It’s a bit easy to dismiss a lot of today’s big budget, mainstream films. More often than not a studio is motivated to develop a property based on its recognizability to a general audience. No arguments from me on that one. That’s definitely the way Hollywood works. Films are huge investments, and in today’s blockbuster-hungry environment, any chance a studio has to guarantee their investment, they’ll take. Now, all that aside, that’s not to say greatness can’t come from this approach.
We’ve repeated time and again, both on the site and on Los Fanboys Podcast that greatness is largely born from restrictions, whether it be budgetary or property restrictions. These restrictions can be crucial to shaping a property, and in the right hands, anything can be made great (just take a look at The LEGO Movie). This is definitely a shift from the time when I grew up (the 1990s). Sure, there were perhaps more original films, and there were plenty of great ones, but when it came to “franchises,” there was little guarantee of quality. Studios at the time seemed more focused on getting the spectacle right than the story and characters, and that led to a lot of terrible films, sequels, failed franchise starters, etc. Nowadays, studios like Marvel have raised the bar, making it increasingly necessary for these big budget films to actually be good.
Similarly, this recent batch of Planet of the Apes films have not just been good, but I dare say they’ve been exceptional — especially when compared to the underwhelming Tim Burton remake we got in the early 2000s. Between the difference in technology as well as the difference in how audiences are treated, there really is a different mindset.
Some time ago, our very own Fernando Esquivel had a chance to visit the set for the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes. In his time there, he got to interview motion performance actor Terry Notary (who plays Rocket) on this very subject. Interestingly enough, Notary is a man who’s worked on the past few Apes films, including said Tim Burton remake. This is what he had to say about the difference in working now compared to previous flicks in the franchise:
“Looking back I just say how young and naive I was, we really come so far with the performances. The approach is different, it's become something more about giving the audience something real, treat them intelligently and delve into deeper about being human beings and know what makes a great ape is being a deep rooted connected human being. We have come a long way from that first movie. The more we evolve with the technology the more subtleties we can trust that are going to come through. On Rise [of the Planet of the Apes] we felt that we needed to push a little bit and by the second one we realized that we don't need to do that, subtleties really come through with the motion capture. We can trust that they capture the emotions and we don't have to put the emotion in the front body and just let it peculate inside and it oozes out and people can see it. Not thinking that you have to tell something and just being it and you know they are going to get it and translated it in their own way. That's basically our approach now.”
More than anything, I think today’s blockbusters have definitely managed to connect more on an emotional level than films of similar scope in prior decades. It seems safe that it’s a combination of the evolution of technology that allows us to do so, as well as the mindset of treating audiences more intelligently, as stated by Notary.
What do you think of his comments? Let us know your thoughts down below!
War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on July 14, 2017!