I recently re-watched The Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. Any fans who listen to our podcast know how much I love Christopher Nolan and most fans agree that he did a fabulous job with The Batman movies he led the charge on. Zack Snyder then took over direction of Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. Fans were…mixed to say the least on the movies but most agreed that Ben Affleck did a stellar job. I myself was sad to see him leave the role and many were upset with the idea of Robert Pattison taking on the cape and cowl. It’s an interesting take for sure but one that I feel will pan out well given Matt Reeves’ track record.
According to IMDb, the director only has 13 credits to his name. The reality is he has demonstrated amazing talent even in those few projects, something that could also be said for Christopher Nolan at the time her took the reigns back in the early 2000s. The highlight film that purely and clearly demonstrates his fit as Batman director is War for the Planet of the Apes. I remember watching it in theaters in 2017 and being amazed at how moved I was by a movie about a bunch of apes living in an apocalypse. Rewatching it now, I feel the same and it highlights the talents of Matt Reeves. There are moments of raw emotion and anger coming from Caeser that are reminiscent of a Bruce Wayne on a rampage to save Gotham. The way Caesar cares for his fellow apes echoes the way Bruce Wayne feels about Gotham. Self sacrifice, passion and cunning lead to an end result of victory with both characters.
The imagery, lighting and way War for the Planet of the Apes is shot is extremely beautiful. As I watch it in 4K with my home theater system I understand the level of care that went into each moment. The CGI is stunning, the external environments are gorgeous and the angles that are used to showcase this are exceptional. The below image is one that demonstrates incredible editing, CGI work, effects such as the snow and the environment behind them as well. All of this brings together an immersive world that truly entertains and transports viewers to another world. A film that legitimately makes me feel like I am in that world is rare and War for the Planet of the Apes does this for me.
The tone of this film also fits what one could expect from a character such as The Dark Knight. The lighting plays a good role in this as there are many scenes set at night. These scenes are lit in such a way that it feels dark and somber yet beautiful at the same time. One moment in particular that highlights the tone is when Caesar is approaching the Colonel’s compound and sees other apes strung up. It’s a gruesome moment and toes the line of how to make something appear gruesome and yet be PG-13. The caped crusader often encounters himself in gruesome moments with all of his rogues gallery and we all know that The Batman will be PG-13. Matt Reeves shows in War for the Planet of the Apes just how exceptional he is at telling a story in PG-13 rules without it feeling like any of the gore or realism were cut out.
Let’s chat about the villain. I implore you all to watch this movie now that we are facing Covid-19 as The Colonel provides an interesting perspective into a pandemic and how to handle it. It’s a horrifying ideology but it works well in the context of this story. In the confrontation between Caesar and The Colonel we get a glimpse into the villain’s mind. This is essential to tell a good fleshed out story in my opinion. We learn that his son was infected with a new strain of virus and the steps he took to rectify the situation. A viewer will know that The Colonel was wrong in his vision but can also understand the motivation and even sympathize with it. It’s something that Thanos does well in the Infinity Saga over at Marvel. We all know that Thanos is wrong but we can understand why he is acting the way he does.
This is what is fantastic about Matt Reeves. He wrote War for the Planet of the Apes meaning he wanted this villain to have a relatable story and motivations. The man had to kill his own son in order to keep order as he saw things. Likewise, the rogues in Batman’s world are full of intricacies and nuance that Reeves will be able to delve into. We get to see several Gotham crooks in the upcoming film and I am excited to learn about Reeves’s vision for The Riddler, Penguin and more.
The final note I want to make is how well done the action is. This film relies heavily on CGI as all the apes are computer generated. What I find so astounding is the mixture of visual effects, choreography and sound mixing that play into the action sequences. When two apes collide, it appears that two creatures are actually hitting on another. The sound of two fits crashing down onto another ape’s chest offers us a glimpse into how painful it would be to get hit in such a way. The effects appear to show actual contact and the choreography mixing CGI characters and real life actors is nearly seemless. While I suspect that The Batman will not have so many CGI characters, I would be surprised if it didn’t utilize the technology in other ways.
The film will not be out until 2022 now unfortunately due to Covid-19 but at least we got to see a bit from the film in the DC Fandome Trailer and it proves the fact that Matt Reeves is going to be an excellent director for this project. Check out that trailer as well as the Couch Cruncher analysis of it in the links below. Our analysis begins at 41:55