War for the Planet of the Apes (2017): Apes Seem More Humane than Before

Directed by: Matt Reeves | Produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver | Written by: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves | Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller | Music by: Michael Giacchino | Cinematography: Michael Seresin | Edited by: William Hoy, Stan Salfas | Production Company: Chernin Entertainment | Distributed by: 20th Century Fox | Official Website


This is the 2017 summer blockbuster I’ve been waiting for and my whole time waiting is not wasting in vain!

When I saw the first movie, Rise of The Planet of The Apes (2011), I already fell in love with this rebooted franchise. Though the original franchise (1968-1973) gives me eerie feeling, it is this reboot series that satisfy me. On Rise we saw Caesar (Andy Serkis) is a pet chimpanzee and thanks to James Franco terrific acting, we get the illustration on how Caesar has become more than just an ape, but a character. On Dawn of The Planet of the Apes (2014), we saw how Caesar deal with betrayal of his own colleagues and how he became a fully respected leader, while human is wiped out due to the plague of Simian flu. It is on War, we finally saw Caesar as a complete character, who shares his traits of both being a charismatic leader that free the apes, or an angry apes who seek for revenge against humanity who have killed his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and his eldest son Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones).

On War, Caesar and the apes are facing situation where humanity are threatened by their existence and feared them. The soldier, now led by Colonel Cullough (Woody Harrelson), are starting to confront the apes in battles, one of them is killing both Cornelia and Blue Eyes. Burned in anger and seek for revenge, Caesar decides to kill the colonel. Alongside orangutans Maurice (Katin Konoval), chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary) and gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), he searches for Colonel. On his journey, they met a muted girl Nova (Amiah Miller) and comical chimpanzee Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). Later they find out that the Colonel has caught all apes and now forced-labored them to build him a wall.

This is a post-apocalyptic movie that shows us no glorify of the war. There is no glory of killing here, including killing the treacherous colleagues, not like on Dawn where we can feel the glory of Caesar killing Koba. Everyone here is a victim to their own circumstances, including the should-be-villain Colonel Cullough (Woody Harrelson). Although Harrelson tries his best to be a villain we can hate by mimicking Marlon Brando’s Kurlz in Apocalypse Now (1979) with shaving his head using commando knife just like Brando, or capturing the apes in a giant cage that remembering us of pigs slaughterhouse in Okja (2017), in the end we can understand why he did all the things he had done and why he built the wall surrounding him. His death scene is not satisfying, but understandable, and made us realized that Caesar is more humane than we probably think he is.

Caesar himself, though he shares the same traits with other post-apocalyptic movie characters who have turned from zero to revolutionary hero, feels more conflicting compared to his character in the previous two installments. His losses of both his wife and son has captured him in nightmare he barely never imagined before, and made him become more like Koba than himself. Andy Serkis has, once again, successfully motion-captured him into more than just a talking ape, and turned him into a believable and capable leader. Caesar maybe the only ape who has the most lines to be talked, and though most of his lines are showing off his smart, it is his charisma, his body language and his living eyes that has become the reasons why we should believe this character is the hero we need.

The other apes are also become more humane within their minimized conversations and their sign languages. Their interactions are cute, funny and also touching. Finally, this is the third installment we need, that has turned the whole franchise into movies, not just a product or a product placement (yeah I look at you Transformers).


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