War for the Planet of the Apes
*** Spoiler Alert ***
There is absolutely no doubt that we are in an age of movie-making that is loaded with prequels, sequels, and reboots. Sometimes, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes they become quite tiresome. War for the Planet of the Apes (or simply War as I will refer to it for the remainder of this article) is the third installment of a reboot series that began with Dawn of the… and Rise of the… This reboot series is anything but tiresome and I found myself looking forward to this film since it was announced, and was not disappointed in the slightest with what I got for my wait.
Caesar, the first ape to possess human-like intelligence has solidified his leadership of his band of apes. They seem to have carved out a decent life for themselves in a forest away from humans. The escalation of the Simian Flu, a virus that happened as a result of a scientist’s efforts to cure Alzheimer’s Disease, subsequently infected and killed billions of humans. However there are still small pockets of humans left here and there. One such group is a rogue paramilitary organization calling themselves Alpha-Omega, or AO for short.
When AO attacks Caesar’s colony, there is a pitched battle and it is discovered that there are apes helping AO who were part of a group that opposed Caesar before. Caesar’s troops manage to capture the AO soldiers and a renegade ape named Red. After questioning, Caesar releases the humans as a sign of goodwill with a message that he and his kind just want to be left alone. Caesar then decides that their location is no longer safe and decides to relocate his colony. Before the apes can move, the leader of AO, known as the Colonel, leads a raid on the ape camp that leaves Caesar’s wife and oldest son dead.
Caesar decides to take revenge against AO so, along with a couple of his most trusted lieutenants, head off in search of the AO camp which is somewhere near the border. Along the way, Caesar kills a soldier living in an abandoned village with his mute daughter who turns out to be quite a bit of help. Caesar is also joined by a chimp who calls himself “Bad Ape,” also quite a bit of help as the plot progresses.
Upon arrival at the AO camp, Caesar discovers that his group of apes were captured and are being used as slave labor to build a giant wall. The Colonel believes this wall will help him defeat a group of Regular Army soldiers that are coming after him. The regulars are after the Colonel because he is killing any humans that are infected with the Simian Flu. After Caesar has been tortured and starved, he manages to escape with the help of mute girl along with Bad Ape. While the other apes in Caesar’s group escape their confinement, Caesar goes to confront the Colonel, whom it turns out has been infected with the Simian Flu and commits suicide.
The Regular Army soldiers arrive and there is a pitched battle between the two groups. Caesar joins the battle and is wounded, but still manages to set off an explosion that wipes out the AO, and allows the Regulars to win the battle. The explosion also sets off a massive avalanche of the snow in the surrounding mountains that buries what is left of the AO camp as well as the Regulars. Caesar and his ape troop, along with Nova escape by climbing trees.
The remaining apes cross the desert and find a peaceful place near a lake where they begin to set up camp. In the closing scenes, Caesar dies with the promise that his remaining son, Cornelius, will know what Caesar has done.
War is a film that I like for many reasons. The story is easy to follow it is rounds out the series as it is so far in a great way. Along with the first two films in the reboot, Rise and Dawn, we get a complete picture of the events that led up to the first Planet of the Apes (1968) film. One can imagine how the events of the first film may have transpired with apes learning how to use human language and how Caesar became a legend.
What I like most about War and the previous two films is how the CGI added so much to how the apes communicate with the audience, not through language, but rather through the expressiveness in the body language of the ape characters and especially in the facial expression. Often times, the look on an actor’s face, at least one who knows how to show their emotions rather than just read lines, can say so much more in just a few seconds than an entire page of dialog. Sir Lawrence Olivier was a master of this technique (I would refer you to his performance in Spartacus (1960) as an example). It would seem that the artists responsible for doing the CGI work on War understand this technique very well. There are numerous instances where one can read exactly what is on one of the ape character’s mind when there is a closeup shot. Along with that is the body language of the ape characters. I would have to guess that Matt Reeves (Director), Andy Sirkis (Caesar), as well as the Visual Effects people (and there is a small army of those) did their homework well to make this film feel real. Honestly, while I was immersed in viewing War, I found myself completely suspending disbelief and was totally taken in by the ape’s character personas.
Another aspect of War (as well as Dawn of...) is the film’s score composed by Michael Giacchino. It is so good and fits so well that the music is almost another character in the film. Strong when it is supposed to be, and poignant in the right places, it add so much to the film. Giacchino is nothing less than a genius.
War for the Planet of the Apes rounds out the trilogy that is the story of Caesar and how the Apes took over the Earth brilliantly. I have always been a fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise in all it’s forms; this series of films reaffirms that and leaves something to look forward to should it be carried on to future installments.
Well, there it is…