It’s not always easy, as Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight Rises and the Godfather Part 3 will show you, and this was something that War for the Planet of the Apes must have been aware of.
The audience expects the film to pay tribute to what came before, to what made the series great, as well as build upon already established characters, introduce new compelling ones and build a new interesting story around that.
It’s a tough balancing act and it looks like they’ve pulled it off.
War is by no means the greatest film ever, or even the best in the series, but it overcomes its issues to be a worthy edition to the Planet of the Apes film series, now almost 50 years old.
The opening 20 minutes fly past, as the film attempts to remind viewers of the past two movies through short reading sequences, before jumping to a skirmish between apes and men.
It can be jarring to see how things have changed, as apes are now also on the side of man, though in a servant role, as they are referred to as Donkey.
While things have changed, one thing that hasn’t is that Caesar (Andy Serkis) is amazing as ever, the legendary ape that is introduced in a spine tingling scene that evokes comparisons to a god.
Caesar has primarily been the star of the previous two films, and he shines again here, though the best thing about him is that though he is treated with extreme reverence on his side, and a begrudging awe from the humans, he isn’t a deity.
He’s just as flawed by humans, driven by rage to exact revenge on the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), which is what pushes the film forward.
The theme of the film is decisions, and Caesar makes a number of bad or startling decisions that sometimes have terrible consequences, as his anger did not allow him to see what his alternatives were.
For a film that revolves around such intense topics, such as genocide and racism, it is probably the funniest of the trilogy, with the character Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) providing laughs that the Empire Cinema audience reacted well to.
Despite its ultimate success, it is a flawed movie.
The film tries to have its cake and eat it too, by introducing characters in record speed, sometimes without even mentioning their name, and expects an emotional payoff when they are victims of the humans.
So it rushes through the opening 20 minutes before really slowing down without much plot progress, focusing on uninteresting dialogue, which made me think it should be renamed Words of the Planet of the Apes.
It is also the mostly ape-centric, whereas the prior editions balanced it between apes and humans, showing that there is good and evil on both sides.
As a result, the humans are just relegated to generic bad guy roles, which means that besides the Colonel most of the humans are pretty uninteresting.
However, these issues pale to the successes of the film.
It has thrilling actions scenes, comedy that blends seamlessly and a character that is able to carry the weight of the film on his very broad shoulders in Caesar.
A thought occurred to me as the film was coming to a close, as Rehab could be heard pumping from across the street.
This is a really great film series, but it doesn’t really get talked about enough.
People go crazy for Star Wars and Marvel and the Fast and Furious movies, and they are all well and good, but this series is right up there with those, so why not go ape for the real thing?