War For the Planet of the Apes: Success proof of Andy Serkis' pulling power
As the Weta Digital-infused War for the Planet of the Apes scales a US$102.5 million global opening, the question also rises: Is Andy Serkis, well-known as a motion-capture actor, still underrated as a reliable presence in so many box-office powerhouses?
Consider: Serkis' films have grossed more than US$1.8 billion simply when he's playing a simian – including his current Apes trilogy and 2005's King Kong.
Throw in the London-born actor's presence in such franchises as Avengers (Age of Ultron), Star Wars (The Force Awakens) and the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, and Serkis's blockbuster movies have grossed more than US$8 billion worldwide.
And once you add his next two big films – December's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and next year's Black Panther – Serkis could become a $10 billion man in terms of what his franchise films have grossed worldwide.
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It helps enormously, of course, that the actor who got his start three decades ago on British TV comedies has become a go-to performer for CG-heavy roles, including motion-capture. Ever since his iconic role as Gollum for Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies, Serkis – suddenly a precious commodity - has been able to go where the money is.
But most actors are fortunate to have just a single character that becomes fixed in the pop-culture firmament. Besides Gollum, filmgoers around the world now know such Serkis characters as Caesar (the Apes trilogy) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Star Wars), plus he will reprise his Marvel character Ulysses Klaue (aka Klaw) in February's Black Panther. Many fans are hopeful that he will return as Captain Haddock for a Tintin sequel.
Then there is the matter of the Serkis-directed Jungle Book, a live-action adaptation with an A-list cast that's not to be confused with Disney's recent behemoth of a hit. If Serkis (who does double duty in his film as Baloo) can turn even a crowded-market Jungle Book into a hit next year, then his bag of cinematic mo-cap magic will seem bottomless.
Till then, the Golden Globe-nominated actor should remain swimming in box-office success. The well-reviewed War for the Planet of the Apes grossed US$56.5 million in its US debut to hold off Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming ($45.2 million), which plummeted 61 per cent in its second weekend.
In New Zealand, Apes took home almost $900,000 between Thursday and Sunday to finish top of the box office here.
The current Apes trilogy has grossed nearly $1.3 billion worldwide – and come December, Serkis's Last Jedi should begin a US$2 billion-plus launch.
Now, if only the Academy could appropriately appreciate Serkis with an Oscar nod to honour inspired performance beneath the painted pixel.
- The Washington Post