Apes take centre stage in this week’s War for the Planet of the Apes, so the Janks Review Crew looks at other non-human characters that have done the same.
Appears in: Robin Hood (1973)
Disney is perhaps the king of films featuring non-human leads. From its early short films like Poor Papa (1927) and Steamboat Willie (1928), to modern classics like The Lion King (1994) and Zootopia (2016), there have been more anthropomorphic animals in popular culture coming from them than the works of Beatrix Potter.
We all have a favourite Disney animated film or two; and for me, it’s always been 1973’s Robin Hood – the family-friendly retelling of the legend of England’s most famous outlaw, but featuring humanoid animals in the classic roles instead of actual humans.
It’s definitely a film that deserves more respect than it gets from modern movie buffs. It’s a great introduction to the Robin Hood legend and offers a great deal of fun for the family. The fact that it only has 52% on Rotten Tomatoes is nothing short of an outrage!
Appears in: Beetlejuice (1988)
From the twisted mind of Tim Burton, Beetlejuice is a defining movie of the ’80s and has since become a cult classic. Its titular character Beetlejuice (arguably Michael Keaton’s greatest role) is a ghost who, let’s just say, has no boundaries in the land of the undead.
The movie is Burton at his best, with the stop motion effects outweighing most CGI these days. Beetlejuice is easily one of the more classically enjoyable movies of its time, and still holds up very well today. Even though the main characters do not have a pulse, we can all relate to them on some sort of human-level which only makes the film all the more enjoyable.
T-800 Series Model 101
Appears in: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The ultimate loveable giant/killing machine, the successor to the Terminator’s (1984) T-800 is the best non-human friend you can have in a film. Originally sent to kill Sarah Connor in the first film, to prevent a future uprising by her son John against machines that have taken over the Earth, the updated model in T2 has been sent to protect John Connor – by John Connor. Explaining the plot of the Terminator films can get tricky, but for the purpose of this list, all we need to know is that John Connor, played by a young Edward Furlong, basically gets a giant killing machine protector, that he can teach tricks to – just like a puppy dog.
It’s about a good a weapon as you can have when machines from the future are out to kill you.
Sheriff Woody Pride
Appears in: Toy Story Franchise (1995 – 2010)
It is difficult to think of a more popular movie toy than that of Woody from the Toy Story franchise. A passionate cowboy doll who is incredibly human in his various on-screen appearances, voiced by veteran Hollywood actor Tom Hanks.
As a leader, Woody is the entry point for the audience in understanding the bizarre existence of this group of toys, and as a result, you can’t help but relate to him in certain scenarios. Here we see the multiple layers to Hanks’ voice flourish, and just how good he is at selling Woody to the viewer both many years ago as well as more recently in the sequels. This progression in performance works for the character and continues to prove just how talented Hanks is in more comedic and lighthearted roles.
Appears in: WALL·E (2008)
Pixar is known for a nearly perfect track record, and despite a few bumps in the road (I’m looking at you, Cars) they will surely go down in history as some of the greatest filmmakers of our time. One of their crowning achievements is the charming sci-fi Wall-E.
The first third of the film contains next to no dialogue, yet director Andrew Stanton manages to convey so much about the small, waste-collecting robot Wall-E, and the world he inhabits. His desire for companionship and romance is endearing, and his expressive eyes give him a powerful sense of humanity, despite being a robot, purpose-built for one task. The story around him is also engrossing and uplifting. While the film is, in essence, set in a dystopia, there is an ever-present optimism and hopefulness that courses through the film. This is without question a result of the affection we feel for its simultaneously inhuman and human protagonist.
Appears in: HER (2013)
While computer operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) shared the title of ‘lead’ with Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore, she more than matched up to her human other half. Her charted the inexplicably watchable relationship between man and computer, set in a slightly-in-the-future LA, where public transport is relatively free of issues and highly intelligent operating systems can maintain and manage a human’s computer, whilst sharing a joke with them.
It is this dichotomy, this half ultra-efficient robot, half-human quality Samantha possesses, that draws both audiences and Theodore in. Her inability to feel actual human emotion is disarming and yet almost all too human. Maybe I’m reading too much into her character, but even so, Scarlett Johansson infuses such personality and warmth into her character, that we feel as though she’s sitting right next to Theodore. Samantha brought me that slight metre closer to considering falling in love with an operating system. That’s a joke, promise.
Appears in: Paddington films (2014 & 2017)
The newest addition to the Paddington Bear franchise, Paddington (2014), is an entertaining fantasy-comedy movie starring Paddington Bear himself (voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paddington Bear is as lifelike as a person and adds more to his lead role with his teddy bear cuteness. His innocence to the big city reminds us all of ourselves in one situation or another, and his English accent is as we all imagined in our heads when our parents read the original Paddington Bear storybooks to us. Along with the upbeat soundtrack and excellent animation, you can easily forget that Paddington is a cuddly teddy bear and not a person.
Keep an eye out for Paddington 2, out on 21 December 2017.