cyclops’ movie anyone? Rate 3.5/5

Note: I have written all these small reviews before watching the new X-men movie. Bellow you will find review of it and the overall conclusion of the post.

X-MEN. Days of Future Past. I went to this movie with low expectations despite having heard a lot of nice things about the film. I was surprised as hell. The movie delivered. I actually feel confident enough to say that this is one my favorite movies from now on.

Reasons why I loved DOFP:
1. First of all, it had a huge ensemble cast: both members from the old team (First class) and a new one.
2. The story was unpredictable and for the last hour of the movie I did not know how they were going to fix things because everything was just messed up.
3. I really enjoyed the new character Quicksilver. He was a fun loving mutant who enjoyed using his powers. I cannot wait to see how Marvel will interpret this character in the Avengers 2.
4. Magneto once again was a villain in this movie. Young Magneto played by Michael Fassbender is one of two of my favorite evil characters (Another is Loki). The main reason why I enjoy both these characters so much is the fact that they have some good qualities and they are not just straight up evil.
5. Another character who brought joy to my face was young Xavier played by James McAvoy. We got a chance to connect to this character even more than in the First Class. We got to see him at his lowest point in life and to follow him on his journey to redemption.
6. Peter Dinklage was also amazing as Bolivar Trask. I just adore everything this actor does after falling in love with his performance on Game of Thrones.
7.One of my favorite scenes – young Xavier’s and old Xavier’s conversation.So powerful and so heartbreaking. (“The world needs you to hope”).
8. And finally, the last thing that made this movie so amazing is the fact that they FIXED ALL THE MISTAKES OF THE PREVIOUS MOVIES. As of today, the first 3 movies as well as both Wolverine spin offs never happened. Let me explain. The First Class was set in the 1960s (it still happened), then follows the Days of Future Past in 1973 and that is it. Everything from now on is changed because of the events in the past. I have read some articles that first two movies of the original trilogy might still have happened, but I don’t believe it. They both are set in the 2000s as well as the tragedy of the Last Stand and The Wolverine. Origins movie was set in 1975-1981, so it also didn’t happened.
Rate 5/5 (without a doubt).

All in all, I would like to say just this. Bryan Singer, the director of X-MEN,X2 and Days of Future Past is the only one who knows how to do a great X-MEN movie. Days of Future Past is by far the best movie in the franchise and it got me really pumped for the further sequels. X-MEN Apocalypse is set to be released in 2016 (May 27th). We got a teaser for it in the post-credit scene.

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