It’s all out WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
In a recent cinematic reality where a virus has nearly wiped out the human population and primates are close to overrunning the planet, the War for the Planet of the Apes has begun.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third entry in the contemporary Planet of the Apes films trilogy and the second entry directed by Matt Reeves. An original set of four films from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s starred Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, and Tim Burton directed a re-boot, Planet of the Apes (2001) starring Mark Wahlberg. War for the Planet of the Apes could very well be the third prequel to all of them.
Right from the start, the opening 20th Century Fox title music has been changed to a primitive tribal mix. After having seen the previous two prequels, there is a feeling of dread knowing we could be entering into knee-deep conflict at this point. The primates have free reign of the planet, and the humans are fighting back, military-style. Graffiti stating ‘Monkey Killer’ and the like are displayed on soldier helmets and spray painted over walls of ruins.
Following the aftermath of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), the alpha ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis), who can now communicate in conversational English, leads his primate army against the humans. The humans have recruited a handful of apes to fight for them and have branded them as their own. Caesar still claims to be fighting for a good cause and continues to show mercy to those who oppose him. He has a family now and supports the idea of second chances and higher values, hoping to eventually become the better species in the end. His trust in humans, however, is tested by a new opponent.
The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) plans to wipe out all primates in hopes of maintaining the humans place as top of the food chain. He shows no mercy to the primates and enslaves the ones he captures. Where it has taken three films to chronicle the upbringing, maturing, and rise to power of Caesar, it takes one film to chronicle the same for the Colonel. Both of them have had traumatic stories which have led them to this point. Both of them have learned strength from loss, and determination from fear. Eventually, they will square off and there will be casualties.
Along the way, Caesar’s group happen upon a mute and orphaned human girl named Nova (Amiah Miller). Caesar is resistant to allowing her to tag along, but Maurice (Karin Konoval), who has remained the passionate primate, insists on adopting her and adding her to the fold. In cinematic sci-fi history this relationship feels familiar, reminiscent of Ripley’s adopting Newt in Aliens.
Caesar’s group also happens upon a lone monkey living in a cave who calls himself ‘Bad Ape’ (Steve Zahn). Bad Ape can speak broken English and prefers dressing in a winter coat and hat. He becomes the obvious choice for comedic relief illustrated by his concerned reactions and worrisome wordings. It is unclear whether his character is entirely necessary in the film, other than to act as a comedic element and a clothes horse.
Where the previous film kicks off the conflict between the primates and humans, this installment takes time to focus on family, loss, and inner turmoil. All three components lead from one into the other and affect both Caesar and the Colonel in their lifestyle and decision making processes. If you enjoyed the previous films, you may enjoy this one. There is plenty of action and excitement to be had, and there will always be enjoyment in watching Serkis’ various expressions and reactions in extreme close-up.