The Wild Thornberrys Movie brought Nickelodeon’s jungle series to the big screen. Something I couldn’t have predicted considering the show wasn’t as big as Rugrats. But The Wild Thornberrys did have a loyal fanbase. Myself included. Although I watched it very infrequently and I’m still not sure I’ve seen every episode. In the show, Eliza Thornberry is able to talk to animals.
It’s a secret that she has to keep from her wild family. Her parents Nigel and Marianne shoot a nature show, her sister Debbie is an average teenager, her chimp Darwin is her best friend, and her adopted brother Donnie is the wildest. The Wild Thornberrys Movie takes place between the final 2 seasons. Eliza sets out on a quest to find a kidnapped baby cheetah. The danger of her family’s unconventional jungle life proves too much and she’s sent off to an English boarding school.
If that wasn’t enough to warrant a feature length film, then the reveal of Eliza’s secret is. Finally revealing just how much she relies on her ability to talk to animals. It can’t last, but it does raise the stakes temporarily. The simple jungle adventures of The Wild Thornberrys translate very well as a movie. It even received an Oscar nomination for the song “Father and Daughter.” The Wild Thornberrys Movie proved any Nicktoon could get their chance to shine.
Followed by: Rugrats Go Wild
Rugrats in Paris: The Movie is the Rugrats movie all fans agree is the best. Since it’s bigger and more emotionally resonant. Nickelodeon wasted no time getting a sequel made. So Rugrats in Paris: The Movie picks up right where season 6 left off. Instead of Tommy, the spotlight is now placed on his best friend Chuckie. After learning the sad truth about Chuckie’s mom in the episode “Mother’s Day,” it was clear that he needed a new mommy.
The road to get there brings Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Dil, Angelica, Spike, and their parents (not Susie though) all the way to Paris. Which for some reason has a Japanese theme park right in the middle of it. Euro Reptarland to be exact. It’s here that the babies get into huge adventures that defy all logic. Like ending up piloting a giant reptar robot rampaging Paris. Rather than keep the babies in constant danger, their parents aren’t too far behind. Since Chuckie’s dad falls for the awful park owner Coco LaBouche. Thankfully she’s just the decoy potential mother.
Chuckie’s spoken objection to the marriage still give me chills. Chuckie actually gains a new mom in the kind hearted Kira Watanabe and even a new sister in the carefree Kimi. The movie’s success and the prolonged popularity of the Rugrats later lead to an unexpected star on the Walk of Fame. We also have the movie to thank for the song “Who let the dogs out?” Rugrats in Paris: The Movie is an exotic adventure that gives the fans exactly what they wanted.
The babies enter Paris
Preceded by: The Rugrats Movie & Followed by: Rugrats Go Wild
The Rugrats Movie is the biggest adventure a baby could ask for. Nickelodeon has been my go to kid’s network ever since I was a child. Rugrats was always a big favorite of my brother and I. We loved the baby adventures, imagination, and sneaky adult humor. Despite babies being the focus, the show never talked down to its audience. All three of the original Nicktoons had movie plans, but Rugrats was the only one to get the treatment. Making it the first Nickelodeon animated movie.
The Rugrats Movie picks up right where season 5 left off. Brave leader Tommy, fraidy cat Chuckie, and the twins Phil & Lil patiently await the arrival of Tommy’s baby brother. The actual birthing sequence really confused me when I was young. We’re then introduced to the newest rugrat, Dil Pickles. Basically a loud little poop machine. If 1-2 year olds can only communicate with other babies and 3 year olds can communicate with both babies and adults, then an infant can barely speak at all. After the joys of parenting a newborn, the babies accidentally end up stranded in the forest. Pursued by crazy circus monkey’s and a hungry wolf in a specially designed Reptar wagon.
Meanwhile Tommy’s bratty cousin Angelica looks for them with their dog Spike. Susie appears only briefly at the beginning. Tommy is given the spotlight due to the “sponsitility” that comes with being a big brother. It’s very heartfelt, but the constant danger can be overwhelming. The Rugrats Movie is the first non-Disney movie to make over $100 million. It is technically a musical. Rest assured I was first in line to see the movie. The Rugrats Movie is fun for anyone who ever wore diapers.
The babies celebrate
Followed by: Rugrats in Paris: The Movie
War for the Planet of the Apes is what everything’s been leading to. A grim war film that holds no punches. Not that there aren’t some moments of levity. One ape in particular gets most of the laughs, but the rest is as dark as you’d expect any war to be. After the rise and the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the war between man and ape has officially begun. Caesar fights alongside his closest followers, while the humans have their own ape allies.
When tragedy strikes, Caesar alone sets out for revenge. Along the way Maurice makes a discovery that brings us closer than ever to the 1968 original. A girl who can’t speak due to the recently mutated Simian Flu. It’s what leads to humans being more animalistic. Meanwhile Caesar is talking in complete sentences. Andy Serkis gets a chance to show off his battle readiness. His lack of an Oscar is even more glaring. The effects for the apes just get better and better, because the ratio keeps changing.
Rise was more humans than apes, Dawn was equal, and War is more apes than humans. Apart from the girl (named Nova), Woody Harrelson plays the only major human in the movie. He’s a colonel that makes a last ditch effort to keep a planet of apes from happening. I think we’ve all reached a point where we’re no longer sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. War for the Planet of the Apes is a breathtaking feat that managed to close out one of the best trilogies of the decade.
Caesar prepares for war
Preceded by: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took things to a whole other level. Effectively topping the groundwork that Rise of the Planet of the Apes left behind. With even more stunning visuals that are difficult to distinguish from reality. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very different then what came before. 10 years after the Simian Flu hit, the human population has decreased dramatically. Making the movie much more of a post-apocalyptic survival thriller.
Since there’s only a small community left, but enough of the humans. It’s really the apes that we care about. They’ve established a colony with Caesar as their leader. Andy Serkis gives us a more complex Caesar who has a family and speaks infrequently. With only a few exceptions, the rest of the apes all speak in sign language. Just like before, a few plot points are now taken from Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Specifically having Caesar attempt to establish peace between the humans. Jason Clarke’s character is the one who makes the first leap. There’s also the law that “Ape not kill ape.” A rule that Koba exploits.
It was clear from his introduction that the disfigured lab ape with a deep hatred for humans would become the villain. I didn’t think it was possible, but Toby Kebbell’s mocap performance very nearly surpasses Serkis himself. Koba is just that entertaining. His best moment is on horseback with two guns. In the end it’s clear that war between the humans is inevitable. Even if connections can be made. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the deepest examination of this world to date.
Caesar holds off his troops
Preceded by: Rise of the Planet of the Apes & Followed by: War for the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathed new life into a once extinct franchise. 10 years after the failed remake, what appeared to be a part reboot/part prequel began to take shape. I knew I was on board the moment Andy Serkis was cast as the lead ape. Anything with Serkis in motion capture is gonna be great. Somebody get this man an Oscar! Rise of the Planet of the Apes follows James Franco as a scientist who develops a drug that could cure Alzheimer’s.
When his test chimps have to be put down, he secretly raises one whom he calls Caesar. It’s not long before Caesar develops increased intelligence and even learns sign language. After an accident, Caesar is placed in a facility that houses apes. The theme of animal abuse is most prevalent in this film. Tom Felton plays another smug bully as Dodge Landon. Not only is he named after the original astronauts, but he gets the “Damn dirty ape” line as well. It’s followed by the best, most shocking scene in the whole movie. When Caesar says no.
He insights an uprising with orangutan Maurice, gorilla Buck, Rocket, and all the other apes that he gives the drug to. Instead of nuclear war, a virus seems to be the main cause of humanity’s downfall. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Conquest of the Planet of the Apes attempted to tell the same story. Andy Serkis’s flawless primate performance is what sets them apart. Matched with stunning special effects that make it hard to believe not a single live ape is featured in the movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was only the beginning.
Caesar rallies his troops
Reboot of: Planet of the Apes (1968) & Followed by: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes (2001) is a remake that misses the point of the original. Apparently the idea for a remake dates all the way back to 1988. The project went through several directors until it ended up in the very unlikely hands of Tim Burton. A misstep that practically made him a parody of his former self. At least he met Helena Bonham Carter in the process. I’ll never forget my first viewing experience. My family ended up in the wrong theater where Rat Race was playing. It was the theaters fault we missed about 10 minutes of the movie.
Planet of the Apes (2001) isn’t exactly the same story though. Mark Wahlberg plays an astronaut named Leo Davidson. He ends up traveling forwards in time to save a chimp. It’s then that Marky Mark discovers the upside down world where apes are the dominant species. Even lines of dialogue are backwards. Like having an ape say “Take your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!” Easily the worst change is having the humans be both smart and able-bodied. So why don’t they just fight back?! Eventually they do when everything ends in a giant battle between man and ape.
What follows might be the dumbest twist ending in recent memory. Where Leo travels further in time only to discover the Lincoln Memorial is now of the villain. None of it makes any sense, but that’s just what’s wrong with the remake. The makeup is actually top notch and the ape performances are alright. Tim Roth is perfectly over-the-top as General Thade and Michael Clarke Duncan is just the right build for his character. Planet of the Apes (2001) should have kept the focus off of the boring humans.
General Thade and Colonel Attar prepare for war
Remake of: Planet of the Apes (1968)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes is when things started to get really bad. Maybe making a new Planet of the Apes movie every year wasn’t such a good idea. Since the makeup has gotten ridiculously cheap and the acting is now a shadow of its former self. The boring plot they’ve chosen isn’t even all that consequential either. After his revolution in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a nuclear war has long since destroyed most of life on the planet. Where Caesar is now the leader of a new society of intelligent apes.
He also has a family, including a son named Cornelius. The only thing driving the plot is a warmongering gorilla that sparks a battle between the apes and remaining humans. He breaks the apes sacred law to never kill another ape. Since none of this would happen without time travel, Battle for the Planet of the Apes instead ends with humans and apes living as equals. Along with an on the nose message that violence is wrong. Really the only worthy contribution Battle for the Planet of the Apes gave us was Argo (look it up).
Apes do battle
Preceded by: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes finally tells the origin of how the apes were able to rise above humanity and become the dominant species on Earth. If only the final result wasn’t quite so sloppy. Decades after the death of Zira and Cornelius in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, their child (now named Caesar) is fully grown and keeping his ability to speak from everyone but Ricardo Montalbán. Apparently between this time a disease wiped out all cats and dogs. So apes instead became replacement pets and eventual slave labor.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes has far stronger racial undertones. And by undertones I mean there’s a character who directly makes those connections. It wouldn’t be so ridiculous if the apes weren’t all wearing bright jumpsuits. If they’re not intelligent they just look like a bunch of people in cheap gorilla masks. Caesar is actually played by Roddy McDowall. His performance translates well to the son of his former character. Inspired to start his conquest, Caesar overthrows society by freeing all the captive apes and ordering an execution. His speech about man’s inevitable downfall is what sets the planet of the apes into motion. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes has the right idea, but it would take at least 5 more decades for them to get it right.
Caesar (ape) starts a revolution
Preceded by: Escape from the Planet of the Apes & Followed by: Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Escape from the Planet of the Apes is the best sequel made for the original film. Coming out exactly one year after Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes continues the story even though the Earth was destroyed. It turns out Zira, Cornelius, and another ape named Dr. Milo escaped the destruction in a semi-convoluted way. By using Taylor’s spaceship to travel backwards in time to 1973. That way they can save money by having modern settings and less ape costumes.
Upon their arrival, Zira and Cornelius publicly reveal their ability to speak before a Presidential Commission. Becoming celebrities in the process. It’s cheesy, but probably the likely thing that would happen. The conflict arrives when Zira’s pregnancy leads to a government fear that it will eventually lead to apes becoming the dominant species. With the help of friendly human scientists, the apes once again have to escape.
Having characters that we actually care about and the thought that there’s a baby to protect, are just some of the reasons Escape from the Planet of the Apes is the better sequel. SPOILER ALERT! It’s a downer, but Zira and Cornelius’s ultimate fate feels like it was earned rather than forced. In the end, their baby is left at the zoo where he tearfully pleads for his mama. Escape from the Planet of the Apes officially blurred the lines between which side we should be rooting for.
Zira and Cornelius meet the humans
Preceded by: Beneath the Planet of the Apes & Followed by: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes