Monday, July 17, 2017
"WAR" RANKS HIGH
In the original 1968 film written by Rod Serling (based on the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle), the emphasis of the experience is on the shock of the astronauts finding a planet controlled by talking apes on horseback. In this third (and presumably final) installment of the reboot franchise, again the emphasis is on the humanity of the apes in conflict with the savagery of humankind.
From Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and now War For the Planet of the Apes, we see the progression of Caesar (Serkis) as the leader of a new kind of ape with higher intelligence as an unintended consequence in the search for the cure to Alzheimer's disease.
At this point in the story, hordes of advanced chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas occupy forests north of San Francisco. A Special Forces colonel (Harrelson), apparently enamored of the film Apocalypse Now, pulls a Colonel Kurtz in the fight against the apes and goes renegade. In this process, the colonel earns the personal hatred of Caesar. Torn between leading the apes to safety and satisfying his revenge, Caesar sets out on a quest to get the colonel with the help of a few of his most loyal followers.
It's not the first time we've seen new episodic films referring to old material. Rogue One leads right up to Star Wars, and the new Alien movie wraps around to the first one. Similarly, War marches to the doorstep of the 1968 film.
Knowing as we do that the apes will inherit the planet, it is a testament to the filmmakers' skills that our interest is grabbed and kept by the relationships of the apes. Because we're primed to respond to the faces of other primates, we feel their humanity without their even being human.
To make things extra interesting, the deadly virus which spread through the human population has mutated, causing the survivors to lose the power of speech and higher-thinking skills. Consequently, the stage is set for Charlton Heston to show up someday and be real surprised. Although not on the West Coast. That's not where they keep the Statue of Liberty.
Equally surprising, we almost never see any apes eat. Which is odd because foraging is how apes spent most of their lives. Not eating does seem to cut down on the body functions. High marks for ape cleanliness, especially considering the rampant lack of pants.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Starring Andy Serkis,
Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Based on characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Runtime 140 minutes